My graduation from college was awesome. My wedding? Meaningful, lovely, a total blast. The first time I held my daughter? Breathtaking. All big days to be sure.
But, so was the first day I sat alone at the desk as a self-employed writer. And the moment my grandfather let me drive his car. And the morning my daughter made her own breakfast. And a conversation I had with a girlfriend over margaritas. And the hug from my husband after a really rotten day.
We like to celebrate the biggies of life – and they should be celebrated – but we also need to notice, and honor, and enjoy the little moments. These mundane moments that show up in the daily routine are the things that will add meaning and joy to our lives, say researchers.
“What is ordinary now actually becomes more extraordinary in the future – and more extraordinary than we might expect,” says Ting Zhang, a researcher at Harvard Business School who found that when we document the routine moments of our lives to read later we actually experience greater pleasure and joy remembering a “typical” day rather than a big-time event.
Things that did not seem meaningful in the moment, a favorite song or playlist, a conversation with a friend, are the types of things the meant a great deal when remembered later, Zhang says.
“The studies highlight the importance of not taking the present for granted and of documenting the mundane moments of daily life to give our future selves the joy of rediscovering them,” he says.
Notice the Now
Before you can start documenting the moments of your life, you must notice them. Start by pausing at least three times a day and during every transition – like before you brush your teeth, or start the car, or get up to leave — to notice what is around. Use all five senses to soak up your environment then pause to become aware of what you are thinking and feeling. Sit with it. Don’t act on these thoughts, just become aware.
Notice the amazing in the familiar. The complexity of a spider’s web, the way the sun comes through the trees, a child’s laugh. And, here’s the key, soak it up. Identify the good feelings that emerge from this noticing and pause to fully absorb them. Spend 15 or 20 seconds soaking up the good feeling.
Do this several times a day and you’ll not only line the future with joy and meaning, but you fill the moments right now with gratitude, appreciation and good feeling
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