The Only Way to Find True Contentment

The past and future are out — it’s all about now

Photo by Kevin Grieve on Unsplash

Have you ever reminisced about the good old days? I have, and I’m barely in my twenties.

We all do it. We all look back with nostalgia at those supposed golden years that have long passed us, dreaming of returning to happier times. But were they really as happy as we remember them to be?

The answer, simply put, is no. They weren’t. Our golden days weren’t really all that golden, we just imagine that they were. In reality, they felt just as plain and ordinary as today.

We were still marred by the same internal battles and struggles that bother us today. We still had things on our mind. We were still just us.

We always tend to view the past with rose-colored glasses, imagining that we’re not as happy as we once were — but that isn’t true. Happiness doesn’t belong in the past, and it can’t be found in the future.

The only way to find happiness is to root our focus in the now.

Trust Me On The Sunscreen

If you’ve ever heard that weird and wonderful song by Baz Luhrmann called Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen, you’ll recognize the following quote. (And if you haven’t heard it, listen to it. It’s basically five minutes of ingenious life advice.)

‘Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of dishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.’

When we talk about the past, we tend to erase all the ugly parts. We omit any negative elements, leaving us with a false memory of perfect times that weren’t really all that perfect. The good old days.

We all do it. In the months succeeding my fiancé’s cancer diagnosis last year, I was locked in constant memory of the past. Of the golden years. All I wanted was to return to our days as childhood lovers or our happy summer holidays together.

Those memories seemed perfect — heaven in comparison with the situation at hand. But in reality, they weren’t perfect — not even close. Why weren’t they perfect?

Back then, I was probably still dreaming of days prior to those moment or dreaming of future events. I was probably thinking about my busy to-do list or what time dinner would be. My awareness was anywhere but now, never really present during those so-called perfect moments.

No matter how much we reminisce of the past or dream of the future, we’re always forced to deal with this moment. And living in the now is the only way we can ever really be happy.

On Finding Yourself

A friend of mine told me a story this morning about a girl he met whilst traveling around Asia. Sat on a mountaintop, beautiful views before her and a group of wonderful people surrounding her, she turned to my friend and said,

‘Do you know, I thought I’d be happy here. I thought traveling would help me find myself, but even now that I’m here, I don’t feel the way I’d hoped to. I feel miserable’

Isn’t that ironic? Ironic, but sad. We’re all obsessed with this idea of finding ourselves, of becoming the person that we wish to become and meeting our perfect, happy self at some distant point in the future.

The issue, however, is that that’s entirely impossible. For as long as we continue to dream of future peace of mind and self-actualization, we’ll never find it. We’ll never find it because by hoping for it, we deprive ourselves of it.

By telling ourselves that we’ll be happy when x or y happens, like a promotion or finding love, we prevent ourselves from being happy in this moment.

Now is all that really exists. It’s all that’s ever existed. Life is just a long string of moments, each of which can only be experienced right now. The future will only be another version of this moment, at a different point in time. The past is just the memory of moments gone by.

We’re still the same pair of eyes and the same perception— whether we’re sitting in an office or we’re perched on the crest of a mountain overlooking the capital.

We’re still us. Alas, the only way to ever truly find happiness is to find it at this moment.

Count Your Blessings

When wishing we could go back in time, that’s often because something about this moment is causing us to feel unhappy. It might be work-stress or marital issues, or it could be something far worse. Whatever it is, it’s making us wish we could escape this moment.

In such times, it can help tremendously to focus on the good aspects of our current life. We’re all blessed, really. Whether religious or not, we can all appreciate the fact that we’re tremendously lucky in hundreds of ways.

First and foremost, you have working eyes with which to read these words. You have a functional brain with which to comprehend them. You have a roof over your head, access to the internet and the freedom to learn.

Whether you’re living in you’re so-called golden years or not, you have a lot to be happy about. I have a lot be happy about, even if my fiancé is terminally ill.

Pain and sadness blind us from the fortunes we’ve been granted. They tell us that our lives suck. That we’re victims. That we were much happier in our younger years or that we’ll only be happy if.

In reality, none of those statements are true. We have so much to be thankful for. We have many blessings to count. And at any moment, we possess within us the keys to happiness, just by focusing on right now.