I keep reminding myself that I shouldn’t take life so seriously. I shouldn’t end up feeling so stressed. I tell myself that in the long run, all of this little stuff I’m stressing about won’t matter, so I should feel relaxed. I should feel happy, but it doesn’t work.
I have these moments of clarity when everything seems to make sense. I notice that I feel happy, I notice that I feel alive. I have these positive emotions and in my mind, I continue to make note of how I’m feeling. I tell people, “I feel really happy right now” and I keep saying it in my head. I notice that I feel happy, and then I fell happy that I feel happy.
I get caught in a trap. I enjoy the effects of positively reinforcing emotions, so the habit is continually practiced. Then when I start to feel down, I try to stop this habit of judging my emotions. It doesn’t work, though. I’ve already practiced it too much.
I notice myself feeling stressed and I feel stressed about feeling stressed. I notice myself feeling sad and feel frustrated about feeling sad. Instead of just accepting how I feel at the start, I compound the feeling by trying to avoid it.
Then there is the second layer of the problem. The second reason that judging your emotions leads you to anxiety and depression.
When I am noticing that I am feeling happy, I am judging that emotion in comparison to the way I felt before. Happiness then isn’t a state like a speed reading on a speedometer. Happiness becomes the acceleration of my mood.
To notice myself feeling happy, I need to be judging my current state against a feeling of less happiness. Feeling’s don’t last for long, so you don’t have a long time frame to compare against. I end up comparing to how I felt in the hours or the days before. If I’ve been feeling decent the entire time, it is easy to trick myself into thinking that I’m not happy, even if I had been experiencing the same mental state.
My good moods get normalized. So when I start to feel less happy, I get frustrated, or sad, or just generally worried about it. By judging my emotions, I end up making myself miserable.
The trick to enjoying life more is to stop trying to enjoy life more. Stop judging the way I’m feeling all the time; worrying about if I am happy, or sad, or stressed. Enjoying life is not about noticing that you are happy; it is about getting lost. Getting past that part of your mind that wants to compare everything to everything else, and getting lost in the moment.
When you get lost in an activity or in learning a new skill, you aren’t judging the way you are feeling, you are just living. You get lost in your life, and you are experiencing what it is like to be alive.