I truly belive there is no better way to improve your outlook and your life than to learn to capture the feelings of the varied moments of your life. I believe this applies to both the “good” and the “bad” moments.
We spend so much time doing, many of us forget or immediately push past our feelings, afraid that if we – even for a moment – stop and reflect, acknowledge or savor them we will miss something else, become complacent or conceited, delve into despair, embarrass ourselves, spiral out of control or break some unwritten societal behavioral rule. Most of us have devised all sorts of mental gymnastics to avoid being in the moment.
The truth is, it is healthy to acknowledge and label how we are feeling. It is okay to face and embrace the fact that we are happy, glad, sad or mad, and doing so is more beneficial than pushing the feelings aside or rushing to minimize them.
If you are sad, be sad. Note to yourself: “I’m sad.” If you are angry, it is more effective to say to yourself, “I’m angry,” and then to ask yourself a series of follow-up questions such as the ones listed below, than to hide or disguise your feelings under tons of angry or whiny words, reactive or retaliatory actions (including smoking, drinking, or eating everything in sight), or to shut down and slip into situational depression.
- “Why am I sad/angry/nervous/tense?”
- “Have I felt this way before?”
- “If so, when?”
- “Am I afraid of something?”
- If so, “What?”
- “Is it likely the thing I am afraid of will really happen?”
- If so, “What could I do about it?”
- Keep coming up with simple, yet, open-ended questions until you get to an “aha” moment or run out of steam, which usually happens sooner than we think it will.
- And, remember to label each new feeling that arises along the way.
Asking yourself questions can help you get a grip on what is really happening, and then you can let yourself feel and face those feelings, which is much more productive and relaxing than ignoring them.
If you are happy, feel it in every bone of your body – SAVOR it. Allow the experience to seep into your physical being. Hold any pleasant thoughts and pleasurable images, allowing them time to imprint in your brain and release a little dopamine (more on the “powers” of this interesting little neurotransmitter in future posts) and to set the stage for easy recall in the future.
Saying to yourself, “Oooh, this moment feels so good or is so special to me, I want to remember it,” only takes a second or two. Taking the time to close your eyes, breathe deeply and relive the moment in detail, uses-up another 30 seconds that I am sure you can spare! (When you get really good at savoring, you won’t have to close your eyes, instead you can use them to quickly scan all the details of the situation, sort-of like those cool camera shots in movies when a super hero zeroes in on and records every single detail of what is happening around him or her.)
The key is to capture the moment in your mind, storing it for future reference. Think of yourself as the librarian or archivist of all the pleasant moments of your life. We tend to do this automatically when we are on vacation or enjoying other big moments of our lives, but we overlook saving the day-to-day or little stuff that makes us happy or our makes our hearts sing.
Gather all the good stuff. Get in the habit of noticing and recording the perfect cup of coffee – the way it looks, smells and tastes or the sunbeam slipping through the curtains, or the amazing scent of fresh-cut grass. It’s all there for the taking. Storing it can enhance your life. Pulling it back off the bookshelf of your mind to relive, will improve your mood and maybe even your outlook on life.
To learn more about the wonderful art of savoring, check out these past Wishful Thinking Works posts.
Take time to notice when you are happy, glad, sad or mad. Begin feeling, savoring and storing the moments of your life. It’s easy to fill-up the bookshelves of your brain with “best-selling” moments.