Contentment. Happiness. Laughing so hard it hurts your stomach. Catching up with an old friend. Having a deep conversation with someone who truly understands. Listening to your voice being drowned out by others in a perfectly harmonious chorus. Breathing in the pure oxygen and the smell of pine trees on a sunny mountaintop. Sitting under homilies of grace on a Sunday morning. Snuggling with your loved one with the TV on. Lifting iron in the gym. Exploring a new place. Frequenting a favorite park or coffee shop. Reading a new novel or an old favorite. Spending time with your pet. Capturing the perfect vista at sunset. These are the things that make us feel alive and give us the energy to work our hardest in our work and studies.

Sadly, it’s easy to get bogged down by mundane activities and to forget the things that bring you greatest joy. You forget not only the greater purposes and passions, but also the all-important skill of being able to live in the moment and appreciate the little things in life. This is such an important practice and can even have a tremendous impact not only on your quality of life and satisfaction, but also on your bottom line because the more satisfied you are with your circumstances, the less you’ll try to compensate by buying more stuff you don’t need. In fact, the adage is true more often than not— “the best things in life really are free.”

The simple yet profound shift in your thinking will be living with more intentionality. If you plan your Monday-Friday hours at the office why wouldn’t you plan your Friday-Sundays as well? This doesn’t mean you have to live by a strict schedule, but it does mean you should do those activities which make you happy. I’m talking about more than just self-care. I’m talking about having a plan that encompasses not only your work and study hours, but also your leisure hours which includes rest, the all-important aspect of re-charging yourself.

This mindset shift begins by answering these questions and modifying these behaviors:

  • When were you the happiest last year?
  • What activity were you doing?
  • Do more of that.

It’s really that simple. The inverse is also true.

  • When were you most miserable last year?
  • What activity were you doing or what was the root cause of this consequence?
  • Do less of that.

What’s surprising to many people doing this exercise is that they realize they were happiest when they were at a small party with friends or volunteering at the soup kitchen, walking their dog, or sipping coffee first thing in the morning. Sometimes it’s not the grandiose events in our lives that rejuvenate us the most; it’s the little things that remind us who we are, what we’re about, and what we enjoy that bring us the greatest sense of passion and purpose, resulting in satisfaction.

Being more intentional about leisure time includes planning annual vacations, splurging for a weekend trip, knowing when to withdraw from the hustle and bustle of the workplace, and engaging in those activities that fuel you the most. As these activities connect with your greater purpose and passions in life, they become overwhelmingly rewarding, even addicting. What were you doing when you were the happiest last year? Why aren’t you doing more of that?