Are you anxious? Worried about tomorrow, next week, or next year? There may be a simple solution. I’m not talking about medication, counseling, etc. I’m talking about being comfortable with ambiguity…you know..uncertainty. Life is ambiguous. There is no way to know when you’re going to die, if you will get that promotion, if your child will get into his/her most desired college, if you will get cancer,etc. So if life is so ambiguous, why are so many of us uncomfortable with it? When we are uncomfortable with the unknown, it doesn’t feel good.
One of my favorite quotes is:
“If you are depressed you are living in the past , if you are anxious you are living in the future..But if you are at peace you are living in the present.” ~Lao Tzu
A close friend of mine mentioned this subject to me and I thought a lot about it days and weeks later. When I felt stressed or anxious, I remembered what we talked about and I was able to identify my stress was definitely from worrying about the future and being uncomfortable with the uncertainty of it. When I became conscious of this, I immediately felt relieved. Monday morning, I get in to the shower and the thoughts start up. Will my son make the majors team? Will this new hip pain mean I can’t run anymore? Will I get that promotion that I applied for a few weeks ago? None of these things I really have control over. Worrying about them doesn’t help. My son DID make the majors and I DID get that promotion but I can assure you that my preceding worries didn’t make that happen. I may live to 100 and I may get hit by a bus tomorrow. It’s OK that I don’t know.
Staying present takes practice. I recently read a study by researcher, Matthew Killingsworth, on happiness. He developed an app (Track Your Happiness) to study happiness, which allows people to report their happiness in real time. Randomly throughout the day, you will receive a pop-up message asking how happy you are. You are supposed to answer the questions at the time you receive the message (unless you’re driving etc). You will rate your happiness and answer a few additional questions. The conclusion of the study was the less distracted people are doing a task, the happier they are at that moment. In other words, mind wandering is linked to unhappiness. If your child is reading to you, but you’re thinking of weekend plans, the moment will be less enjoyable. I think this demonstrates the importance of staying present. You can download the app to see for yourself. I used it for a few months and I was able to see my own individualized happiness report. Where am I when I’m most and least happy? What activities did I report being the happiest doing? The results were interesting.
Not sure how to stay present? It takes practice. Here are some tips:
- Stop multi-tasking! Remember, the more distracted, the less happy.
- Wake up slowly. When your alarm goes off in the morning, are you immediately checking emails, Facebook, text messages, etc.? Allow your mind to have independent thoughts early in your day. When you have sensory overload early, your day is more likely to start with negative thoughts and anxiety.
- Remind yourself what you’re doing at that present moment.
- Question your thoughts. Your thoughts create feelings and emotions. This means you actually have control over how you’re feeling! That’s great news! Next time you have a negative thought, notice it..then get rid of it. You’ll feel better.
- Notice and focus on your breath.
- Since we don’t know what tomorrow brings, focus on now. Enjoy now. Get lost in the moment. We don’t know how much “now” we have so let’s make your present moment, your most pleasant moment.