A simple practice to reconnect with the beauty in your life (and all you need is your senses)

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So I took my own advice about how to keep that holiday feeling going and challenged myself to notice ten pleasant experiences each day.

Here’s a little sample of them:

Warm breeze on the cycle ride to work

Drinking tea that’s just the right temperature

Sun on my face

Smelling mint and sage in the garden

Dewy wet grass underfoot in the meadow

Tisha’s whiskers glistening in the light

The creamy texture of my porridge

Stroking Tisha’s soft, silky ears

Sinking into bed after a long day, feeling relaxed

Cooling breeze by the river

(Tisha’s my dog, in case you are wondering whose silky ears I have been stroking!)

Taken on their own none of these experiences is particularly remarkable and some are distinctly mundane and unglamourous (eating porridge, cycling to work, walking the dog). They’re just little things that were enjoyable or felt good in some way. Things that I would probably have missed altogether before.

A few things other things I noticed:

  • how many of the pleasant experiences were to do with my dog, Tisha. Whether it was stroking her fur, snuggling up together, listening to her soft breathing, or laughing at her silly antics there is no doubt that this little creature brings endless joy into my life.
  • the days when I went for a walk in nature it was really easy to notice ten pleasant experiences – in fact I could often notice all ten just on a short walk. This wasn’t really a surprise as I have always known how beneficial being in nature is for me, but it was a good reminder of how important it is to keep including this in my daily routine.
  • I had a couple of days when my mood was quite low and on those days it was MUCH more of a struggle to notice pleasant experiences. Or if I did notice something pleasant I couldn’t really let myself savour it. For example at the weekend I went kayaking; it was a beautiful warm end-of-summer evening on a gorgeous stretch of river but instead of enjoying the sights, sounds and sensations I felt stuck in my head, going round and round thinking about a problem. I guess that’s why it’s good to get into the habit of noticing the pleasant, so that it becomes a habit, even when life is hard..

Do I suddenly feel like I’m on holiday all the time and the whole world is brimming with joy and magic? Nope.

Do I feel just a little bit more tuned into the everyday beauty around me? Yup.

And that’s enough, because after all most of our lives are not filled with mind-blowingly exciting or dramatic experiences.  It’s the subtle, quiet moments of ease, delight, satisfaction and pleasure that I’m interested in, the ones we can so easily miss when we’re not paying attention.

 

Did you try the ten pleasant experiences challenge? How did you get on? What did you notice? 

How to make that holiday feeling last forever

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Hands up who loves holidays?!

Yup, me too!

Every moment on holiday feels so precious doesn’t it? (and not only because you know how much you’ve paid for the privilege of being there!) Sunsets and stars get watched, food and kisses are really savoured, conversations with loved ones expand and deepen. Hours and days are spent having fun, relaxing, resting, exploring, just ‘being’. Every experience just seems so much more vivid and alive… Away from our usual habits, commitments and distractions time slows down enough to notice and savour all the small pleasures of life that usually just fly by in a blur.

And it’s not just about having the time to notice, there’s also something about being in a different frame of mind. After all, when you’re on holiday you’re actively looking for all the good things because if you’re going to bother booking a holiday, travelling and paying for it all, then you’re sure as hell going to make the best of it!

But holidays have one fatal flaw: they end.

Unless you are incredibly wealthy sooner or later most of us have to pack up and head home, back to work and our busy, busy lives. So if we only get to go away every now and again (and some of us, maybe never) what does that mean for the rest of the year? That we’re just plodding through our lives waiting for those few precious weeks of bliss?

What if we could feel that alive and awake to our experiences at home too?

I ask ‘what if?’ because it’s a question I’m still living, one I don’t have the answer to yet.

Within a few days of returning from holiday in Cornwall I can already feel my old habits closing in again and it’s so frustrating. Why is it that rather than watching the sunset (which is just as beautiful here as it was in Cornwall after all) I have instead been sat here watching Orange is the New Black for the past two hours?! Old habits die hard I suppose…

But I do get glimpses sometimes, a sense that it’s possible to find those moments of beauty and connection at home too, if we don’t let our routines and habits dull us to them. Like last night, when my partner and I took our beloved dog out for a walk and stopped to sit by the river. We gasped at the exotic turquoise flash of a kingfisher, laughed at the excitable puppy who just couldn’t control her excitement in meeting us, and drooled over juicy blackberries in the hedgerows. These moments of beauty are all around us, even in our ‘normal’, humdrum lives, if we only remember to look…

So this is a note to myself:

You don’t have to wait until your next holiday to experience life’s pleasures.

You just have to slow down for long enough to notice the beauty that’s already here.   

Try this: start training yourself to notice the beauty around you by writing down 10 pleasant experiences you have today.

They could be as small as the warmth of the sun on your skin, the sound of birds singing, a beautiful sky, a delicious cup of tea, the touch of a loved one’s hand. If you can, try to write them down when they happen, while the sensations are still vivid. What do you notice? 

I’ll be doing this practice myself over the next few days and will be back to share some of my experiences soon! Feel free to share your own experiences too.