The night sky looks darker than it is because the bright moon and stars offer contrast. Similarly, bright colours truly “pop” in a background of dark, simple tones. A tiny pinch of salt brings out deeper, sweeter flavours in chocolate milk and watermelon because it offers a contrast in tastes. Contrast allows us to experience something at a greater level.
Happiness is much the same. Some of our happiest memories are from when we enjoyed luxuries we could not afford. An example would be eating out at a nice restaurant when your budget is straining. You know that rationally, you should not be doing that as you need to save money, but emotionally, you know that this is one of the few cases where money really does buy happiness.
The greatest luxury we cannot afford most of the time, is time itself. All of us lead such busy lives that we lack the free time and energy to indulge in what we are passionate about: hobbies we enjoy, sleeping enough or spending time with people we love. However, this is exactly the time we need to set aside a small break. Ironically, the busier life gets, the more vital it becomes that you stop for a moment and take care of yourself.
Whether it be spending a couple hours having lunch with a friend, or sitting down for half an hour to write in your journal, or singing a song on your guitar for ten minutes, breaks are essential. Even if you feel like you cannot spare a single minute, take five minutes to sit down with a cup of coffee, not doing anything productive, just watching people passing by on the streets. Better yet, lie down on the grass and stare into the blue sky for a little while.
When you look back on your life in ten, twenty years’ time, you will not be savouring the moment of working twelve hours straight without food. You will reminisce on how you spent one evening away from studying to play board games with your friends, but still passed the exams because you were refreshed the next day and could study more effectively.
Happiness is not a grand achievement, but a state of mind. It cannot take root in an overworked soul that is torturing itself. Enjoying the luxury of a break when you think you have no time is one step towards breaking the miserable cycle that our busy lives place us in.
So go on, take five and treat yourself.