You have spent hours upon hours try to understand why it's so difficult for you to be happy. Maybe, you even get so anxious that you can't relax enough to approach happiness. You feel that you are on the outside looking in. You examine all the aspects of life and are overwhelmed with all the habit patterns that bring you suffering.
All the suffering in your life shares the same foundation -- you aren't present.
How Does This Happen?
You have an experience, or interaction with someone that doesn't go the way you would have liked. It didn't make you feel good about yourself. At some level, you feel that the other person got the best of you, or touched upon a "sensitive area." So now you relive the experience (in your mind).
You think (back) about a conversation or argument that you had: Why did he say that? Does he think I'm stupid? Now you are reliving the conversation in the past. Then with all the speed of your mind you pass the present and project into future: next time when he says this, I will say that. And when he says that, I will say this. You go on, and on...
Playing Games with Yourself
It is the old story of aversion and desire. However, you don't understand that you are feeding these attachments with an addiction you didn't even know you had. You have the thought about how the conversation didn't go well and the other person may have gotten the best of you. You may be conscious of this feeling, but it even goes on when you are unconscious to it.
You feel bad about yourself; thinking that you aren't good enough because you failed to express yourself better than the other person. You then relive this conversation with your new "thoughtful responses" that would have, or will in the future, show the other person that you are "better."
What you don't understand is the game that you are playing with yourself. You are manipulating the sensations in your body through thinking to avoid the way you feel. This is aversion. Then the new responses in your mind make you feel better about yourself. These send other sensations coursing through your body.
These sensations feel good so you continue reliving this experience in your mind throughout the day, week, year, maybe even reliving some experience your entire life. This is desire.
This is the foundation for all your suffering. You had aversion or desire to how an experience made you feel (or how it will make you feel in the future), and attempt to "manage" the feelings through changing (in your mind) the outcome. This is your habit pattern: not being present.
This is the foundation for your suffering.
How to be Present
Being in the past or future (in your mind) and looking for happiness in your life, is like attempting to enjoy a party that you aren't at.
It's very simple. To enjoy life you have to live in the moment because this is where life happens. The past is dead. The future is not born yet. The present is alive.
Cultivate a Meditative Mind
Meditation is the method for concentrating your awareness in the present.
Develop a daily meditation practice. You can even take some time out during the day when you feel your restless mind not being present and do a short meditation.
Another technique for being present is to consciously breathe. When you concentrate on each aspect of the breathing process you are present; you let go of the past and future and are focused on the moment inside the breath.
Breathing consciously is its own meditation. But this is just the beginning of why conscious breathing is important to breaking habit patterns.
When you breathe consciously you activate a different part of your brain. Unconscious breathing is controlled by the medulla oblongata in the brain stem, the primitive part of the brain. This is the impulse driven part of the brain. This is the mind that continues the habit patterns.
However, conscious breathing comes from the more evolved areas of the brain in the cerebral cortex. So conscious breathing stimulates the cerebral cortex and the more evolved areas of the brain. Consciously breathing sends impulses from the cortex to the connecting areas that impact emotions. Activating the cerebral cortex has a relaxing and balancing effect on the emotions.
In essence, by consciously breathing you are controlling which aspects of the mind dominate, causing your consciousness to rise from the instinctual to the elevated.
Find Balance to Relax
Balance the lower three chakras.
The Muladhara Chakra, the first chakra, is responsible for feeling grounded. When it is not operating properly you will have the inability to relax, may have problems with fears, and not feel that you belong.
The second chakra, Svadhisthana, is connected to desire. When this is out of balance you are easily subjected to your desires in the form of habit patterns.
The third chakra, Manipura, when balanced gives you flexibility and self-confidence to deal with challenges. When this is working properly you don't need to be stuck in the past or projecting into the future because you are able to handle life's challenges.
Remind Yourself to be Present
Whenever you find your mind in the past or future, mentally vibrate the mantra: I am here. When you catch yourself again projecting into the future, or dwelling in the past, again, repeat: I am here.
Being present is the foundation for happiness. This is where you even let go of the ego. Look at the phrase, I lost myself in what I was doing. What was lost? The ego.
This is where happiness can be found. Let go of your suffering and stop clinging to the past and reaching for the future, and just be in the present.