Friday, August 03, 2007

Future-thinking and mood

I've been feeling very well lately, very happy. About a month ago I wasn't feeling so chipper, my moods were flat, I felt

Rather than go into detail of the circumstances or probable reasons for these states of emotion, I want to note the type of thoughts my mind generates during these moods.

I've noticed that in my happy moments, my mind thinks towards the future. I am contemplating how I can improve my work life; I am looking forward to my next vacation; I am thinking about the next meeting with a friend; I am even, on occasion, just thinking about how good the day ahead will be.

The other type of thought that occurs during happy times is to contemplate what has happened, recently, that has been enjoyable.

For me in my negative moods, there is an almost absolute contrast. The stories I tell myself are of missed opportunities, relationships that have skewed off the path, reasons why my confidence should be damaged.

One of the most useful things my meditation tutor said during a session was that "You can always trust a happy mind."

So, during times of trouble, if there is no one else around to provide a crutch or a margarita, then at least I try not to put extra pressure on myself to make decisions. After all, feeling blue is tiring enough.

However, when the happy mind is in session (which positive psychology seeks to elongate and clarify) then I seek to encourage contemplation and decision making on many levels.

Tonight, in looking up one of my positive psychology books, Authentic Happiness, I flicked to a page and found, coincidentally, this definition:

Positive emotions (future): Optimism is an emotion oriented toward the future. Optimistic explanatory style is a trait, a strength that when exercised produced the emotions of optimism and confidence.

Optimism is so closely linked with happiness that the two are often thought of as synonymous, and yet they are not the same. A person contemplating good things happening in the future is not necessarily a happy one...yet, when one visualizes such a person, it is more difficult to believe them unhappy than happy. Just as, imagining a person who dwells on mistakes of the past, it would seem logical that they might be dissatisfied and therefore unhappy.

In fact, this gives me an idea for the next time I'm feeling blue: Think of something optimistic (without making a set decision). Logically, it would be reasonable to think of something tangible and absolute, like a planned vacation, or meeting with a friend.

I doubt blue moods are that easily expelled, and yet I think it's worth a try. Given my current state of mind, it might actually be a half-decent idea!

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