Excerpted from How to Be Happy (Or At Least Less Sad), an “ordinary” person’s guide to feeling your best throughout your life, written by Lee Crutchley. 

When I get really down I have a tendency to start doing everything on autopilot—I’m doing something, but I’m not really there. The more sad I get, the less present I am. I become trapped worrying about the future, or dwelling on the past. Last year I spent most of my time doing things without even noticing. I self-diagnosed myself with anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure in normally pleasurable activities) more times than I can remember. I think I did experience anhedonia to some extent—I was unable to take pleasure in life—but that’s because I was rarely completely present in life.

I have since tried to be more intentional in everything I do. Which simply means I’ve slowed down a bit and started paying more attention to things again. I’m actually trying to do things that I want to do and notice when I’m doing them. That can be much harder than it sounds, especially when you’re sad. But the more you do it, the more natural it becomes—and the only way you’ll ever experience happiness is by actually being present when you feel it.

Practicing meditation and mindfulness will help you remain in the present moment as often as possible. Crutchley has prepared two simple exercises that you can use to practice these techniques, and they’re both related to an activity all of us partake in virtually every day—eating. (Note: If you don’t eat chocolate, substitute the piece of chocolate mentioned below with another piece of food). 

Boy smelling chocolate - Being present in life

Chocolate meditation exercise - Being present in life

The following is a second mindful eating exercise that you can complete after you’ve finished with the chocolate meditation. Use the four boxes below to write down or draw the things you’ve eaten that correspond with each of the four categories. 

Mindful eating exercise - Being present in life

Lee Crutchley makes books and draws pictures in a small town in England. He is not a doctor and has no qualifications in the area of mental health; he just gets really sad sometimes. He thinks you should seek the help and advice of a professional if you feel like you need it, and probably even if you don’t.

Excerpted from How to Be Happy (Or At Least Less Sad) by Lee Crutchley. © 2015 by Lee Crutchley. A Perigee Book, Penguin Group USA, Penguin Random House.
image 1: Christian background via Shutterstock; image 2: The Pretty Boy via Shutterstock