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Dr. Diana Hill

Want more ​happiness in the here and now​? Here’s how.

Published 9 months ago • 3 min read


Hello Reader,

Do you feel like you’re constantly moving from one thing to the next, never enjoying where you are or what you have?

There’s a reason you may not be able to settle.

You’ve got a tricky brain that evolved to be slightly unsatisfied and fearful, and you live in a culture that over-stimulates these drive and threat systems. Feeling content seems like something you must work to get to; the harder you work for it, the more distant it becomes.

Something’s off.

Your first thought might be to carve out downtime, get your work done by 5:00 so you can enjoy your downtime at 6:00, or add a 5:00 am meditation to your daily schedule to practice being present before work.

Stop.

Feeling satisfied involves doing the opposite of what you’ve been trained to do.

When I traveled to Plum Village for the first time, I was struck by Thich Nhat Hanh’s calligraphy written all over the monastery. Like Buddhist graffiti, his Gathas were written on rocks along the walking path, on signs outside the dormitories, and framed above the dishwashing station:

"I have arrived, I am home"

"The way out is in"

"Peace is every step"

"This is it"

Even the toilet room had a Gatha to read while you were using the restroom. Because monastics, just like you and me, need constant mind training to wake up to the present. It’s not that they have less important things to do than you. It’s that they’ve figured out how to do it all with joy and presence.

Want more happiness in the here and now? Here’s how:

  1. Stop “adding” mindfulness and gratitude as another task on your to-do list, and start integrating them into your way of life. I’m not saying you can’t—or shouldn’t—have a meditation practice or schedule a vacation. Please do! But you’ll have an easier time enjoying these activities and settling in if you’ve practiced how to enjoy and settle into your life right now. You hear it all the time: be present. It’s the easiest advice in the world to give but the hardest to take. Use a mantra as you move through your day to help remind you. I like to repeat, “Breathing in, I have arrived. Breathing out, I am home.”
  2. Know that everything comes to an end. When I interviewed my good friend Isa Hendry Eaton about her relationship with her dad for a special Father’s Day episode, she shared that he spent the last day before he died putting her daughter’s crib together and fixing some wonky windows in her rental. She didn’t know it was his last day, but she was able to receive the gift of his helpfulness. When you rush through your life to get to the next thing, you may be missing out on the most important thing. Being aware of the impermanence of everything motivates you to stay present while it’s here.
  3. Make it about more than just you. If you want to feel true satisfaction in life, have a purpose that is bigger than you. For example, Great British Bake Off finalist and nutritional psychologist Kimberley Wilson has a mission: to improve your brain health and those of the most vulnerable populations (pregnant mothers, children in poverty, and prisoners). When you focus your energy on actions that serve others, the mind-states of compassion will boost you. Sure, your brain evolved to get food and run from tigers, but it also evolved to caretake, help and connect with others. There is no better medicine than being of service.

So if you’re struggling to feel content, and find yourself running from one thing to the next, try being present in what you do, opening your heart to what you have, and offering your help to someone in need. When you do all three of those things, you can’t help but feel satisfied.

Something to appreciate:

Join me and Isa Henry Eaton for a special Father’s Day episode on Your Life in Process. We talk about opening and closing our cuckoo-clock hearts, loss, and forgiveness, and how rad our dads really are.

Something to say:

If you want to learn how to bring a mantra to your meditation practice. Join the More Life in Process membership and download this week’s meditation on the mantra “I have arrived. I am home”. If you are getting your meditation started this summer, this mantra is a great place to start.

Something to write about:

How do you get tricked into “adding more” to feel satisfied? Where can you stop adding and start living more fully?

Many blessings and more good to come.


Dr. Diana Hill

Psychological Flexibility Guide

Learn evidenced-backed, contemplative ideas and practices to help you develop your psychological flexibility. If you want to put your efforts into what you care most about, this twice-monthly Wise Effort newsletter is for you. Join the Wise Effort newsletter community!

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