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Bighter Outlook: stopping to smell the roses

By West Briton  |  Posted: May 01, 2014

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MANY of us heard the famous John Lennon quote: "Life is what happens when we are making other plans". This refers to our tendency to spend a disproportionate amount of time planning for better days. How many times do we hear people say that their life will be better when some future event takes place: for example, "When I retire", "When I win the lottery", "When the kids leave home" or "when I've lost some weight". We often seem to expect our happiness to start at some point in the future. Unfortunately, if we're not careful, we arrive at this goal only to set another one to aim for. In this way happiness is always postponed and put off for another day.

It might sound ridiculously simplistic, but recent research in psychology has looked at the impact of getting people to focus on what's happening in the present moment. You won't be surprised to hear that this raises levels of positive wellbeing and happiness. How does it work? Well, you're unlikely to be stressing! Most stress is fuelled by regrets about what has happened in the past or worries about what might happen in the future. Instead, focusing on what's happening right here and now is a profoundly different experience.

When you pay attention to what's in front of you, you are able to savour the experience, so why don't you try to have some moments in your day where you savour some simple things: a walk outside, a coffee or some relaxing music? When you do this, take a pause, breathe in for just a second, and appreciate that moment. We really can shift our emotions by controlling where we focus our attention.

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