We’re all familiar with the conditions we set for happiness:
- I’ll be happy when I lose weight
- I’ll be happy when I get married — or divorced
- I’ll be happy when I have a better job, house, car, etc.
And now we can add a new condition to the list: I’ll be happy when the pandemic is over.
This requirement is particularly insidious because we (individually) have no control over when the virus we’ve been battling for nearly 2 years will finally go away. We can get vaccinated, boosted, and wear the proper masks and still have to live with pandemic-era restrictions and mandates. And still catch the virus!
The amount of disruption we’ve experienced since March 2020 is significant…to say the least. Lockdowns, quarantines, remote learning, business failures, staff shortages, and of course, serious illness and death. We cannot deny the reality of the pandemic. So what can we do?
First, let’s reflect. Why are some people able to adjust and live their lives in the midst of this, while others are consumed with anger and fear? Why have some people used the pandemic as an opportunity to get creative and grow while others are stuck waiting for the world to change? One of my clients with 3 children under 8 is extremely grateful for the chance to have breakfast with his kids and lunch with his wife (who’s also working from home). Another lost her job and was able to find a virtual position that gives her more time to exercise and pay attention to her health. And yet, we all know people whose lives have been severely upended and cannot seem to move on.
Regardless of how we each see the pandemic, we all have something in common: the universal power of the human mind. In other words, we all have the ability to have the insights we need to help us navigate whatever life throws our way. Everyone has the potential to notice when they are spiraling down in a negative thoughtstorm. Sometimes we can even turn away and pull up. Sometimes just noticing the thoughtstorm takes some of the oomph out of it.
But if it looks like feelings are coming from circumstances (such as a global pandemic), then we only have one option: we have to wait for the world to change to have a different experience. Being a victim is no fun.
So what can we do? There’s no denying that these are challenging times. If we succumb to the myth that life comes at us rather than through us, we will suffer. Luckily, that’s not how the mind works. We are always and only experiencing our thinking in the moment. Our thoughts are creating our feeling state. When we realize how the system works, we regain our innate resilience. From that state of clarity, who knows what new thoughts will emerge? At the very least, we might have more hope and confidence.
In other words, I’ll be happy…when I realize that happiness is an inside job.