I was visiting with a neighbor and they made the comment that it was a good weekend, the weather was nice, and they were happy. But then they said, “I know it can’t last.” I’ve shared before about our brains being wired to look for what’s wrong or what needs to be improved or what danger lurks nearby. Our brains literally work against us trying to steal our happiness away. So we aren’t naturally ‘wired’ to look for what’s good and right and working well right now. Even if things are perceived to be working well right now we are always looking for things that might change for the worse, so that we miss the moment we are in.
There is yet another layer to our brains that causes us unrest or unease. When we are happy, we are always afraid that happiness won’t last, so we are also naturally wired to continue to seek more ways to be happy even when we are already happy. In short, that means again that we are missing the current moment of happiness because we are already looking for more of something in order to keep our happiness. So we get hit two ways when we are happy: We are afraid our happiness won’t last or shouldn’t last, and, at the same time our minds are way ahead of us trying to figure out new ways to keep us happy. Once again, we seldom live in the present moment now!
I’ve found that the current COVID stuff hits me in both of those contexts. If I’m feeling happy I catch myself and can easily go to ‘how is this ever going to end? or ‘I better not be happy given the givens right now’. Or I’m happy but I’m sure that can’t last in this context so I try to think of additional ways I can stay happy because I’m worried my happiness won’t last. If I’m already happy, why can’t I just enjoy that moment and live in that joy?! It is the only moment I’m guaranteed to ever have – the present one! We can enjoy more of our moments – that is where mindfulness comes in – paying attention to our thoughts and changing them. Simply practicing gratitude for the one moment or for those things we see or hear as we look around us, or for life itself, can all reverse the tendency of our minds to go to an unhappy place. In short, gratitude stops the brain's propensity to think us out of our happiness and keeps us centered on this moment now.
I can live in the moment. And I need to be aware of the hardwired aspects of my brain that are working against me. That awareness is the first step to longer enjoyment of anything that is working well for us right now. We have enough challenges right now so I want to make the most of my happy moments.
David is the President and CEO of the MAX enterprise, having served in that capacity since its formation in 2001. He has forty plus years of leadership experience in the business and faith-based worlds, being an ordained minister, having been elected to the highest position in his denomination, and receiving numerous awards and recognition for his leadership in the insurance industry. He currently serves on numerous boards in the church and insurance sectors. His hobbies include hiking, biking, skiing and snowshoeing as well as being an avid reader. David and his wife, Sharon, have three daughters, a son, and six grandchildren.