If you can wish someone well, you will be happier yourself. This is one of the most powerful lessons from Chade-Meng Tan, Google engineer and mindfulness expert and author of Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace).
Carolyn Gregoire, who wrote about this recently on The Huffington Post, points out one of the exercises Tan does during his lectures: Tells the audience to imagine two people, and do nothing but wish them happiness. He then says to spend 10 seconds each hour the next day wishing two different people well.
It’s a very simple act, seconds of an attention shift, that can make all the difference in the world. That’s because, as we teach at meQ, your attention, and thus your thoughts, determine your peace of mind.
Take 10 seconds out of every hour during an 8-hour day, and that’s 80 seconds—less than two minutes—spent in an entirely different frame of mind. It might not seem like much, but it is.
What I love about this exercise is the simplicity, the focus, the way in which it makes you change the channel and in so doing, creates a burst of warmth, energy, and peace—which happens when we turn our attention toward a) someone besides ourselves, and b) a positive thought.
Change Your Channel
Here are a few more ways to change your mental channel—and your whole day—by tuning in to a better mood.
- Give someone your undivided attention. Doesn’t seem like much—but we’re not as good at listening as we think. That’s because it’s so easy to be distracted, we feel rushed—and often, we interrupt in an effort to “fix” the situation. But sometimes all that person needs you to do is listen to her. That kind of nonjudgmental ear can do a lot for that person, and make you a better communicator. (More on how this reduces stress.)
- Don’t take the bait. Just this time, let it go. Your loved ones, be it your mother, your sister-in-law, whomever, knows what buttons to push, and when they do it, it’s easy to fall into your same old reaction pattern. Just this once, tell yourself to let it slide off you and out of your attention. Don’t waste any energy on it. They love you, but you’ll gain nothing from taking the bait again. You may trigger a shift in your communication.
- Do someone a solid. Taking even just a few minutes to do a friend, colleague, or your partner a favor can make a difference—not just to them either, but for you, too. The smallest act, be it making a call or an introduction, picking up something on the way home, or taking a simple task off their plate, will make you feel great. And they’ll never forget it. (More on how five-minute favor can change your day.)
- Reflect on the good stuff. At the end of another busy workday, jot down the good stuff that happened and why it matters to you. This shifts your focus from the few flubs or disappointments, and onto the things that have the potential for growth, learning, and change. You’ll leave the office with a little more spring in your step. (See my post on how this practice can change the quality of your evening—and your health.)