Like many of you out there, your eyes fixed on the screen, darting right every few minutes to check the time (you just did it again, pay attention), I am a self professed victim of a fast paced society.

The world today, more than in any era before, seems to moving faster and faster. It appears we are expected to make the best use of every possible second. A single night in on the sofa becomes a waste of an evening as opposed to the recuperation you so desperately needed.

People race along the streets, running for trains when they know there will always be another in two minutes time. We, as a generation, want more out of life than we have ever wanted. We want money, power, objects. Yet with this increase in material things and perceived status there has been a significant rise in mental health problems – breakdowns if you will. When did we stop caring about our bodies, our minds, the vessels that without which we could achieve nothing, in the pursuit of happiness?

Take a breath. Let the air flow through your nose. Picture something nice, whatever makes you tick (I don’t judge), as the oxygen reinvigorates your system.

There, you have just taken a split second for yourself. Not so bad, eh?

Let’s seize back the power we have over our own bodies, our own minds, and throw aside our societal shackles. Let’s choose to be happy.

That may sound strange to you, choosing to be happy. As if a person would choose to be miserable.

Let me explain.

We each have a million decisions to make in our life, right from the minute we wake up. Even our sleep is governed by our subconscious wants and fears. Happiness is simply about focusing on what really matters. Not stressing, as I do on a daily (if not hourly) basis, where each decision will take us in the end, or about achieving all of our goals in a single year, but about what we could encounter along the way. Even about what great things are happening at this very moment.

What do we really need to survive? Not what we need to be accepted by one cliche or another but what we need to keep our hearts beating.

So here are my humble suggestions. Firstly, taking the time to breathe. This is our most basic, instinctual need. Why is it something we ignore? We place it to the back of our minds until it is all but forgotten. Remember that breathing thing I told you about earlier? Were you listening to that? Perhaps the clock distracted you.

This leads me to my second tip: pay attention. Not just to a teacher in class, or to customers at work, but to everything. Listen to the world around you – the people, the nature – it’s all trying to teach us something if we only open our hearts and ears towards it. With this view people that we originally perceived as insignificant will take on new dimensions. New opportunities will be brought towards you because you will now have the consciousness to see them. Once you have found these opportunities, accept them. Say yes to one open window and see how many doors it could unlock for you. Life is not handed to a person on a silver platter, it is a series of tiny steps up to success. We need to be ready and willing to enjoy those steps, taking them all in individually. And my final tip, chugging along on the same thread, is to listen to your self. Our bodies are intelligent, listen to what they want and what they need on a basic level. Do this and we will end up happy from the inside out.

Believe me, I was – am – as terrified about choosing this new open frame of mind as you. I do not want to become a “hippy” who preaches what is right and wrong as if I know everything, but I want to be happy. I want to be successful. The only way I can do that – the only way you can do that – is to make it happen. To choose it.

Mary Tanner,

Daily Zen.