Stop seeing time as your enemy - and embrace this happy moment...
Take a minute to think about time!
Do you realize what a strange concept time is? Time is perpetual by nature. Time is abundant. We always had and will always have time. Time is the same for each and every individual on this planet, yet everybody seems to have his own interpretation.
Many people consider time their enemy. There have never been so many people struggling with and against time as today. And it only seems getting worse.
How many times do we hear friends or colleagues say: “I’m sorry, but I don’t have time?” If you think about this, it is a silly remark since everybody alive has the same amount of time on a given day.
A better, more honest statement would be: “I’m sorry, but I don’t want to spend time on this issue”. This way, you clearly express your own choice in how to arrange your day.
Many people are bored, for instance on a rainy Sunday when they do not know what to do and just hang around. At the same time, these same people are stressed the next day because they feel they have so much to do in so little time. If they had a choice, many people would like to be immortal to create enough time for all their activities.
Why control of time is so important for your happiness
Many people cannot sleep at night because they keep on dwelling on what they should have done, what they forgot about, how they can manage to do so many things in a day etcetera. The next day, they wake up so tired that they are not able to accomplish just a fraction of what they brooded on at night.
Trapped in this vicious cycle of a fight against time, happiness seems very far way. By losing control of time, many people are losing control of their lives.
Especially women complain about a lack of time for themselves. Women have a bigger tendency than men to try to do several things at the same time. Although women are obviously better in “multi-tasking” than men, this characteristic may also limit their happiness. Many women want to combine a career with being a perfect mother and loving wife. By consequence, time is limited for all these activities leading to a perpetual feeling of lack of time.
The only way to counter this is to ask yourself if you really want and have to undertake so many things at the same time, and to occasionally plan time for yourself. If you feel like going to a beauty farm or doing a city trip with a friend, just plan them well in advance and take your time. You deserve it – as much as anybody else.
The extent to which you are able to plan and manage your own time proves to be a major determinant of happiness. A study conducted by Bailey and Miller (1998) among university students showed that students with a heavier study load were 15% more satisfied with their lives than fellow students with a less demanding study program, whereas levels of stress were equal.
The paradox of time: stress versus boredom
Stress and lack of time are felt as our ‘enemies’ of modern times and many people complain about having too much to do and too little time. However, the notion of having a busy life proves to be far more rewarding than the feeling of having not much to do.
Similarly, most people who quit their jobs after years of complaints about tight work schedules and deadlines to enjoy a sabbatical period gradually come to the conclusion that they need at least a basic time structure in order to avoid a negative mood.
Many people, though, lack the discipline to adhere to some form of time schedule if they do not have the obligation. This is because they never actually learned how to plan and manage their own time.
Another thing that causes “time stress” are unavoidable routine tasks. How often do you feel overwhelmed by all those household tasks that you have to do on a regular basis? If one part of the house is clean, then another part is dirty again, and so on.
To prevent this negative emotion, make a to-do-list listing all these household tasks and make a feasible planning. With a routine like this, you stop these tasks from cluttering your mind all the time.
Start to be realistic in what you can do in a certain amount of time
Most people overestimate what they can do in a day, leading to frustration and an unhappy state of mind. At the same time, these people underestimate what they can do in a year by taking small steps every day, leading to a lack of ambition and indifference, and again to an unhappy state of mind.
In order to keep on track of your objectives in life and to prevent the days from just passing by, make sure you achieve something everyday, no matter how small. People who make progress in life and see their goals come nearer are happier than those who do not.
Stop having regrets about yesterday, stop worrying about tomorrow
It makes no sense to regret what happened yesterday. And it's no use worrying about what could happen in the future.
Why you should not have regrets about things in the past
Surprisingly enough, what is actually happening in the lives of happy people does not differ a great lot from that of unhappy people, as described in several studies. The difference is that an unhappy person has twice as many regrets about what happened in the past than a happy person. Happy people tend to remember inspiring moments and impressions to benefit from.
Too many people limit their happiness by going through too many ‘what if’ scenarios. These people have doubts about previous decisions, and break their head on questioning how things would be if they had taken a different decision.
You’re living a productive life if you think about how you can improve things in the future, not if you waste your time by thinking how you could have done things differently in the past. We have to accept that we cannot change the past. We have to realize that how happy we feel today is not as much determined by our past as it is affected by satisfaction about our current situation and excitement about our future.
If you have regrets about yesterday it means you focus on negative events that took place in your life. Instead, think about happy moments in the past, and simply enjoy your journey through ‘nostalgia’. When you remember how happy you were in the old days, you will find the power to be happy today. This simple way to feel good is not exclusively for the elderly.
It is only natural to be worried about your children or other people you care for, but we must not overdo if we want to be happy. Otherwise we waste the best parts of our time worrying and trying to prevent others from doing what they want. Since we cannot change anything about the future with our worries, what is the point in worrying too much? Too many worries lead to too much stress and too little happiness. Period.
Why you should not worry about what could go wrong in the future
Similarly, too many people worry about getting older and all its negative consequences. These people wrongly believe that only young people can live happy lives.
However, several studies prove the opposite: many people do not consider their youth as their happiest time in their lives. The older you get, the wiser. As you grow older, the better you will be able to cope with negative events in life, and to discern what is important to you and what is not. Also, financial sorrows are likely to disappear when you get older. In short, many older people enjoy life more than in earlier stages of life.
This doesn't mean that you should not take good care of yourself today in order to be better off in the future. You shouldn't worry about getting involved in a car accident, yet it's prudent to have a good car insurance. Similarly, you shouldn't worry about aging and getting a wrinkled appearance, yet it's only smart to start applying a good anti-aging cream as of today, every day!
Imagine how you would look at a negative event one year from now
Bad things will happen, but most of the times we are not feeling the effects forever. It sounds like a cliché but time heals all wounds. I do not want to underestimate the importance of your disappointments, but the negative mood it caused will fade away, because life always re-takes its course. Compared to unhappy people, happy people differ in their ability to think about other things than the bad event in its aftermath.
Your happiness is not dependent on the amount of negative events in your life. What matters, though, is the extent to which you draw negative conclusions about yourself from negative events that occur to you. People who see themselves as cause of a negative event, have a 43% lower probability to be happy than people who do not.
Another way to decrease your feeling of unhappiness is to analyze the reason(s) for your negative state of mind. Too many people get stuck in their own negative spiral without any clue of what causes their miserable emotions. However, if you do know the reason for your sad mind-set, then you know how you can change your situation. But what is more, it will also make you feel a little bit less miserable – at the same time, instantly.
Every time something negative happens, ask yourself how you would judge this event in a year from now. Odds are that 90% of your negative reactions were not worth the energy – energy you could have spent on more positive things that do contribute to your happiness.
Enjoy this very moment before it has gone
In order to be happy, you'd better enjoy this very moment... now, while it's happening! So count your blessings and laugh...
Count your blessings now
Before you go further on your journey to the level of happiness you deserve, please take a moment to count your blessings. All too often we forget to think about where we have come from and what we have reached so far. It is human nature to want more and more all the time. By consequence, we lack the time to enjoy all that we have at this very moment.
Happy people appreciate what they have in life and do not bother to compare their belongings with other people. Unhappy people are sad about what they do not or cannot have. Studies show that more possessions do not lead to more happiness. However, people who are satisfied with what they have are expected to be twice as happy as unsatisfied people who effectively own much more.
What is valid for material things is also true for moments in life. You cannot expect every moment to be exiting and interesting. But even ‘dull’ moments can be enjoyed if you can control your state of mind.
Here is an example to put you on the right track. If you have a dog, you probably love your pet but you may dislike the obligation to let him out several times a day. Now change your mindset and try to enjoy the fact that you get your exercise in a pleasant way, some time for yourself to reflect, and you might get to know your neighbor better.
Let us look at a second example. Do you like vacuuming your house? Probably not, but it has to be done once and a while. Next time you need to vacuum, put on your favorite music and realize how many calories you burn while vacuuming. Therefore you save yourself precious time and money for the gym to burn an equal amount of calories.
With this in mind, it really is possible to enjoy your household tasks. In addition, when you are finished, you can enjoy the positive result of your action, i.e. a clean house which is a source for enjoyment in its own right.
Try to see the positive side or even laugh about whatever situation, especially the ones you have always considered boring or annoying. There are so many studies to prove the positive impact of humor on happiness. The art to laugh about life itself or about a joke is a source for happiness. People who appreciate silly humor feel a third happier than those who do not.
Realize that things can always be better
If you accept this, you will fully appreciate your current situation while spending the right amount of energy and time on improving your situation.
If you do not accept that things can always be better, you will never be happy, because you will always be waiting until the perfect situation arrives. This is a common mistake. Far too many people are unhappy because they assume they will be happy only after something improves in their life: if they receive a promotion, win the lottery, or find the perfect partner… But after receiving the promotion, they are longing for the next promotion etc. etc.
Unhappy are those people who believe they will not be able to reach their goals. Equally unhappy are those who believe they will reach all of their goals to the fullest extent. Happy people believe they will reach some of their goals in due time and do not forget to enjoy the journey towards those goals.
Laugh even without a reason
Common wisdom dictates that it’s healthy to laugh. Why this is the case now has scientific evidence. Laughing decreases stress and induces relaxation, because it makes the brain produce endorphin, sometimes referred to as ‘the happiness hormone’. Endorphin has relaxing and pain-relieving effects.
Laughing improves oxygen absorption and your defense system. It has been shown that one minute of laughing equals thirty minutes of relaxation training or ten minutes of jogging.
Have you ever realized that children laugh about 400 times a day whereas adults don’t laugh more than 15 times a day by the average? It seems like the older we get, the more we forget to laugh.
Everybody knows that our emotions influence our behavior. It is hard to stay friendly to a waiter if this person gives you a lousy service. It is hard to laugh when everything seems to go wrong. As a rule, behavior follows emotion, i.e. you start to laugh after hearing a good joke, or you start to feel sad after you get fired.
Very few people, however, realize that the opposite is also true. You can benefit from the correlation between emotions and behavior simply by turning this mechanism around: if you want to feel happy, just start laughing, even if you cannot think of any reason at all to laugh about.
This may seem unnatural and artificial at first, but after trying out this principle more often, you will notice the powerful implications of it. By using a certain positive behavior in order to generate a desired state of emotion, you demonstrate yourself that you are in control of your life, and life does not control you!
This principle works both directly and indirectly. Directly, because you actually ‘cheat’ your brains into believing a positive event took place. Indirectly, because your laughter – or whatever other positive behavior – will ignite similar reactions among people around you. These reactions will, like a kind of emotional boomerang, get back to you and reinforce your positive state of mind.