I hate jogging because it makes me think too much. The same about going to the gym or waiting for the bus. When I find myself doing thinks I don’t like I tend to full my mind of thoughts about what I’m having for dinner, where I can go for my next holidays or whether there’s such thing as reincarnation. On the other hand, when I play football or when I watch a movie I like I’m just thinking about what I’m doing at that exact moment. And that is when I can say I’m happy.
“The Power Of Now”, by Eckhart Tolle, keeps telling us that we must focus on the present. We must cherish every moment we are living, without thinking about the past or about the problems future may bring. Although some people don’t like the book, I think it’s a clear example of what I’m trying to say in this article. Think about your mental status while you are doing the things you like. It doesn’t matter if it’s talking on the phone with someone or cooking your favourite dish, what does matter is that in that precise moment your mind is completely occupied and focused in that particular action. Thus, no time for thinking.
Some of you may love jogging because it lets you forget about everything else, set your mind in a complete empty status and just move your legs, so you are committed to that activity. I hate it because of the same reason: I only have to move my legs and go forward, which gives me loads of time to think about everything else, about how many meters I’ve already run and about how many minutes I’ve got left since I reach my goal. That’s why, for instance, I like football: every single game is different and every second requires full attention in order to solve new challenges. Don’t take it personal, neither you are wrong nor I’m right, it’s just an example.
The same happens with books. I used to read e-books, but I got to a point in which I couldn’t focus anymore and my head started to go somewhere else while consuming random letters from the screen. Hasn’t it happen to you that you are so caught by the story you’re reading that in your head there’s no space for anything else? It’s just you and your book. That’s because you’re enjoying it, that’s because you’re happy.
Holidays are meant to be full of joy and relax. “I just wanna lay on the beach, have some drinks, chill down and forget about my routine”, that’s what most people say when they take a time off from their everyday lives. Why is that? Because thinking about nothing (or about the thing you’re doing) means that you are happy. It is also true that you may not be the happiest person in the world when your mind is blank, but at least you become a stress-free person and no negative thoughts or worries attack you.
Ok, but why is that?
Of course there’s no scientific explanation behind it, but just ask yourself and you’ll find the answer. In the moment you are just worried about the thing you’re doing and nothing else keeps wandering into your head, you are happy. Happiness doesn’t mean having a gigantic smile or being possessed by laughs during the whole day. Happiness, in this case, means having no worries and knowing that at that precise moment there’s nothing else you have to think about rather than that singular activity.
The best part of it is that it is not a personal decision. You don’t choose to be happy or to be sad, you don’t choose either to think about things or just forget about them. It just happens, and it happens because it’s real. You may not realise while you’re doing your activities, but when you finish, let’s say, a book you really enjoyed, you’ll have that sensation that something is over, but at the same time nothing else had happened while you were reading. In other words, you are doing something you are totally engaged with. When you finish doing that, whatever it is, you stop for a second and say “Ok, that was nice, what about now?”. That happens because you made a pause in your life to involve yourself into an activity you really like. During that time, you didn’t care about what was going on around you because all your attention and desire were put into that single thing.
The book “The One Thing”, by Gary Keller, is more or less about all this. The only difference is that Gary wants us to decide in what things to focus beforehand. When success is your target, that is totally understandable, but I’m talking about moments that just appeared into your life. You can’t decide whether you are going to like something or not. What about if you were to have dinner with a friend and believed everything’s going to be perfect and then it turns out that it’s totally boring and you’re only thinking about leaving, going home and watch a movie?
And what about when I actually have to think?
There are times in which there’s not option but to think. Sit down, work on your project, have a group meeting, write, create something, etc. In this cases, “thinking” should be considered as the main activity, whereas “thinking about something else” is the think we are trying to avoid. If the there’s an activity that hardly involves thinking and you enjoy it, then you are also being happy. Because reading also includes thinking, but in a passive way. I don’t mean “thinking” as the human action of processing information, but as fulling your head about thoughts that are not useful at the moment. “Overthinking” could also be a good synonym.
“I think too much, that means I’m a sad person?”
Of course not. As I said before, there’s no scientific reason for this. I only consider this to be one of the signals of happiness. What could be better than just enjoying the thing you’re doing? The next time you finish doing something, ask yourself if you were really focused on that activity. If the answer is yes, you’ll notice it comes together with a nice feeling. But if you asked yourself during the time you were doing what you were doing, that means you were already thinking about something else. Does that mean you’re not happy? Not all together, but might be.