Make This Day Count
Look to this day,
This very life of life.
In its brief course lie all
The realities and verities of existence:
The bliss of growth,
The splendour of action,
The glory of power.
For yesterday is but a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision.
But today, well lived,
Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness,
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day.
When we seize the day, we try to make our time count by doing something that is meaningful to us. What that is will differ from day to day, and from person to person. Whether we are creating something physical like a bowl, a chair, or a fence, or something less tangible such as a poem, or a plan, or giving the gift of our presence to someone who is ill or dying, or doing something else, it all starts with an intention. An intention to spend our time doing the thing we want to achieve by attending in each moment to what it is we are doing. But before we get started on the day, we need to have a plan on how we will spend the day.
It is easy to get way-laid. Our intention may be to de-clutter a room, but we suddenly find we have spent the last 30 minutes reading an old diary, or browsing through old photographs. When this happens, note that I said when and not if, simply remind yourself of your original intention, and put your attention back on doing it. Don’t beat your-self up, even if the time you were not doing your intention was an hour or more. Just return to your intention.
It is important to take frequent short breaks. The thing that keeps us going on any endeavour is dopamine, a neuro-transmitter that plays a major role in motivating us to do things, and rewarding us when we do. So causing dopamine to be released frequently will keep us on task for longer, because dopamine release is pleasurable. It is the reason why addicts of any kind become addicts. Dopamine is so addictive that in experiments, mice will completely give up eating to perform, over and over again, an action that gives them a shot of dopamine.
Focus on putting as much into, and getting as much out of, the day as possible, and do it by living in the moment. To live in the moment you have to pay attention to what is important, and to what is happening moment to moment. So seizing the day means being present to what you want to achieve and how you are going about that goal, and not judging anything – especially not judging yourself.
Going Into Flow:
Seizing the day can actually make you happier, by bringing you into a state of flow. This mind state was first described by Dr. Mihaly Csikszenthmikalyi, a University of Chicago psychology professor who has studied and written about flow for the past 30 years. Flow is a mental state where people experience immersion in the task, feel enjoyment… and are so present in the moment that time seems to alter – an hour can seem like a few minutes..
How do you get into flow? First you choose a task that is within your capabilities, but not easy, or if it is easy look for a way to make it more difficult. For example, you might give yourself a time-limit that is possible but challenging, or set a similar challenge on what the finished product will look like.
Then you focus on the task at hand, not worrying about how you are doing, but becoming completely immersed in what you are doing, for its own sake. When you do this you are not stressed about the task at hand, and so are able to focus completely on it. You become so involved in the task that time falls away, and you are not tempted to become distracted by other things.
I suspect, though have not found any evidence to corroborate it, that going into flow frequently improves health, because it lowers stress. And making the most of every day, also will make you happier and less stressed, so is also possibly a means to living a healthy life.