Distracted and reactive, you can also lose sight of that which you have today in this present moment. When you are stuck in the past, caught up in the rush, consumed with worry, and focused on what you don’t have and want or miss, you lose out on the potential happiness of the present.
It is only right now that you can experience joy and happiness, not in the past long gone or in an imagined future. You can only be happy in real time, right here.
Strong emotions are a part of every human life. They are essential to our nature. They are automatic and through human evolution, they obviously provided survival value.
But our emotions can be problematic if we ignore them, allow them to control us or express them inappropriately. Grief unexpressed and unresolved will hold us back from living fully in the present and will haunt us with future losses. Anger denied and suppressed can erupt explosively or turn inward as depression. If we continue to avoid our fears, we can restrict our experiences and our capacity to fully participate in the world.
What holds you back from enjoying happiness today? What emotions are getting in the way?
The first step to discovering the potential of the moment is to acknowledge the thoughts and feelings that may stand in your way. Previously, I explored how through meditation you can learn to cope with difficult feelings, such as anger and anxiety. When caught up in strong emotion, you can lose your sense of control, and out of control, say and do things you may otherwise not have chosen.
Mindful breathing can be the first step in putting the brakes on your immediate emotional responses. This deceptively simple practice can give you an opportunity to step back and become aware of what you are feeling and reflecting on why you are feeling that way.
If you’re fuming in traffic or at a standstill at a cashier, seize this mandatory pause in your day to reflect on how you’re feeling, what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Could you simplify your social calendar and your shopping list? Could you slow down the season and enjoy it more?
If you’re dreading another family gathering with the baggage of the past, consider that it may be the last one with all the same loved ones. Look at everyone with freshly opened eyes. Look for change or growth. Look with the love you would feel if this might be the last time you might see them. It might be. If this was your last chance to show how you care, what would you say and what would you do?
Holidays and anniversaries can be bittersweet as we miss loved ones who are no longer with us. It’s a bittersweet reminder that the gifts in our lives are not ours to keep; they are only ours in trust – to cherish and appreciate while we have them.
At a card shop last month, I came across a number of beautiful cards for mothers, and I thought of my own mom and another Christmas without her. I was also reminded of her greatest gift – her love that I now give forward to my children and all the people in my life.
Slow down, acknowledge your feelings, and reflect on your rituals. Live fully in this present moment, knowing that it is only in the present that we can experience happiness and only today that we can express our love.
Dr. Davidicus Wong is a physician at PrimeCare Medical. His Healthwise column appears regularly in the Vancouver Courier and his internet radio show, Positive Potential Medicine can be heard on pwrnradio.com.