Eight ways to be (more) here and (more) happy


I absolutely love Aidan’s post from last week, 13 ways to be (more) here and (more) happy.  We are moving into the third month of The Here Year, and the truth is we’re still figuring out exactly how best to convey what it is we are exploring and learning.  Aidan and I are both people who struggle with presence and who juggle a lot of balls, but we also have in common our fierce, genuine desire to be here now.  We talk in the macro about this endeavor a lot, both to each other and on our blogs.  What we are also trying to do is make our efforts more concrete and more granular, and Aidan’s wonderful post does that.

I found her list of 13 things thought-provoking and wanted to respond with my own thoughts about specific things that make me both more present and more happy (inextricably correlated as those things are for me).  I think it’s notable that Aidan’s list is 13 and mine is 8 and both of those are ragged and imperfect numbers.  Not the well-rounded 10 that you might want for a polished article or piece.  But I feel like that detail is emblematic of The Here Year in general: we’re figuring it out as we go, and it’s certainly not shiny or perfect, but it’s genuine.

1. Forgive yourselfAidan touches on this and I too believe it’s at the core of being happier and more present.  We can’t all be present and engaged in our lives every minute of every day.  At least, I can’t.  But I can be there more, and I already recognize big strides on my part in that direction.  The goal, in my opinion, isn’t perfect, constant, unwavering presence.  It is more moments when I feel the wave of this is my life and I am really living it sweep over me.  More of those.  Aidan describes the way that golden moments can “sustain us” in less-golden times, too, and I thought of Wordsworth and one of the lines I most often hear inside my head: in this moment there is life and food for future years.  Yes.

2. Pay attention and record.  This is intextricably linked to the above, for me.  What I want, what I’m after, is more of those moments swollen with awareness, when I know that I’m as deep into my actual, real, ordinary life as I can possibly be.  When I’m noticing the smell of laundry outside my front door because the dryer is on or recognizing the faint budding of the bare branches on my tree outside my window.  When I’m in one of those moments, I just want to be in it: feeling, smelling, seeing, hearing, tasting, all senses engaged.  Sometimes I’ll lift my phone and take a picture, and after I often want to write down the details of what I experienced.  I’m always grateful that I captured these moments because they are, after all, our lives.  Instagram has become a place that I chronicle these moments, these pearls strung together on a string that make up my life.

3. Go outside.  I go for a walk almost every day.  Some of these are very short, often alone, for example to the drycleaner or to the library.  Some of them are more ambling, notice-things walks with my children.  What I know is I always come back from a walk calmed, centered, and reminded of what matters.  When I’m walking I look up and I look down, I admire the blue or gray of the sky, or the rain spitting from it, and I am aware of what’s under my feet, and I think: ah.  This is the world that I live in.  And there’s huge, huge value to that.  Always.  I have recently been trying to weed through old photos, and in going through my iPhoto archives it is clear I take a lot of photographs of the sky.  Witness, above: last week at the end of a baseball game.

4. Say no.  I really believe that there is only one zero-sum resource in this life: time.  We need to be careful and deliberate about where we spend our time.  I’ve written a lot about how I’ve consciously chosen to reduce outside commitments in order to focus on the things that I know mean the most to me.  I think everyone should do the work of figuring out what those priorities are.  You can use then use that understanding to make choices about how to spend your time.  The map of a week or a month of your time shows what you value.  Do you like what you see?

5. Get enough sleep.  For me, this is 8 hours a night.  I get up early, so I have to go to bed early.  It all comes back to that zero sum thing.  We each get 24 hours a day.  How do you want to spend them?  It’s not an exaggeration to say that sleep is the bedrock of health for me, and I need to make it a priority.  Period.

6. What do you love?  Do that.  We have to be in touch with what it is we truly love in order to pursue more of it.  And it may not be what we really think.  I wish I loved sparkly, glamorous things.  But what I really, honestly love is reading to my kids and tucking them in and getting into bed with a book myself.  So I do more of that.  This seems connected to Gretchen Rubin‘s commandments: be Gretchen.  What do YOU want?  Then do that.

7. Calm down.  I’ve learned that the primary thief of presence, for me, is a swirl of anxiety and fear that gets me going into a reactive cycle.  I get emotional, I get triggered, I get going, and suddenly I am entirely out of my own body.  I need to remember that those reactions and emotions are the clouds.  I’m the sky.  I can watch them go by without letting them be me.  We all need ways to help ourselves return to our bodies, to our breath, to what’s right here.  I use calm.com an awful lot and love it.  I also use walks for this, and, sometimes, yoga.  Find what works for you.  Feel your own physical body in the world.  Remember that is what matters.

8. Get outside of yourself.  Aidan talks about supporting others.  I often think about the line from my favorite prayer, St. Francis of Assissi’s, where he says that it is in giving that we receive.  Remember: there is room for all of us.  I could not believe this more fiercely.  So give of yourself, in whatever way you can.  It may seem paradoxical, but by giving of ourselves – time, money, energy, things – we are reminded of the abundance in our own lives.

How do you help yourself be more here and more happy?  I’d love suggestions, tips, advice, wisdom, reactions!


17 thoughts on “Eight ways to be (more) here and (more) happy”

  1. Lindsay, this is wonderful! I’ve been following Aidan’s journey (albeit silently, on the sidelines), and think it’s absolutely inspiration and aspirational.

    I believe too in saying no, getting enough sleep, going outside, being HERE. Thank you for sharing your here/ happy tips.

  2. Great list, Lindsey. I think my happy list would look similar to yours – pay attention, be real, breathe.
    I also like what Gretchen Rubin says: If it takes a minute or less, do it now. If I procrastinate the little things, it adds stress to my day.

  3. Such insightful lists, both yours and Aidan’s. Each one of these items speaks to me on some level, but particularly 2, 3, and 6 (which, in some sense, could be one line item for me considering how much I like to take photos outside). For me, three additional granular items are 1) no opening emails or FB (though infrequently, I keep in touch with distant family that way) after 9PM–it ALWAYS leads to trouble and ultimately a lousy night’s sleep and an inability to be present, so they stay unopened until the AM; 2) plant things–with my fingers in the dirt I am literally connected to the Earth, with my eyes I can witness growth, seasons, and the relative slower speed with which time passes, all therapeutic for me; and 3) I recently read that to reduce anxiety, visualize breathing through your feet/toes because it grounds you and brings you back to “here”, and it does seem to work for me.

  4. Hi Lindsey. I must have found your blog by some invisible string pulling me towards a person with similar thoughts 🙂 I too take pictures of sky and love when I am turning the key to my door and smell the laundry drying inside! As always, your words are lovely and make my day a little brighter. :))

  5. Thank you so much for writing and sharing this post. I have been really enjoying the process of The Here Year for both you and Aidan.

    All of your ideas resonated with me. I especially found myself nodding my head to your first: forgive yourself. I spend so much of my time out of the present because I’m mulling over some blip of imperfection in my life. Whether it be something I forgot to do or something I didn’t do as well as I wanted.

    I’m also discovering the power of getting outside for walks. Since I got a puppy in January, I’ve been spending a lot more time on short and long walks outside with him. I find these walks to be an amazing source of presence. I usually leave my phone behind so I can really take in the special moments I get to share with the puppy and my boyfriend.

    I’m not sure I would add anything to your list. I like the way you stress the importance of time management and realizing that time is a zero-sum resource so we have to be incredibly careful about how we spend our time. I’m still working on this process. Trying to find the right mix of what I love to fill my time. Saying no is difficult because it closes doors and I find myself constantly worrying about whether or not I might want to one day reopen those doors. I’m still uncovering what I really want out of my life and so the act of saying no is so scary for me.

    Sorry for the rambles and thanks again for the inspiration.

    Best of luck as you continue on your Here Year.

  6. Wonderful list.

    My salvation is air—fresh air, gulped air, savored air, in whatever form it takes that I am so singularly focused on it, my spirit fills, leaving behind all but hope.

  7. Yes to all of these, especially number seven. Nothing interferes with my presence like anxiety, as you say, getting triggered. I find that number seven is related to all the other numbers, and most especially, number five!!xo

  8. We are living very similar lives, these are all the things that make me happy too. Such a concise crystallization of wise words to live by! They are so simple and yet so right. I have been a reader here for a while, and I just want to say thank you for being willing to share. I appreciate you reaching out in this way, giving us all words. You write so well.

  9. I LOVE this list, Lindsey!

    I have been following along with The Here Year both here and on Aidan’s blog — I’m a long-time reader of both you and Aidan’s words. In general, I’ve made it my intention to be more present in my life. I’m finding that it was much easier when my son was a baby — I seemed to stay in the moment longer, better. As he’s gotten older (he’s 4 now), I find my mind wandering, my to-do list popping up unexpectedly in the middle of reading books, my work worries interrupting my time at home.

    I especially like your ideas to say no, get enough sleep, do what you love, and calm down. If I’m being honest, I struggle with saying “no,” which prevents me from doing what I love. And I really have a hard time calming down because I suffer from anxiety.

    That said, I want to embrace a slower pace this summer with my son. Because I work full-time at a professional-level job, he’s in daycare/school all week, and in an effort to keep him away from the television all weekend, I over-schedule our Saturdays and Sundays so that we’re pretty much constantly on the run from activity to activity, outing to outing. I’m finding myself completely drained and unable to accomplish anything at home. I really have no downtime. Do you have any advice for someone like me who wants to slow down the pace (keeping in mind that I have a 4-year-old who doesn’t play well by himself). Thank you so much!

    These pieces are wonderful, Lindsey! Keep up the great work!!

  10. All beautiful, Lindsey. Everything you wrote holds much truth. For me, it’s digging in the dirt, getting my fingers dirty, and then later, enjoying the simplicity that is the backyard–sitting there with my family, simply being.

  11. Loved Aidan’s list and I love your pointers too. Outside- I don’t know why but I find this more and more therapeutic. Today I was signed up to spin and wasn’t feeling it so I took the puppy for a walk, it was so invigorating. It really stuck me when you said you wished you loved more glamorous things. I love hanging out in sweatpants and all those casual moments. I heard somewhere that with kids we are waiting for them to do that grand thing, be great but then we miss out on all the seemingly mundane things that are great in different/better ways. So glad we “met” via Aidan. Let’s keep the conversation going.

  12. I love these, as I loved Aidan’s. I so appreciate your attempt and ability to give voice to specific, tangible ways in which you both achieve greater happiness and presence. It’s inspiring me to give real thought to the *actual* ways I can be more here, instead of just wishing and hoping and speaking generally about it. Be outside…take walks…do what you love…record moments…many, many of these resonate, and it truly helps to pause and recognize their value.

    Lately I’ve found that writing has helped me be more aware, more present. I’m more attuned to my children’s words or stories, and more inclined to snap a picture to capture and memorialize a moment. Also–listening to music I love, loud, while on the road. When I do, I find I’m often overwhelmed with happiness at where I am right now; it makes me feel so perfectly content being “in it.”

    Thank you for the beautiful words & continued inspiration!

  13. Lindsey, this went right to my heart. I connected with every single ‘way’ you mention. One I’ve been working on is “I need to remember that those reactions and emotions are the clouds. I’m the sky. I can watch them go by without letting them be me.” It’s been a conscious effort for me on nearly a daily basis, and I’m happy to say I’ve made huge progress. Tonight, as I shed tears for Maya Angelou, I realize that her words and wisdom have helped me so much to become the woman I am today. This year has been an exercise in being present, as my life begins to shift in unimaginable ways.

  14. I LOVE this. Especially Calm Down:) This and sleep are HUGE HUGE HUGE for me. Mostly I don’t get enough sleep and then it’s hard to calm down …

    More of these lists please. It’s such great advice. I want to record more.

  15. #4 is so underrated. We sometimes allow extra mayhem just by committing to too much. I find it’s hard to say no in the moment, but it gets easier when you realize how much more you’re saying yes to by limiting the extra activities (both activities for me and for the kids).

  16. Love your list, Lindsey! I connect with each and every one of your wise suggestions. This year I’m trying to be more intentional with my decisions on how I spend my time. I’ve definitely been noticing a difference. Love your writing. And thank you for turning me on to calm.com awhile back. I’ve suggested it to a number of friends and they all love it as much as I do. Xoxo

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