In our pursuit of wellness, we often encounter conflicting counsel. One set of instructions push, while equally important directives pull. We are left reeling from the confusion. Our desires for simpleness wash away in the competing complex systems. Present moment happiness and delayed gratification often create this type of conflict. Ultimately joy for life requires us to be happy with where we are. Joy is a present moment experience.
When these two perspectives collide, depending on our focus, we either feel guilty or justified. We take a needed break and feel guilty for not accomplishing more; or we lazily waste another week, and justify the lack of production as essential for enjoying the present. Certainly, balance is needed. But how do we measure our balance?
Measuring Balance for Effectiveness
I suggest a two tiered measuring system. First, we need a “feeling” measurement; and second we need an objective measurement. The feeling measurement is quite simple. It’s just a quiet assessment of current feelings. A mindful check-in of emotions flows through three important steps.
A Three Step Mindful Check-In:
We revert to natural reactionary modes. Habit is an energy saving measure of an efficient system. However, many reactionary modes represent out dated adaptations. The pause breaks the customary cycle of reaction. Many use mindful breathing practices to achieve this pause. Above all, we can experiment with different methods for interrupting harmful automatic processes to create the pause. Once the reactionary cycle has been broken, we move attention inward. Without words and judgement, we examine emotional arousals.
- Feel it.
- Examine it.
- Accept it.
After narrowing our focus, directing attention to the raw feeling affects, we can now step back and widen our view. Identify the trigger that ignited the emotion, connecting to similarities from the past experiences that sparked the same emotional response (Murphy, 2016).
Feelings provide knowledge. They don’t necessarily enlighten on the course of action to take. Feelings just provide input on whether or not we are pleased with our current state.
Discomforting Emotions and Happiness
Negative valence and weighty intensities send a powerful message that something is wrong. We may be doing something contributing to the sour emotions or it may be a biological misfiring. If we find we are not happy most of the time, then adjustments should be made. We don’t need to live a quiet life of desperation.
We can make adjustments in many areas. Perhaps, it is our behaviors being out of alignment with our goals. Or, maybe, our environments is unnecessarily draining. Other times, we may have unrealistic expectations that misinform and commandeer emotions. Feeling measurements have value, but on their own can be deceptive, massaging information, and misdirecting behaviors. Because of the subjectivity of feeling measurements, we also need objective measurements of growth.
One of the best objective measurements is precise goals. Not vague goals like, “I want to be happier or rich.” We need exactness that can be measured. “A workable plan identifies the particular steps necessary to achieve the particular success we desire. We can’t just travel any dusty path; we must travel a dusty path headed in the right direction” (Murphy, 2021). It is the preciseness that allows for objective measurement. We can easily evaluate if we are succeeding or not.
No Perfect Formula for Balancing
“Openness to life requires nourishing many conflicting sectors. We embrace peace but also courageously stir up the tranquility by stepping outside of comfort. We enjoy the present but integrate the past and future into the now” (Murphy, 2017). The complexity is challenging. We must practice a cognitive switching of focus between various points of life.
We must take time to validate emotions, appreciate blessings, and celebrate achievements. Yet, we can’t stagnate growth by living in the past. Chiefly, we must accommodate future needs through continual development, examining character points that need adjusting, tasks that need accomplishing, and skills that need refining.
Accepting the Emotions Associated with Growth
One interesting achievement I have obtained in my personal path of growth is learning to embrace the discomfort of growing. Pushing beyond comfort zones stirs anxiety. We fear the unknown; but venture forward anyways. Basically, accepting the discomfort as part of me and as part of being human allows for me to appreciate and find happiness in the present.
A Few Final Thoughts On Present Moment Happiness
The point, although arrived at in a round about fashion, is feelings are important. Happiness is a feeling experience. Present moment appreciation is essential to enhance positive feelings. If we are not happy with where we are now, something is amiss.
However, our happiness shouldn’t be achieved by eliminating every stressor from our lives. This tends to invite greater stressors latter on. Part of present moment acceptance is welcoming discomforts required for growth. Perhaps, instead of defensively reacting through avoidance, we should proactively regulate with skill.
Murphy, T. F. (2017) Wellness: It’s All About Balance. Psychology Fanatic.