Dr. Deb’s Mental Health Vitamin: Staying in the present
By Dr. Deb Wade
GCU Vice President, Counseling and Psychological Services
American philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:
“Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterdays.”
Wow! Wise words, indeed! As I spent a few moments letting this quotation seep into my brain – and my heart – I thought it only fitting to align it with this time of year.
Whether you are spending every free moment decorating your home for the holidays, shopping for that perfect gift, baking goodies to share with friends, family and co-workers, or just making your to-do list for all the above, it is very good to think about JUST TODAY!
If you’re anything like me, it is often too easy to look back with “I shoulda … I coulda” or look forward to “I’m gonna … I’m hopin’” and all the while miss out on the miracle and gift of today!
Frankly, in the glancing back and the forecasting forward, we truly can get stuck in the mud of despair and hopelessness. Honestly, the holidays alone can bring out some of the deepest pains we have ever felt or the highest joys we have ever experienced … all by themselves. Add to that a wistful thinking and wishing of what an ideal version of December should look like, and we’ve drifted into areas where we have absolutely no power!
We can’t change our yesterdays and we can’t clearly forecast our tomorrows … so we need to just “stay put.” How? Let’s examine the cost analysis of staying in the present:
- Staying in the present helps us live life more fully. Rather than worrying about the future or ruminating about the past, we should savor every moment. Researchers have found that people who live in the now are happier, more optimistic, less depressed and more satisfied with life overall. ’Nuf said!
- Also, staying in the present will allow you to have the same sensation of yesteryears when you were “on the playground.” Remember that? You most likely were focused solely on what you were playing, whom you were playing with and how much fun you were having. These days, it is too easy to live life in our thoughts ABOUT the world – analyzing, planning, computing, comparing, etc. Get back on the playground of life … stay in the moment and see how life becomes more colorful and exciting!
- And, of course, staying in the present starves stress! Think about it … when we are examining and replaying yesterday while at the same time thinking about tomorrow, we are building up the stress and anxiety of the moment. Why do that? There is no power in the yesterdays and the tomorrows! So let’s take a swipe at stress by staying in, enjoying and REALLY living in the NOW! Especially the delights December can bring NOW!
Yes, all those years ago, Emerson spoke the wise words above. But a greater Authority than all others said it even better: “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24) Now there’s TRUE WISDOM in those words!