Most of us spend the vast majority of our time ‘doing’. We keep ourselves busy with hobbies, we go to work, we spend time with family and friends, we watch television, we listen to the radio and we browse our smartphones.
Because we’re so used to ‘doing’, it can feel strange and uncomfortable just ‘being’. By that I mean simply sitting in silence and reflecting.
The very thought of sitting quietly in a room can strike fear into us. No phone, no television, no laptop or iPad and no radio on in the background. Just us and our thoughts. Scary, isn’t it?!
But, if this fear exists, it’s important to dig a little deeper. What are we afraid of? What are we running away from? Are we so bad that we can’t be alone with ourselves for any period of time without feeling uncomfortable?
Yet, many happiness experts point to connecting with ourselves as being one of the keys to attaining lasting happiness. Simply taking 5 or 10 minutes out each day to sit in silence, focus on our breathing and observe our thoughts can hugely increase the quality of our relationship with ourselves. It’s a simple yet massively effective exercise that requires minimal effort. It’s a skill, and it’s important to view it as such. And like any skill, consistent practice is necessary in order to feel its true benefit.
It's easy to get caught up in day to day worries that sometimes consume us. However, if we fast forward and ask ourselves what our 70 or 80 year old selves would think of us wasting energy on these worries, it can be easier to put them into perspective.
Australian palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware's insights into the dying regrets of people she cared for cast a light on the most common regrets people seem to have before they pass away.
These common regrets provide us with an opportunity to assess our own lives and to put steps in place to ensure that we live our lives to the full from this point on. Self-awareness and action will minimise the chances of experiencing later life regrets.
1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
"This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it."
I used to think that happiness was something that came and went like the clouds, and that I had very little control over how I felt at any given moment. Like many, I associated happiness with spending time with friends, conquering career and life goals and having a certain amount of luxuries at my disposal.
I spent much of my life setting goals and insisting to myself that I would be truly happy when or if I achieved those goals. But, inevitably, like so many others, once I got to the finish line with a goal, a fleeting sense of happiness was all I enjoyed before setting my next target and concentrating on that. This is the equivalent of playing fetch with your happiness where your happiness is the bone.
I have met so many people who experience the same lack of control in relation to their happiness. We’re conditioned from a young age to associate happiness with external things. The media have a huge amount to answer for in this regard. Celebrity culture champions the people with the best bodies, the whitest teeth, the most expensive belongings etc. We’re left with the feeling from a young age that having the best ‘things’ will be the key to finally attaining that lasting sense of happiness that we crave.