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Updated: Jun 11, 2022

"Awareness: the state or condition of being aware; having knowledge; consciousness." -(

I enjoy talking about happiness. During conversations on how to get to “happy,” I frequently comment on awareness. I then am asked, “So, I’m aware. Isn’t everybody?” Quick answer, No.

On average, people move through their day going to work, attending school, eating meals, driving on expressways and busy city streets, doing projects, watching TV, not truly aware of what they are doing. Many would be hard pressed to answer simple questions such as, how many red lights stopped you on your way to work? Which students were absent from your college class today? Did you turn off the coffee pot? What was the last thing your wife said before you left for work? What was in the first E-mail you opened when you arrived at work?

Why is awareness important? When we are NOT aware, several things happen. You forget important everyday tasks. The project in Biology that is due in three days. The water bill you opened 3 weeks ago and dropped on your desk “to do after supper when I take care of the other bills.” The toilet paper you were going to add to the shopping list.

When not fully aware, you miss important moments and clues that may be minor or could be life threatening. The hurt look on your friend’s face when you make what you think is a funny joke about their haircut. The change in your co-workers tone of voice when you comment on the bonus you got in last week’s paycheck. The lock on the front door that does not latch unless you really push hard when engaging it. The car approaching too fast into the intersection that may not see the red light and cross in front of you.

The result? The sudden electric shock in your gut when you realize the consequences associated with your lack of awareness. When the biology teacher mentions that project on Wednesday that is due in two days. When the water shuts off. When you are holding the empty cardboard tube from the toilet paper roll knowing that there is not an extra in the house. When you realized you have hurt a dear friend with a thoughtless joke. When you get the silent treatment from your co-worker. When you are in bed, falling asleep and you hear the front door open. When you are jerking the car wheel and slamming on the brakes. Yes, we have all been there, in one or more of these situations.

To be truly aware, you need to be a participant, not a bystander in what transpires around you. There are three steps to make this happen.

  1. You need to be present in the moment. Are you noticing your surroundings? Is it warm or cold, sunny or cloudy? What noises are in the background? You need to focus on who is around you. With whom are you talking? Are you engaged in the conversation, or simply nodding absent-mindedly agreeing to the long litany of noise hitting your ears? If you are with your friend, do you think they appreciate you spacing out while they are regaling you with the highlights of their day?

  2. You need to be active in making memories. People tend to move through their lives oblivious to what is going on around them. At the end of the day, they are hard pressed to think about what transpired over the last sixteen to twenty hours. Even then, they will have forgotten a tremendous amount of what happened. When you practice directing your attention to what is happening now, you coincidentally remember details more vividly. You do not want to be like the android Data from Star Trek, The Next Generation, blurting out mountains of minutia. But would it not be nice to remember the names of the people you met at your breakfast meeting?

  3. You need to practice recalling those memories. By taking time to recall the moments of the day, you reinforce the details in your memory, making it easier to access them in the future. Practicing recall also helps strengthen your brain and is one exercise to ward off dementia.

And how does all of this apply to happiness? By being aware, you are able to be engaged in the moment. When you are in the moment, you automatically shut out the distractions we normally build into our life. You put aside the argument with your team-mate in the office. You stop worrying about the supper menu. When your phone rings, you note who the caller is and hit the instant reply that you are busy and will call them back. You do not look at your phone while texts come in.

Being aware gives you the freedom to enjoy what you are doing now. Being aware gives you the ability to recall the events of the day. Better recall means less frustration when you need to remember bits of information. You feel better about yourself and happier with your memory, your ability to be a good friend, the names of the senior leadership at the meeting this morning, the location of your car in that huge parking lot. This all leads to less stress, less anxiety, less worry, more happiness.

To help you in your awareness journey, here are a few tips on practicing awareness.

  • When you wake up in the morning, stand by the bed, breathe slowly and tell yourself that you will take every opportunity to be aware.

  • Take one meal a day and consciously think through the preparation and ingestion of that meal. As you make your oatmeal, tea or coffee, look at the bowl or cup, look at the water, look at the oatmeal, coffee pod or tea bag. By taking the automaticity out of grabbing each of these ingredients to your meal, you will appreciate the food or drink when finished. Savor the taste that the different ingredients put together to start your day.

  • When a family member or co-worker calls your name to get your attention, stop what you are doing, look at them or if they are across the house or the office, go to them. Rather than the usual “What” that you usually give, say their name. “Yes Mom?” “Yes Bob, what can I do for you?” Watch their immediate appreciation that you took the time to be aware of them.

  • When you are working on a project, either for school or work, set a specific amount of time to focus on that project. Vocalize the start of the time by saying, “For the next hour I will be working on ‘X’.” That vocalization tells your brain, and those around you, this time is for ‘X.’ Vocalizing your intention makes it real and important. During that interval, focus on the task. Do not let thoughts or other things distract you such as lunch, your next vacation, texting your BFF, the laundry you left in the dryer or the three other projects due this week. When the time is up, be aware of how much you accomplished.

  • When driving, I make mental notes of the cars in front of, behind and approaching me. What are the road conditions? Is the car following me an SUV? Is it raining? If the line of cars has to stop, that SUV may take longer to reach a standstill due to its weight and the wet road. I am aware to tap my brakes sooner than I would normally to signal the traffic is slowing up ahead. As I approach an intersection and the light is green, I still watch the traffic to the left and right for someone who is not stopping.

  • At the end of the day. put your memories into a story. If you do not want to bore people with a dialogue about the “lunch with Jenny,” share your short story in your journal. Taking time to recall your day and the moments you were aware reinforces the benefits of awareness and helps you appreciate the time and effort you took to focus on the day’s events.

Start your awareness journey slowly with only one or two things a day. Every two or three days, add more moments when you consciously focus on your “Now.” Listen more, acknowledge more and remember more.

When speaking holistically, awareness is one of this philosophy’s main tenants. By being aware, you are tying everything to everything. You are making your coworker part of your life. You are making your food and drink part of your body. You are bringing all of your experiences into yourself. An aware person then projects these things back out to the world as a person who listens, a person who cares, a person who gets things done, a person who is happy and makes others happy to be around.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this.

Have a good day.

Give respect and be kind.

D. W. Rhoades


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