Right Here, Right Now

Something Has to Change: Episode 27

Meggan Stephens

7/3/20246 min read

low light stage microphone photography
low light stage microphone photography

Enjoying Life

A quick Google search with the key words "enjoy life" will lead you to countless quotes from various scholars, authors, and unknowns, each of them centered around one common theme: enjoying each moment. It seems simple enough, doesn't it? Enjoy the little moments and overall you'll find enjoyment of life. However, truly enjoying life on a day to day basis can be difficult, falling into that "easier said than done" category.

We typically have good days and bad days, and a lot of those bad days are linked to previous experiences or negative perspectives of people and situations. Our brains begin to associate particular emotions with all sorts of things such as behaviors, skills, actions, memories, and experiences. Stephen uses the example of associating your birthday, a generally happy occasion, with disappointment because for several of the birthday parties of your youth, you got a spanking. Now every year on the day of your birthday, your mind focuses on the negative memory rather than the celebration. Your brain has made a neural connection between happiness and disappointment. The good news is that this kind of nerve association can be changed through a process called neuroplasticity.

Fire & Wire

The idea, according to Donald Hebb, is that neurons that fire together wire together over time as actions and behaviors are learned and repeated. Neuroplasticity is the ability of neural networks in the brain to change through growth and reorganization. In this process, the brain is rewired to function differently in some ways than it had functioned previously. Old neural pathways begin to "unwire" as new neural pathway networks become "wired."

Joe Dispenza uses a relationship with a mother-in-law as an example. Perhaps there is an intolerance for the mother-in-law, thoughts that say her presence is unsettling, she's rude and offensive, and any opportunity to be in the same place as her brings about feelings of dread and discomfort. The belief one places in these statements is shaped by previous experiences. Through the process of neuroplasticity, persistently and continuously sending new thoughts of compassion towards her can physically rewire the brain and scientifically change the mind and ultimately the relationship. As the thoughts of compassion become the loudest in the mind, along with actions to accompany the thought, the brain creates a permanent circuit within the neuron that begins to let go of memories of resentment and bitterness and replace them with compassion.

The process of rewiring the brain can vary in relation to time depending on the person, as each brain is unique. The repetition of the behavior you're trying to change is important as well. The wiring together of brain cells becomes easier over time, particularly around three months, or 10,000 repetitions of practicing a new pattern of behavior. As with the example of the mother-in-law, repetitive thoughts and acts of compassion over time will allow one to no longer focus on the negative experiences of the past relationship, but to instead focus on the enjoyment of each other's presence in the current stage of the relationship. Stephen suggests the best practice to rewire the mind and conscious is to make a habit of living in the present.

Being Present

Have you ever walked into a room full of laughter and good conversation but couldn't bring yourself out of your own head to join? Have you ever been surrounded by people but felt lonely, irritable, or in a hurry to get back to solitude? Your mind is doing something in those moments and it's likely causing you to feel depressed or anxious. While struggling to be present, you find yourself mentally stuck somewhere in the past, or maybe even the future. Either way, you're out of touch with the reality of the room. The ability to bring your mind into the same room as your body, to be in the now, to be present in the moment is the major key to enjoying your life.

A few ways to practice being present include detaching from your phone and social media, tapping into your senses, and practicing mindfulness. Focusing your mind on the here and now can produce great benefits such as: reducing stress and anxiety, improving emotional intelligence, boosting self-esteem, improving relationships with others, increasing productivity, and giving one the ability to savor an enjoyable experience. Overall, being present helps you to listen more attentively, accomplish tasks at hand, increase your sense of self-awareness and emotions, and keep your mind from traveling to places that bring negative emotions.

This portion of the podcast spoke to me deeply. I personally can become so easily distracted and tempted to veg-out when I have multiple things to do. Sometimes, I find myself lost in my own thoughts when surrounded by people, unable to make my way into a fully engaged conversation. Most, if not all of the instances of miscommunication and misunderstanding between my husband and I or my children and I have been because my mind is either replaying a previous experience or a future unlikely scenario rather than existing in the moment at hand.

This reminds me of a quote I recently read in a book called The Slight Edge. "The problem is that most of us live with one foot planted firmly in the past and the other tucked timidly in the future--never in the moment." A lot of what we remember from our past can be connected to pain, regret, loss, things that are no longer the same, or things that we no longer possess. What comes to mind about the future for some can be fearful, stressful, and full of anxiety. Though sometimes the past and future can bring pleasant memories and joyful expectations as well, the point is simple. The past is gone, and the future has yet to arrive. Right now is all we have, and we can choose to be fully immersed in the present moment, or choose to mindlessly let it pass. I personally would like to be more intentional to savor every experience and quit allowing the beautiful moments of life to slip through my fingers.

Straw Man Fallacy

One of the greatest detriments of being absent in the moment, especially in conversations and relationships, is the building of a straw man fallacy, also called a straw man argument. It is built when points are taken out of context, crucial information is ignored, claims are exaggerated, and/or statements are oversimplified. It happens in relationships often, especially when there is already attitude or irritability stirring. You think someone is saying something, you then begin to argue that statement, but in reality, you missed what was actually being said.

Stephen uses the example of a wife who has just made dinner for her husband. He takes the plate and makes a statement about how he should really change his diet. The wife then becomes upset that the husband doesn't want to eat what she's cooked when in reality, he simply made a statement about wanting to develop a healthier diet, not that he wasn't going to eat the meal she prepared for him. This type of argument probably happens more often than you notice. We tend to cause our own anxiety due to the fact that we think someone feels or thinks a certain way about us when in fact, they don't. We create a false image of people and their character. Stephen makes the statement, "Learn to stop building straw men and you will learn to not have so much anxiety, and enjoy the moment, and enjoy your life."

Something Has to Change

The "something" that has to change is the health of your mind. A healthy mind will heal a sick body and enjoying your life starts with how you think. It starts with the way you see yourself, others, and the world around you. You know your mind better than anyone else. You know wether or not you search out opportunities to complain and bicker, or wether you're always leaning into the positive. You know the thoughts that consume you about your health, your goals, and your relationships. You will take care of the things you love. Learn to love yourself, to love others, and to love life. After all, life is too short to be anywhere but right here, right now.

Major Takeaway: Pay attention to HOW you feel, WHY you feel, and WHEN you feel.

We can all agree to the fact that life is short, time is precious, and tomorrow isn't promised to any of us. In fact, your next heartbeat isn't guaranteed, yet we live as though we have all the time in the world. In doing so, we undervalue the moments we have and take for granted the time we've been given with those we love. We allow people, situations, and circumstances to rob us of our joy as days, weeks, months, and even years go by, forfeiting love and laughter for sorrow in the vapor of our days. What a sad way to live a life, right?

In Episode 27 of Something Has to Change, the host of Contemporary Speaks narrows down his typical two-topic episode to one: enjoying life. Stephens discusses the obstacles that prevent us from enjoying life while also revealing the major key to help us all to make the most of every moment we're given.

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