Why focus could be the key to feeling better soon
A bombarded inbox, incessant push notifications and a to-do list that seems to grow every day – there are reasons a-plenty for our minds to ramble. According to data assembled from the Track My Happiness app, half of us are off somewhere else when we’re working (tonight’s dinner option: guilty). More worryingly, 10 per cent of us even go walkabouts in our minds when we’re having sex.
But why is this important? Because focusing on where you’re at right now is a core component of our happiness. And, with an estimated 73 million women suffering from one major depressive episode per year, improving our mood isn’t just a nice idea this World Mental Health Day – it needs to be a vital priority if we’re going to be feeling better soon.
‘People are less happy when they’re distracted by the past or the future, spending their time with technology rather than with other people, or really engaging in something in a sustained way,’ explains its creator, psychologist Dr Matt Killingsworth. Check out his TED Talk below.
Who better to turn to for new strategies for finding focus and feeling better than the man sitting on a mountain of data that reveals the how, what, where and why of our most joyful – and lowest moments? Try and work some of these seven into your weekend.
1. Be in the driving seat
‘Our happiness derives both from what we have, and how we view those things. But in terms of how much satisfaction we derive from life, the balance of evidence suggests that the latter is really important,’ explains Dr Killingsworth. ‘Put simply, peoples happiness levels seems to relate more to how they react to the individual circumstances of their lives, rather than what those conditions and circumstances actually are.’
2. Augment your own reality
‘Think about how we can edit the less enjoyable things we have to do in with other elements to make them more satisfying, more useful and more interesting. If you can’t avoid doing your long drive to work, why not download an audio book, and only listen to it when you’re commuting?’ Dr Killingsworth suggests.
3. Focus on your feelings
‘If you find yourself facing a certain situation over and over, or repeating certain ways of thinking, it could be that your routines are creating avoidable suffering,’ Dr Killingsworth states. ‘In that instance, it’s important to ask yourself: is there something I can change? Because if I don’t change something I’m probably going to keep feeling like this.’
4. But don’t be an emotional perfectionist
‘It’s critical that people separate their awareness from their judgement. There is a lot of value in being aware of how you feel; it’s a great step towards self insight. But it’s important to remember that everybody is unhappy some of the time. If we are constantly judging how we feel, and we always have this expectation that we’ll be incredibly happy all the time, this is unhelpful and will actually make you feel worse.’
5. Talk more
‘According to the data, being alone is one of the main causes of unhappiness. With tech advances, how busy people are, and how often we move for our careers, we tend to lose our social networks. One proven way we can increase happiness is to make more of our lives more social,’ explains Dr Killingsworth. ‘Having deep engagement with other people on a daily basis is really important. At work, take the initiative to strike up conversations, and not just eat your lunch alone at your desk.’
6. To a pro, if necessary
‘A lot of us engage in the catastrophising, where we blow some small bad thing out of proportion. Techniques like CBT help by interrupting that automatic thought pattern, so we think: maybe that isn’t the worst thing that could have happened. There is a lot of evidence that as we shift our thinking and appraisal, it can significantly shift how we feel.’
7. But always try to see the good
‘In our safe, modern world, moments where negative emotions are the most functional response tend to be the exception. And when we look at what happiness and positive emotions engender, it’s being more cooperative, more creative, and more engaged in what we are doing. The data also reveals that whether its at the office, with family or in terms of health – happier folks tend to do better.’
Dr Killingsworth is working with the Johnnie Walker ‘Joy Will Take You Further’ campaign. Click here to learn more