The current pandemic has brought up so much fear and anxiety for ourselves and our loved ones. Not only is it about sickness and death, there is a deep concern about financial security and the probability of a recession. Mostly, what I see and hear is unease about the lack of control many of us are feeling about what is happening and the impact on our lives. This is creating an excess of worry and anxiety.
No matter how much you worry it does not change anything. Worry only wreaks havoc with our mental and emotional states. What we can do is break the pattern of worry and negative self-talk with what we do have control of, which is our thoughts.
Most of you will have a future consisting of tomorrow, next week, next month, next year and so on. Rather than worry or think about what you don’t want, turn the tables and focus your thoughts on what you do want.
The bottom line of what we want is to feel good and to be satisfied with our lives. Satisfaction, whether it has to do with our careers or other facets of our lives has to do with being conscious and paying attention to each moment as it unfolds, and trying to meet it with as much presence as possible. It is not about waiting until tomorrow to wake up; it is about coming more fully into your life now no matter what it looks like outside of ourselves.
Too often we delay allowing ourselves to feel good, because we are waiting for something to happen whether it has to do with us or not. And when we do complete a task or project, receive recognition for a great performance, or get funding for a business for instance, how long do you allow yourself to feel good? Even with social media, we are triggered by likes and shares. Then the moment passes, recognition dims and then you are off to whatever is next. What would happen if you allowed yourself to feel good now no matter where you are or what you are doing?
If I asked you to describe “feeling good” you might say that it is happiness. It seems the majority of people are chasing happiness most of their lives. There is a kind of an obsession with happiness. When was the last time you really felt happy? And how long did you feel this way? Happiness tends to be momentary and fragile and is usually based on getting what you want. It almost always comes from doing, getting and having.
What about feeling good based on being who and where you are right now? This is what I call “joy.” Everybody’s known joy at certain times when they were doing absolutely nothing. Joy can come from simple things like reading a good book, laying in a hammock, or sitting on the beach looking at the waves of the ocean.
Joy is very often experienced in a passive modality—you’re watching your child take his first steps or a friend getting married. Observing the momentary happiness in another brings joy to you. Dogs and dog videos do it for me. I tingle with joy over dogs.
Joy is always present in a sense. There’s a kind of hysteria surrounding the idea of happiness, whereas joy is deep and grounded. From joy you can help others. From happiness you often feel separate from others because you got something and they didn’t, but everybody can experience joy.
The ironic thing is we have almost no contact with joy because of our obsession with happiness. I spent many years working at hospice and I heard too many people who were dying say: “You know, I got everything I wanted. There were lots of moments of happiness. But if I had to be truthful, there was very little joy.”
And I have seen friends and clients so obsessed with making it at work to get the recognition, the promotion and the big salary that they rarely see or spend quality time with their partner or their kids. Then they wonder why their relationship ends and the kids resent them. The happiness you feel such as when you got that big promotion tends to be fragile, momentary, coming and going, impermanent. It is there one moment, then is replaced with shouting or blaming when things don’t go exactly as planned the next.
I suggest as you live your life and make decisions, do your best to realize joy every day. As you go about your day, pay attention to your thoughts. Observe what you are thinking and feeling. And periodically say “Stop” to yourself and come fully into the moment. If your thoughts don’t feel good, then change those thoughts. Choose to think about the fun you had last night making pizza or playing games with your family and how everyone was laughing.
I have pre-set feel good “go to thoughts” when I find myself getting down. And the “go to words” my husband and I use to change negative energy are “good vibrations.” If one of us is complaining too much about something, the other person will say “good vibrations” and then the complaining stops. Every day I choose to shift my thoughts and energy by taking a walk to get outside to move my body and breathe the fresh air. The highlight and joy I experience is looking at nature, the birds, flowers, trees, and watching dogs and children play. They sure know how to experience in the moment joy.
Feeling good now has to do with being present, observing and choosing our thoughts, focusing on our dreams, the good we want in our lives, and what we are grateful for. Watch your thoughts and if a negative one pops up, brush it off and bring your focus back to what feels good. Joy is here right now and all you have to do is recognize and allow these feelings into your life no matter where you are or what you are doing. I know this works because I practice it every day. And yes, I am human and sometimes I get down, but not for long. I know what feels good to me and I go to that place inside of myself choosing my thoughts and my actions so I can be a beacon of light in helping people achieve their dreams.