I find myself frequently resorting to “band-aid happiness.”
What’s band-aid happiness? Here’s what it looks like for me: A glass of wine after a long day. Just one more episode of The New Girl. Video games. Seeking the thrill of getting to know a new friend rather than cultivating the deep closeness of a long time friendship. Scrolling endlessly through Facebook and Twitter feeds. Refreshing my inbox to see if anyone’s sent anything new (but not responding to the 10 recent unreads waiting for my attention).
Earlier tonight I was sitting reading the excellent Resonate by Nancy Duarte and was suddenly overcome by a feeling of calm contentedness. I’d been struggling through a week of overwhelm and rush and had been only half-reading while running through my open to-do’s in my head. Finally, something in my brain clicked over and I gave in to reality: the only thing I need to be doing right now is reading. All that other stuff is just noise.
And it was like a warm breeze blew over my heart. I noticed my breath and took three deep ones in and out. I realized I’d been hiding from doing just one thing at a time — wrapping myself in an invisibility cloak of busy-ness and rushing from alarm clock to bedtime every single day.
We spend so much time dashing from task to task. What if we stopped more and listened? Listened to our own heartbeats; to our breath. To the voice inside saying “Please, stop, I’m tired. I’m not happy.” That tiny voice is drowned out by the cacophony of social media, TV, video games, meetings, Slack, animated gifs, cat videos… a neverending waterfall that, because it makes us laugh or cry or think, tricks us into believing we’re connecting to our real internal desires.
But internal desires don’t work that way: you can’t satisfy them with external stimuli. Instead, that path is paved through introspection. And introspection requires quiet. It requires single-tasking and getting to know and understand that tiny little voice.
Your voice may remind you how much you love to read. Or write. Or put together puzzles. Or create stop-motion videos starring household objects.
Maybe your internal voice really is calling out for just one more episode of Orange is the New Black. Just make sure it’s not the reward center of your brain jonesing for another quick hit.
Take the time to find out what makes you calm. Reenergize yourself by committing to those activities for longer than feels comfortable. Our modern attention spans are shatteringly short — break out of the cycle by spending thirty full minutes immersed in one of these activities. See how it feels, then re-enter the fray renewed and (hopefully) happier.