Ultimately, every day, in every situation, you get to choose your feelings and how you react to a situation. You can choose to be grateful for what you like about a given situation, focus on the aspects that you can appreciate, and make the most of what you have, or you can focus on what you don’t like about it and wish the circumstance would hurry up and pass.
But if you choose the second then you are essentially wishing your life away because there is always something that could be better about pretty much every single moment, and while you are dwelling on how you wish it was different you are missing out on the precious moments of your life, they just slip away while your mind is elsewhere.
It is a challenge at first to begin to choose happiness over frustration and annoyance or just always wanting something more or different than what you have in the present moment. After all, many of us have been conditioned throughout our lives to always be seeking more, and also to focus on what is wrong rather than what is right. And sure, some things that happen just plain suck, but every situation adds to the richness of life. Having ups and downs and all sorts of experiences makes the journey much more exciting, and makes us more interesting people. Think of a movie, if everyone was all in love and happy from the beginning right through the end, and they had everything they wanted all of the time, and no challenges or ups and downs occurred there would be no reason to even watch it, it would be so boring. Those downs are what make the ups so satisfying. And those ups are what make the downs tolerable.
Of course we all want to have more good times than bad, right? And that is why we get so frustrated and hung up when things aren’t working how we want, or when we think they could be better. Not to say we can’t strive for something better. But if we actually allow ourselves to get all bent out of shape and stressed out about not having good times… well we continue to not have good times, because now we are frustrated. If, though, we see that something isn’t going exactly how we want, and we decide to just relax and let it be what it is, then we actually end up making space for something positive to come about that we weren’t expecting. It is counter-intuitive that if you want to be happy you need to allow unhappy circumstance to exist, be what they are, and acknowledge them, in order for them to turn into happy circumstances, but if a situation is unhappy and we try to fight it we just end up more unhappy. Notice the word “fight.” That seems fitting because fighting isn’t very pleasant. So just like fighting with other people, fighting unpleasantness leads to even more unpleasantness. Not fighting with other people is usually much more enjoyable than fighting with people, and likewise, not fighting an unpleasant situation allows you to be open to noticing the pleasant parts.
In the past I sometimes wondered if we do actually have control over how we feel. And indeed we do for the most part. But it’s important to note that there is an outside force besides our own free will that plays a role in our feelings, and that is everything that relates to our basic needs, such as sleep, food, water, hot, cold, and physical pain. So I find that when I am feeling irritable, stressed out, or uncomfortable in any way that the best thing to do is to assess if all of those needs are taken care of and if any of those things is causing my stress. If so then I can address that specific need. If not, then I know I get to choose how I feel.
Sometimes it doesn’t seem possible to choose how you feel even if your discomfort isn’t related to your basic needs. Sometimes we just get very worked up and frustrated or anxious. I find that in these situations where it isn’t so easy to just flip on an optimism switch, that I am best off if I take a break from what I am doing or even the people I am around, calm myself down, and assess the situation. If I need to remain away from the situation or person for a bit, in order to feel ok, then I do. But sometimes just stepping back and reflecting on my feelings for a few minutes lets me see everything clearer right away and I can get back to the situation and bring some positivity and enjoyment back with me. And other times I find that crying for a minute will release all of the trapped emotions and tension that are causing the discomfort, so I allow my self to cry without judgement, and feel better soon after.
I think it is important to realize that this all comes down to what you want to feel. What do you want to feel? Do you want to feel happy and grateful, and full of love? Or do you want to feel full of frustration, resentment, and stress? I think it is pretty obvious what everyone would choose out of those options. And we get to make that choice. It’s funny how it doesn’t always seem that simple. But it really is that simple.