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How to Be Happier

It’s the end of January and I’m in Rio de Janeiro, visiting friends who feel like family, while getting my yearly dose of sunshine in the wintertime. Now during Covid, this feels like such a luxury and I wake up grateful and happy, with a skip in my step. But as the days go on and the life here starts feeling like the new normal, I find myself getting used to the good parts and paying more attention to the not so good parts.

And I already know this. I have traveled enough and accomplished enough to understand by now that our minds, although magnificent, are tricky machines. One of the most annoying features of the mind is that it’s built to get used to stuff. Our minds adapt quickly to almost anything and tend to forget the best part, while focusing on what’s lacking. We get used to everything and even though it made us super happy in the beginning, it simply doesn’t over time. Our minds will normalize even the most amazing experiences, places and people.

In his book “Stumbling on Happiness”, Daniel Gilbert sums up this phenomena well, albeit a little depressing, by saying that “Wonderful things are especially wonderful the first time they happen, but their wonderfulness wanes with repetition”.

So how do we keep ourselves in an appreciating state? There’s a few ways, but one of my favorite ones is savoring experiences that you are grateful for. And I have a challenge for you, if you’re up for it and you want to see how being mindful and grateful changes your experience of your own life.

For the next seven days, practice the art of savoring by picking one experience to truly savor each day. It could be a nice shower, a delicious meal, a great walk outside, or any experience that you really enjoy.

As you are savoring your experience, there are several common techniques that you can use to enhance it. You can:

  1. Share your experience with another person,

  2. Think about how lucky you are to enjoy such an amazing moment,

  3. Keep a souvenir or photo of that activity, and

  4. Make sure that you stay in the present moment the entire time.

Every night, make a note of what you savored that day and take a moment to remember the activity.

Today, I am savoring this moment, sitting out here on the veranda overlooking magnificent Rio de Janeiro over the green jungle that surrounds me as I hear birds chirping and the hum of a fan keeping me cool, this feast for the senses as I do one of my favorite things in the whole world, write.

If you decide to take on this challenge, leave a comment below to let me know what you are savoring today!

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