“The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he cannot stay quietly in his room.”, wrote the great philosopher Blaise Pascal. When there is so much to explore out there, staying still and inside seems like doing the opposite of seeking happiness. And yet, that is one of our biggest misconceptions.
While lockdown can be hard on the mind for many of us, let’s take a step back and appreciate the opportunity it offers: if you believe, like me, that true happiness is found in our inner self, you can use this time to learn the processes by which you can improve your happiness levels. Below are 3 pieces of advice to put into practice during confinement.
- Think more
One of the benefits of confinement is the time to think more. As professional obligations are on hold or slowed down for many, we have more time to be, rather than to do (I hear that this is very different for parents having to juggle home-schooling their children and work at the same time). We rarely take the time to look intensely, boldly at a new idea. If you do just that, you might find yourself convinced to make a decision that will change your life. Time for change is not just for the outside world, but for ourselves too. This realisation can bring you closer to your goals.
- Take a trip around your own mind
While some of us might enjoy the fun of virtual reality gadgets, there is a much cheaper and more flexible option, but all the more powerful, for traveling: our own minds. We are quite bad at making the most out of our experiences, this is maybe why we often feel the urge to discover new places. Digging into memories of past trips can bring us as much serenity and joy as actually visiting a new place physically. Training your mind to picture places and remembering sensations can lead you to live your past experiences in an even more pleasurable way: stripped out of the stress of our own shortcomings. Remember the moment when you reached the top of Machu Picchu, but you were so thirsty and hot and the multitude of tourists somehow disappointed you? In your own mind, you can pick the most beautiful image you have in memory, and make that moment purely, vividly, blissful.
What if the best meditation retreat was to be found in the confinement of our own homes? In order to live well with our own self, it is very helpful to know how to meditate. The concept of meditation is to train your mind to avoid hanging on to thoughts, so as to be more aware of sensations, and ultimately live in the moment. A key to happiness is to leave in the now, since past and future don’t exist, the only reality is the present. This should help you get rid of a lot of anxiety, fear and pain.
- Practice mindful walks
Lockdown still allows short walks. With the right mindset, you can bring a lot home from these short moments outside. Being receptive, appreciative and grateful: this is the attitude you have when you go on holiday. Why not adopt it right now too? You will wonder at the sight of the flowers in these early days of spring, ravel at the sight of someone you cross in the streets, and dig into thoughts about your childhood, an old friend you have lost touch with, a business idea you never explored enough. Despite a walk being the shortest type of travel you will ever do, you might come back from your walk a more energised self, or wiser, at least, more complete.
It might feel like we are being locked away from life and all its pleasures right now, but we are given an opportunity to understand and process a lot about ourselves. If you practice those three pieces of advice, I hope you will see you can choose to become freer, more aware, and closer to achieving your objective of happiness. For better assessing if these work for you, establish your baseline happiness on day 1 (on a scale of 1-5, where would you position yourself?), practice these tips every day for one week and re-assess your level of happiness (or wellbeing) on day 8. If that worked for you, please leave a comment at the end of the blog post.