One of the fastest way to stop any feeling of happiness in its track is to worry.
We worry about things that haven’t happened yet, and we worry about things in the past that we can do nothing about. It’s sad to think about how many happy moments we are missing out on because we are too worried about the past or the future.
Recently my tween daughter, who is getting ready for middle school, was worried about how her broken wrist would "ruin" her 5th grade field day. She was sure everyone would be staring at her, that she'd have no fun and that she should just stay home and skip the day. It also happened to be the mother and child breakfast at her school so while we ate muffins I watched as she nervously trekked around the gym fidgeting. One of her long time classmates was trying to strike up a conversation and she barely noticed. As we talked I noticed that she was so caught up in her own worry about the day, she'd barely even noticed the little girl. Worry that interrupts your daily functioning could be indicative of anxiety. But one of the ways you can combat these negative feelings is to be more in the moment.
Start by simply paying attention to what’s going on around you right now. Enjoy the people you are spending time with. Treasure the conversations and interactions you have with them. Look around you and notice the beauty in your surroundings. Each season brings new natural phenomena that can help you stay in the moment and make you happy. Notice how the light filters through the colorful leaves on a crisp fall day. Treasure the first few green sprouts at the end of winter. Bask in the sun and look at how the light plays over the water on a hot summer day. Make time to connect, with your undivided attention and be truly present in your day.
Slow down and don’t be afraid to stop and smell the roses. If you find yourself slipping back into your old ways of worrying about things you can’t change, remind yourself to stop and instead focus on something pretty in your surroundings. It doesn’t matter what it is. The idea is to train your mind to live in the moment instead of the past or the future.
Does this mean you have to stop all plotting and planning for the future? Does it mean that you shouldn’t look back on the past and learn from it? Of course not. Those are both important parts of life. There are times to plan a vacation, figure out what groceries we need for the week, or plot a move or job change in the future. Those are productive ways to look ahead. Along the same lines, there are times when we should look back on the past. Maybe we can right a wrong, improve on things, or if nothing else learn from them. That’s important as well. What isn’t important or productive is to dwell on the past or future events and worrying about things we can’t change. Whenever that happens stop yourself and focus on the present. It won’t take you long to get out of the habit of worrying about things outside of your control. That, in turn, gives you more time and energy to focus on what truly matters.