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3 Obstacles to Joy (and How to Overcome Them)

Have you ever had the sense that you could be enjoying your life more than you do?

Have you ever had the sense that you could be enjoying your life more than you do?

There’s a lot of information out there about how to cope with negative experiences, but feeling able to enjoy the good in your life is just as important.

Here are 3 obstacles that can prevent you from enjoying the moment – and how to overcome them.  

1. Not paying attention

The brain naturally focuses on the negatives more than the positives; that’s just the way it’s built.

The brain naturally focuses on the negatives more than the positives; that’s just the way it’s built.

That means that unless you consciously choose to notice the good in the present moment, you run the risk of missing it completely.

This doesn’t mean pushing yourself to enjoy what’s happening or forcing a positive feeling – it’s simply pointing out that the experience is good, so your brain pays more attention to it.

When Jenna looked at her day objectively, she noticed that while she was doing a lot that she could enjoy, but she wasn’t really tuned in to these experiences. “I realise it’s more than just doing something nice – I need to ‘bank’ it in my mind,” she told me.

The next time something good happens, try pointing it out to yourself.

Every time you do this, you’ll be training your brain to pay more attention to the good, which will make way for a more positive perspective over time.

2. Killjoy thinking

Sometimes, in the middle of a good moment, while gazing out at a beautiful view on holiday or being together with my family, it would strike me that at some point this moment would be over, and that felt a little sad.

This type of thought is called “killjoy thinking”, and it was doing exactly that: reducing my joy.

The truth is, no moment can last forever, but there are two completely different ways we can respond to this reality.

We can feel sad about it, or we can use that sense of impermanence to inspire us to be more present.

The fact that a good moment is temporary, after all, is reason to appreciate it more.

These days, when I notice that thought pop into my head, reminding me that this moment will pass, I say to myself, “Yes – so I’m really going to savour it.”

3. Being on the Fence

Have you ever tried to take time for yourself, all the while telling yourself you “should” be doing something else?

Maybe you felt exhausted from a busy day at work, and you could really do with a relaxing evening in front of the tv, but all you can think about is how many e-mails you still have to get through.

Or perhaps you’re a mum who’s craving some time to yourself, but you find yourself unable to stop worrying about your kids.

There’s always going to be something “more important” that you could be doing, and so it’s easy to feel like you should be doing it.

But one of the main issues with guilt is that it keeps us on the fence.

When we’re working, caregiving, or doing chores, there’s the little voice that says, “Phew, I really need a break…”

And then when we’re trying to relax, we feel the pressure of our to-do list.

We’re neither fully present with our work, nor fully able to enjoy the time spent resting and recharging.

I’ve found it helpful to be firm but gentle in pushing myself to pick a side. Remind yourself that either you can be busy, or you can relax, but you must choose to commit fully to either.

After all, giving yourself the time to recharge sets you up to be a more productive employee and more patient parent. It’s just a bonus that you’ll be happier, too.

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