4 Ways to Gain Greater Balance, Focus, and Happiness in an Unbalanced World
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
– Martin Luther King
As we continue to shelter-in-place, observe challenges in national government, and live day-to-day, it can feel like an uphill struggle to experience moments of happiness – to maintain balance and focus.
Do you experience moments of happiness in your life? How does experiencing balance, focus, and happiness make a positive difference in your life?
This complex world and our daily lives are filled with distractions. It’s common to fall into the habit of just doing. We strive to check things off the list. We may forget about paying attention to who we really are and what’s really important to us.
Life’s vicissitudes – changing circumstances both pleasant and unpleasant – can fill our moments so completely that we may lose sight of our goals, direction, and how we want to express our lives. This busyness can leave us vulnerable to overwhelm, making it hard to notice the truths, needs, and callings within us and around us. Without giving ourselves a chance to pay attention to our own wants and needs and to the bigger picture of our lives, we may feel out of balance and unfocused.
Many of us know we would benefit from noticing a bit of breathing space as we face the persistent demands of life and work.
Engaging in practices that help us build focus and attention can inspire us to free ourselves from distractions, improving our sense of balance and our capacity to leverage moments of happiness. According to psychologists, even brief engagement with mindfulness and meditation can help strengthen our attention (Kabat-Zinn, 2012; Goleman & Davidson, 2017). Goleman and Davidson report that eight minutes of mindfulness can reduce mind wandering for a short time, while mindfulness practice for about ten hours over two weeks can make even more difference. These experts explain that the key to lasting benefits is practicing mindfulness regularly on an ongoing basis.
When you find yourself drifting or overwhelmed, here are four ways to help you experience greater balance, focus, and happiness.
Happiness is not so much about the circumstances in which we find ourselves as about how we choose to experience our lives and circumstances. Where and how we focus our attention can contribute to feeling a greater sense of balance, focus, and happiness.
You can begin strengthening your attention by becoming more aware of what you are focusing on. Try folding brief, simple mindful moments into your day. You’re practicing mindfulness whenever you point your attention to the present moment with openness, curiosity, or acceptance (Niemiec, 2016). The simple act of paying attention, for example, when you pour a glass of water, sit down on a chair, or talk with a friend can bring mindfulness to the moment.
Increasing your sense of balance and happiness does not require big changes – even brief moments can help increase positive emotion. The secret for many folks is to take an experimental approach. Start small. Then gradually create more space in your life for these practices as you observe how they fit with your lifestyle and goals.
1. Savor the Taste of Your Food and Drink: At each meal, you can purposefully pause for a moment to savor the many tastes. Engage your five senses. Pay attention to the textures, smells, and sensations you experience as you interact with the food and drink. What do you notice?
2. Reflect on Pleasant Moments: To appreciate the positive moments in your life pause, take a deep breath, notice the pleasant experiences and experience them with a sense of joy and gratitude.
3. Reflect on Pleasant Memories: Once or twice each day, pause briefly to reflect on a pleasant memory recalling an experience from earlier in the day or another recent time.
Pause, take a few slow breaths with awareness, and sit quietly.
Focus your attention on the positive emotions you experienced and allow yourself to re-experience these feelings right now. When you’re ready, take a few additional slow conscious breaths and then resume your daily activities.
4. Notice Experiences that Bring You Enjoyment and Meaning: According to psychologists, happiness grows when we are making progress toward our goals and involved in activities that bring us meaning – endeavors that we value (Ben Shahar, 2007; Myers & Diener, 1995).
Think of – or better yet write down – 3 things or activities that you enjoy.
Think of or write down 3 things or activities that are meaningful to you.
Consider how you can create a bit of time in your life to include one or more of these – Daily? Weekly?
What’s your next step?
Your comments and suggestions are welcome!
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- Ben-Shahar, T. (2007). Happier: Learn the secrets to daily joy and lasting fulfillment. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
- Goleman D. & Davidson, R.J. (2017). Altered traits: Science reveals how meditation changes your mind, brain, and body. New York, NY: Avery.
- Kabat-Zinn , J.( 2012). Mindfulness for beginners: Reclaiming the present moment – and your life. Boulder, CO: Sounds True.
- Myers, D. G., & Diener, E. (1995). Who is happy? Psychological Science, 6(1), 10-19.
- Niemiec, R.M. (2014). Mindfulness & character strengths: A practical guide to flourishing. Boston, MA: Hogrefe.
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Ilene is a Featured Author on PsychologyToday!
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