Living in the Present by Terry Zick, MA Living in the Present Brings Increased Happiness and Contentment How can we increase our level of happiness? There is a rich banquet of strategies and tools to help us get there. As I read in one book, unhappiness is easy—easy, because we continue to think and feel the way we always have, which is the easy way. However, the ability to feel happier can become the easy way. What would happen if we committed to the tools that change our thoughts and feelings toward happiness? Simply put—we would be happier. In the last issue, we learned that if we think we will only be happier in the future when something changes, we have missed an opportunity to be happy NOW. Oh, maybe I will have a moment or two of happiness when I get what I wanted finally (“Yeah, joy!!!”) . . . until I focus on the next thing that I think I want or need that I think will make me happy. When I continue to focus on what is missing, I don’t feel that joy anymore. When the mind and thought stop yearning for what I want and stop complaining about what I don’t have, in my experience, what happens? Then I experience a more peaceful mind and wellbeing. That potential for joy exists all the time, whether or not I have what I yearn for. Our genetic makeup affirms that we can be happier (some studies say only 50% of our happiness potential is genetic). This means that no matter our past, our genes support a potential for increased happiness. When we realize that we have CHOICE when it comes to our thoughts and our activities, then we empower our life in happier ways. As we apply new strategies and develop a habit of healthier thoughts, it becomes easier to experience happiness. It becomes easier because our amazing brain will help us out, and has the potential to “rewire” itself. The new science of neuroplasticity informs us that the brain and nervous system have the ability to change as a result of new input. The most widely recognized forms of plasticity are improvements in learning, memory, and recovery from brain damage—to name a few. This wonderful ability to rewire begins with changing our thoughts and feelings. Keep in mind that it is the tools and strategies which hold the power to transform our life. Empowered commitment to change our thoughts and behavior will translate into increased contentment. In the last issue, we reinforced that we can increase our happiness quotient by the following strategies:
1. Develop an attitude of gratitude. 2. Pay attention to our thoughts and choose more optimistic or happiness-producing thoughts. 3. Seize the moment to be happy rather than waiting for life to change to be happy. Two more perspectives are: Live in the present moment more often. Why will being in the present moment increase my happiness? Consider what often happens when we live in the past or in the future.
As we revisit the past, we may replay unpleasant memories or traumas (often triggering anger, fear, sadness, anxiety) or we may wish we could have done it better (often triggering regret) or we may wonder how great a life we would have had if things had gone better (often triggering a victim stance, or lack of power and lack of control feelings). As we look at the future while focusing on possible future problems, we might mentally envision a possible unhappy life that isn’t real. We are just creating worst-case scenarios that haven’t happened yet (often triggering fear, worry, anxiety, lack of power thoughts, lack of control thoughts, and pessimistic thinking). The present moment, without nonproductive thoughts and feelings about the past and future, offers increased peace of mind. The present moment offers wisdom, better problem-solving, clarity, and transformation. When our attention is in the here and now, we are less distracted, more focused, and more content. And, to add to the list of benefits—being in the present offers relaxation, effective problem-solving, and compassion for self and others. Much has been written on numerous strategies for living in the present, mindfulness living, and the power of now. The benefits are well documented. Experience life from your heart. Studies show that we change our brain and physiology when we feel a moment in our heart. The heart has its own wisdom, its own “brain” or its own intelligence. Research tells us that our heart has its own complex nervous system. We already live, to some degree, from the heart. Think of the phrases we commonly say that connect us to our heart’s wisdom or compassion such as “bless your heart,” “I did it from the heart,” “my heartfelt appreciation,” “follow your heart,” or “it touched my heart.” Studies show we can reduce stress, anxiety, fear, anger, and depression by practicing heart-based strategies. Through connecting with the heart, our mind will follow our heart and transform our experience. In addition, when we engage with our heart, we prompt our heartbeat, blood pressure and respiration to return to balance. Also, our heart becomes in sync with our brain, resulting in more empowered and healthier benefits. We can transform the present moment when we live from the heart. The heart creates a shift by its ability to heal, forgive, and renew. The heart gives wise counsel. The heart brings us home to our truest self. The heart allows the mind to listen to the silence. The heart connects us spiritually. Here are a few of the countless heart-centering strategies: 1. Put your hand over your heart and connect with your heartbeat (seemingly hear it or feel it beating). 2. Choose a thought of gratitude, and feel the gratitude deeply in the heart. 3. Look for things to be in awe and wonder over (allow yourself to say “ahhhhhhhh,” “mmmmmmmmm,” and “wow!”).
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