- Misbeliefs about happiness
- Focusing on good
- Building gratitude
- Eliminating sources of unhappiness
- Reducing stress
Skill Level Appropriate for all
- I was told once that all happiness is in the present, there are only negative emotions in the past and in the future, and there are only positive emotions in the present. No negative emotions in the present? Well, I don't know, isn't fear, for example, a negative emotion that's in the present? Or is fear maybe a future-based emotion, thinking about what might happen next? And certainly regret and guilt are in the past and worry is in the future.
What about anger? That seems like a present emotion. But then maybe anger is about the past. If you could let go of the past, even just the last few minutes, you could leave whatever made you angry behind. Hmm, maybe the happiness is in the present guy was right. If we could live in the present, focus only on the present, we could live in a happy world, free from negative emotions like regret and worry. But what about there are only negative emotions in the past and in the future? Let's just go back to that a minute.
Can't there be good, positive emotions in the past? Well, I do think the past is worth thinking about. Certainly we can learn from it. But it's a bad idea to keep harking back to it with negative emotions like regret. "I can't believe I did that, what was I thinking? "If only I hadn't done that, "or if only I had done that. "If only I'd taken that chance to emigrate to Australia "when I was 24, my life would've been so much better." Clearly, you can't change the past, so harking back to it is only going to make you unhappy.
Much better to put your mental energy into what to do now given that you are where you are. But is thinking about the past ever a good idea? Does it ever contribute to your happiness? What about looking back at the past with happy thoughts, nostalgia, for the good old days? "Do you remember when we used to go down to the beach "with Jenny and Robin and set off fireworks "and we'd have those illegal midnight barbecues? "Oh yes, that was brilliant, those were the days." Now, I'm not sure if this is a good idea or not.
There is a risk that by thinking about how good the past was you might start to feel that the present isn't as good. And the past does always seem to be rosier than it really was. Maybe because the pictures we have of it are only of the good times. So, I think it's possible that going back to the past is unhealthy and it's better to live in the now. Go down to the beach today and set off fireworks where legal. And have a midnight barbecue where legal.
Don't just reminisce, but do it today. So, the conclusion is that living in the past is probably a bad idea, even if you have happy memories. And certainly a bad idea if you keep wishing you could change the past, because you can't, it's just a waste of energy. And living in the future, waiting for things to change, or worrying about what's coming up, that's also not good for your happiness. So, the answer is to live as much as you can in the present.
Push the past out of your mind with "what am I going to do today?" And push the future out of your mind with "I've got it planned, it's all written down, "so I don't need to think about it. "Let's think about what I'm doing right now." Focus on the now and say to yourself "look at this, here I am doing this, this is the life." What's your favorite place to dwell in? Could you reduce your focus on the past? Could you reduce your focus on the future? Could you make more of a conscious effort to focus on the present, living in the now, and really savoring it as you go through this coming day?