So many of us live big chunks of our day, if not sometimes weeks at a time, oblivious to the reality of the moments that make up our lives.
We spend the bulk of our time inside our head, so wrapped up in our thoughts about the past and our planning for the future that we don't even pay attention to the little things that are happening around us. It is as if the present is nothing but a rehearsal. We're way off, faraway, planning for the worst-case scenarios, as if we were our own prophets of doom. All we ever seem to talk about is how much stress we have in our lives.
Why doesn't anyone seem to talk about how much fun they are having? I've never heard a single person say: ''I'm such a mess; I had too much fun today.'' Of course not, because that's a completely illogical statement. Fun cancels out stress. The chemistry of fun reduces our anxiety levels and roots us in the moment—and when we're living in the present, it allows the mind to stop the incessant demands that lead to our feeling stressed.
Perhaps a way to counter the negative aspects of stress is to give yourself permission to spend equal amounts of time on positive pursuits. If you spend 10 minutes worrying about how much work is still piled up on your desk, spend 10 minutes thinking about swimming in the lake this coming weekend. If you spend half an hour obsessing about how bad the traffic is and how you're going to be late for dinner, spend a half hour listening to your favorite piece of music and just loving every minute of it.
My mother used to always say to me ''you can have fun when your chores are done.'' And isn't that the way we all seem to be living our lives? We only allow ourselves to have fun when our chores are done. But guess what? Our chores are never done. And they never will be. Welcome to the real world. A life without stress is a life without challenge and passion. Don't wait. Incorporate fun into as many moments as you can.
At the end of your life, your eulogy should contain a list of all the wonderful things you did for yourself and for others. No one will care how many closets you cleaned or how many times along the way you emptied your in-box.
Celebrate everything. No matter how much stress you might be feeling, it's still part of the wonderful adventure called life.
Published on July 15, 2003