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Why You Should Focus on What You Have (Not Just What You Want)

From my experience, 90% of peoples' thoughts consist of things they want to acquire or want to avoid. This is an estimate, but it is useful to consider in conceptualizing how your mind works.

We want to avoid future pain, and we want to avoid loss. We want to acquire what we lost in the past or we want to acquire better things in the future.

By things I do not mean possessions, they can be feelings like acceptance, or experiences like love. The point is that we are constantly striving to gain or avoid.

When we focus on something we do not have we are engaging the dopaminergic system in our brains. This feels energizing and moves us into action. It feels good to strive, but over time it becomes exhausting.

Do you just sometimes feel depleted at the end of the day? You wake up the next day just to do it over again feeling somewhat robotic in your constant striving? Wondering when you will get to that end place in which you just get to feel good for a little while?

The reason you may feel like this is that we overuse our dopaminergic system. We focus so much on acquiring what we do not have we exhaust ourselves. We are not meant to function in this striving mode for long periods of time, instead, we are meant to toggle between two systems: the dopaminergic and the serotonergic.

The serotonergic system is more focused on what we have. This system is activated in gratitude practices, during family dinners, when you remember how much you appreciate your current position.

The serotonergic system is activated when you are in the present moment, just existing and finding gratitude for being alive. It replenishes you from the striving and allows you to build internal resources.

Historically, through many world religions, we had prescribed times of gratitude and mindfulness. In more modern times these traditions have disappeared in the constant progression of society.

Yet, we need to toggle between states of wanting and having to function well psychologically.

So as you start your week consider asking yourself:

How can I be just in this one present moment?

You may start noticing the trees outside, or your coffee cup. Just notice and be thankful for the things you witness in this moment. Consider what it would be like if you only observed the moment in your mind instead of wandering to the past or the future. And as your mind wanders in the week to come, try bringing it back to the present for a moment of peace.