It's a global issue: Life passes us by, and before we know it, some of our greatest moments are simply brief memories in our rear-view. How many times have you wanted something SO bad, yet when you finally achieved your goal, you did not allow yourself even a moment to rejoice? OR, let a great opportunity pass you by? OR wished you were more available to someone in need after it was too late? "If only I had seen the signs..." Some feel that is simply a part of life; possibly, but what if there was something you could do to lessen the chances?
I'm a pretty happy person -- charismatic, friendly, but years ago I fell into a deep depression. Few knew about it. Not much was different on the outside, but on the inside, I felt numb. I had become extremely judgmental of myself and, in turn, all those around me. Although it did eventually pass, it was a problem that had happened to me a few times before in my life - like a black void... and I had no idea WHY it happened, or more importantly, HOW to prevent it from happening again. I decided to think about what monopolized my mind during those time periods, and then the answer came to me like a bolt of lightning. I spent much of my time worrying - worrying about all the things I wanted but did not have; worrying about why things happened the way they did in the past and all the potential things that could go wrong in the future. The void occurred when I left the present moment and went into my head. In essence, although my body was still there, routinely going through the motions, I was oblivious to all those around me... and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who has felt this before. I realized that WORRY was distracting me from achieving everything I wanted, worry was getting in the way of my happiness, worry was preventing me from feeling ALIVE.
LIVE IN THE MOMENT -- sure, it's somewhat cliche, but in truth, it makes sense. If I'm present to each moment as it occurs, then there is no time for judgement or worry. If I'm truly present, I can enjoy every moment of this short time we have on this earth. SO just get present and live a better life, right? But how in the heck does one achieve this mythical status?
It's actually quite accessible. The following are three simple actions that consistently help me find my way - I hope they provide you with a similar result or at least start you on your journey:
Step 1: GRATITUDE --
As it's extremely difficult to get out of your own head when you are depressed...we begin with a small insurance policy to bring you to a positive place regardless of where you presently are - list FIVE things you are GRATEFUL for in this moment. Your health, your mom, the gluten-free cookie you're holding... things that are important to you that not everyone in the world is lucky enough to have.
Now Take a Deep Breath.
Step 2: OBSERVATION --
Take a look at your physical surroundings: trees, leaves, lights, ceiling cracks, artwork, clothes, eye colors...
Another Deep Breath.
Step 3: RELEASE --
Release YOURSELF from the equation. Eliminate all judgments. Observe all around you, but attempt to avoid forming any opinions. Stay out of your head. If you hear a song - listen to the lyrics, but don't analyze them; just let them float over you as if you were reading a Shakespearean sonnet, but HEAR every word. If you are with someone else, make it your mission to find out how he/she is feeling... ask how their day is going and then truly LISTEN to their response.
Cheesy or not, these three simple steps helped me lead with my heart instead of my head, and avoid that black hole for over 10 years and counting. It's made me more empathetic, more available to all those around me, and I will say that I am a happier person (both inside and out). So whenever I start to feel lost, or notice any signs that the void is trying to take over once again, I follow that same path that has guided me home: Gratitude, Observation, Release. And, although it may take some time, I'd say more often than not, I am able to let go of the past and concerns for whatever may happen next, and find my way back to the present moment.
Now, I have a confession: when I started this article I wrote most of it from memory of how I found my way back from that void years ago, but it was not until I was editing this piece that I realized I'd been slowly slipping back into my head as of late. I was consumed with planning next steps, but never taking the time to enjoy once I achieved my goal. After this realization, I decided it was time for a break. I took a long bath and began following the three simple steps listed above... believe it or not, they once again helped me find my way. I am not saying it will be easy, many of us have lived in our heads so long that it seems insanely difficult to break the pattern but... screw that thought. No need to worry about the outcome: take a baby step... LET GO! Clear your mind and make a choice to do whatever comes next. Step out of autopilot and take back the controls. I have no idea where you will end up, but I can assure you that you'll be present when you get there.