“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” ~Buddha
For the longest time I lived in the future.
I had a grand list of all the big things I wanted to do…
Build a multinational company, become a philanthropist, go on long vacations all over the world with my wife, have a big house with a lovely garden…the list goes on!
It’s great to be ambitious, I still believe that.
However, the more I made plans and worked toward my ambitions, the more I reinforced a concept within my mind—that the present is not okay.
“Who I am, where I am living, what I look like, how much money I have—none of it is enough for me to be happy now.”
I had made my happiness conditional on my success, on the “big” things in life.
One morning, after finishing my Tai Chi session in the park, I noticed a lovely bed of flowers. I had been going to that the park for months but had never noticed those flowers before.
Being the goal-oriented person I am, I was focused on perfecting my Tai Chi moves. So focused, that I had forgotten that one of the key purposes of Tai Chi is to be more in the present, to be satisfied with life.
That’s when I realized that my ambitions were blinding me to all that I already have in life.
I asked myself: Can I be happy with what I already have now, be happy with the little things in life?
I began to consciously make an effort to realize how beautiful my life is, to be aware of the little things that make the present moment special. We all experience such moments every day. We just don’t notice them. We let them pass by like strangers on an elevator exchanging polite smiles.
Rather than just smile, I started to give those fleeting moments a hug. I really began to live them.
I became happier, my energy levels rose, and I became more productive. I stopped worrying about my business—my grand plans for the future!
My mind still has a habit of flitting between the past and the future, but sometimes it takes only five minutes to bring it back into the present moment, to just feel happy.
If you are wondering how to do that, try one of these tiny ways:
Enjoy Nature in the City
I used to feel like heading out into the lap of Mother Nature every other weekend. Then I asked myself, how could I enjoy nature right in the city?
1. Watch the leaves fall on a windy day.
2. Wake up early and listen to the silence.
3. Look at the clouds and try to find shapes and maybe even faces.
4. Listen to the birds chirping.
5. Check out some breathtaking photos on National Geographic.
6. Watch a butterfly flutter away.
7. Listen to the thunder on a rainy day.
8. Sit on a park bench and enjoy the greenery.
9. Walk barefoot on grass.
Be Grateful for What You Already Have
There’s so much in life that we take for granted that many can only dream of. Let’s remember how fortunate we are when we experience these ordinary moments.
10. Enjoy drinking a glass of water. Eight hundred million people in the world do not have access to clean water.
11. Be grateful for the food on your plate. Over eight hundred million people do not get enough to eat.
12. Be grateful for the people in your life.
13. Just be grateful that you are alive.
14. Think of ten other things you are grateful for.
Bring Out the Child in You
How difficult is it to regain that carefree nature of childhood when you are older? Go ahead, do something silly and have a good laugh!
15. Read an Archie comic book.
16. Blow soap bubbles.
17. Catch snowflakes with your tongue.
18. Take a walk in the rain.
19. Lick a fast melting ice-cream.
20. Practice your Kung Fu moves or air guitar in front of the mirror!
Enjoy a Hobby
Do you have time for hobbies? I used to feel that I didn’t, until I figured that a hobby does not require half an hour a day. Five minutes is enough.
21. Play a song on your guitar (or any instrument).
22. Listen to a song you love. (Keep a playlist in your phone).
23. Better still, sing aloud.
24. Learn a new dance move from YouTube.
25. Capture an urban scene with your camera phone.
26. Read your favorite part from that novel you really love.
27. Read a new book for just five minutes before you go to bed.
Take Care of Yourself
You might be giving time to your work, your ambitions, and your family. Are you taking good care of yourself?
28. Exercise for just five minutes—skip rope, jog, do five pushups and squats. Exercise releases endorphins, which make you happier.
29. Relish a delicious serving of fruits.
30. Pen down your thoughts in a journal.
31. Tidy up a corner of your house.
32. Meditate for five minutes.
Before I felt that I had enough in life, I had to love myself enough.
33. Think of five things that you love about who you are as a person.
34. Every night before going to bed, think of at least one thing you achieved on that day, however small or insignificant it might seem.
35. Give yourself a hug. (It works.)
Do Something for Someone Else
Giving creates a feeling of abundance like few other things do.
36. Feed a stray dog or cat.
37. Help a neighbor with an errand.
38. Help out a coworker with your expertise.
39. Send flowers and a card to that relative you haven’t spoken to in years.
Connect with People
Work was an excuse for me to not find time for my loved ones. Does it really take much to cherish these relationships?
40. Call a friend and say hello. (Don’t text!)
41. Cuddle with your partner in the morning.
42. Call your parents.
43. Remember a happy moment with your loved ones.
44. Forgive someone for a small offense. (This makes it easier to forgive people for the big offenses.)
45. Apologize to someone.
46. Look at old pictures that bring back memories.
Indulge Your Senses
No, you don’t need to go to a spa!
47. Slowly sip a good cappuccino.
48. Listen to the sound of an ocean track (on the internet).
49. Sit in the sun (on your terrace or backyard).
50. Light aroma candles or incense sticks, like lavender or lemongrass.
51. Feel the wind in your hair as you drive.
None of these things are grand or profound, and that’s the whole point. I now believe that life becomes happier and so much more special if we start to enjoy the little things.
There are, of course, times when I still worry about the future. That’s when I just go ahead and do something on this list. It usually doesn’t take me long to realize just how lucky I am, and I stop worrying.
What other tiny ways can you think of to feel happy in just five minutes? What will you try out today?