NOW / FREE STYLE SCRAPS
You know you're going to make promises you won't keep: to eat less, spend less, exercise more, start something, quit something, be better at something, spend less money, etc.
But what if you went super-fundamental and vowed simply to enjoy life more? Now, there's something that might be doable.
There are tricks, I know, such as reassessing your concept of enjoyment. Why do most of us think watching CSI is more fun than doing the dishes? If you were sick for a long time, you'd probably welcome the opportunity to do the dishes again, clean the house or perform any number of menial chores you typically complain about.
Here's something else: a study at the University of Kentucky found that people who thought about the inevitability of death became more attuned to positive emotions. Just a reminder for the little Buddha that lives in all of us.
WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY:
"Actively noticing new things puts you in the present and makes you sensitive to context. Just being mindful is itself exciting. When you are mindful, you tend not to feel stress. We've done research where we have people engage in activities they don't typically like - i.e., listening to rap music - and notice one or three different things about it. The more they notice, the more they like it. That's the act of getting engaged. At the end of it, you end up with lots of passions."
ELLEN LANGER, professor of psychology, Harvard, author, Mindfulness, Cambridge, Massachusetts
"The Zen perspective is to enjoy whatever comes without making distinctions or having preferences. An ancient poem about following the Buddhist way says to just avoid picking and choosing, to enjoy life no matter what it gives. My favourite analogy is a Star Trek episode in which Data, the android, gets an emotion chip so he can now have preferences. He orders a drink, starts drinking it and says, ‘I hate this! Give me something else!' In the Zen perspective, you find a way to enjoy life because you're alive and you're experiencing something. Being present has its own joy, whether you actually like something or not."
BRAD WARNER, Zen master, author, Hardcore Zen and Sit Down And Shut Up, Santa Monica, California
"You experience joy when you have gratitude. That comes from looking at your life and seeing how the things that were challenges also brought you benefits. When you can see the perfection of the events of your life, you get joy. Joy comes from taking the time to listen to what is important to you; it doesn't necessarily come from what you've done. Most of the time the heart is talking and we're not listening, because we're afraid of being unworthy and incapable. The biggest block between us and joy is fear."
LISE JANELLE, transformational life coach, author, Conversation With The Heart, Toronto
"We found that when people are confronted with the prospect of their own mortality, their minds automatically begin searching for happy thoughts. This says a lot about how the human psyche is equipped with defences that enable us to cope. I wouldn't encourage people to make a New Year's resolution to think about their own death in order to enjoy life more, however. Instead, I'd encourage them to surround themselves with rewarding relationships. People have a need to belong that's as strong as the need for food, clothing and shelter. A useful way to enjoy life is simply to do it in the company of supportive others. It sounds simple, but the data suggest that it's right as rain."
NATHAN DEWALL, professor of psychology, University of Kentucky, Lexington
"Take time out during winter when all of nature is going deep under the snow and hibernating. It's important, because if we don't we don't dream and we don't imagine. We have to imagine the miracles we wish for in our lives, for ourselves, our community, the earth. Take nuggets of time every day to do things that call to you, to allow your body to be nurtured and to truly be in the moment. For me it's spending precious moments in nature and with my children and grandchildren."
MARTHA LUCIER, shamanic teacher and practitioner, Algonquin Park