Guilty as charged. My ah-ha moment came while listening to a podcast on the topic of being thankful where we are right now. The message hit home, and right between the eyes. Those are the best kinds of lessons to be awakened to.
In a previous blog post, I discussed being satisfied where I am, today. This is difficult, when living in the shadows of the past and looking towards the future at the same time. In fact, I have stopped listening to SiriusXM Radio’s 70s and 80s stations, spending too much time in the past can be detrimental to my outlook. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the occasional reminder of years gone by it’s dwelling there for too long that becomes the problem. I need to find satisfaction where I am right now. Being out of touch with the present, and distracted by the past, just brings more noise into my life. Who needs that?
Memory lane is a fun place to visit, but doing it too often, can bring in negative emotions. It’s simply not healthy to think about what might have been. We dream of going back and making things different. This is evidenced by the many hook-ups on social media, re-kindling of old flames that were put out decades ago. They didn’t work out for a reason, going back only makes life complicated. We do it anyway because we are attracted to unfinished business.
There needs to be a distinction made between living in the past and thinking about it. I have been spending way too much time in the past lately. As I get older there is more time in the rear-view mirror, and less road ahead. I find I daydream about my younger years; wanting them back! Well, of course we all do. Who wouldn’t want to be in their twenties again?
Another moment to pause on came as I was organizing framed photos. I realized I hadn’t put a new picture in a frame for over 10 years. My home had become a time capsule! What is it about the past that is so remarkable I can’t let go? One of the reasons we dwell there, according to Psychology Today, is regret. Gulp.
According to Psychology Today, “Regret is a negative cognitive/emotional state that involves blaming ourselves for a bad outcome, feeling a sense of loss or sorrow at what might have been or wishing we could undo a previous choice we made.” The only benefit regret has is for young people. Regret serves as a lesson to not make the same mistake twice or three times, or at all. For the aging generations, regret can have us spending long periods of time pining over actions not taken, such as missed opportunities for love, or not being present with our families when we should have been.
For us older folks, according to AARP, regret can result in chronic illness, negatively affecting our hormonal and immune system functioning. Our well-being depends on living in the here and now, as regret impedes our ability to recover from stressful life events. Focusing on the past can extend these life events and their impact on us for the remainder of our lives, if we let it. Healthy aging, according to Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D., and author of The Neuroscience of Regret, “…may involve the ability to regulate regret in the brain, and move on emotionally when there is nothing more that can be done.”
Combating regret the author says can be accomplished with mindfulness. I have been hearing about this from a couple of sources. I know one place near me that offers both mindfulness and meditation. Mindfulness-based interventions can help regulate regret by looking at how outside factors played a role in our choices, versus solely our own actions. This, the author says will decrease self-blame and regret.
There is a healthy way to glean from the past and make it part of the future. I love music, especially the 70s and 80s. How can I continue to enjoy what I love without it dragging me into the past?
The answer came to me in a quick-read, yet powerful book written by a friend entitled, “Messages in the Music…Inspiration Found in Music that Moves Us,” by Tommy Spero. The title says it all, and it is about how the music moves us forward, not backwards. Tommy picks out his favorites and we share quite a few from every decade, the one that jumped out at me was: Cheryl Lynn, Got to Be Real (1978). It reminds me of driving in my best friend’s gold Buick to high school singing our lungs out. A fabulous memory but there is so much more to this song as the author points out. Look at the song as bringing that most authentic version of yourself to all that you do.
To be authentic is to be present. Next time one of my favorites comes on, I now have another way gathering true meaning from it.