“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” – Dr Seuss
How often do we catch ourselves (and let’s be honest here, we all do it sometimes) dwelling on the past and focusing on regrets, mourning for the good times we have lost, the nice things which have gone, the friendships we no longer have.
We start off meaning simply to recall a cherished memory or to remember a happy event, but as we focus on it we start to dwell in the fact that the event is over, the person is no more, and that we no longer have whatever it was we are remembering; these thoughts very often lead to sadness, and even in some cases a mild renewal of mourning for what has passed which further deepens the sadness we now feel. An extreme example of this was Queen Victoria who never recovered from the death of her beloved Prince Albert and who was so consumed by sadness and focusing on her loss that she was officially in mourning for the remaining 40 years of her life.
All of this looking back and reminiscing on sorrow has the unfortunate effect that we very often simply avoid thinking about those events so as to avoid the sadness they bring.
And yet, by seeking to protect ourselves from potential hurt by avoiding thinking about these events or people from our past, we rob ourselves of the opportunity for some very stimulating positive emotions and reliving some wonderfully enjoyable feelings; those events and people from our past, the ones which we chose to remember with sorrow, brought so much warmth, joy and happiness into our lives, did they not?
So why not remember them for the joy, the happiness, the good times? Remember the laughs, the excitement, the sense of peace which they brought!
Recently my 5 year relationship came to an abrupt and unexpected end. I won’t pretend that it did not come as a shock and that it is rather a sad time – after all, it is the end of a relationship which brought much joy to us both, so it’s only natural to feel sad for its passing.
However, rather than dwell on the loss and the sorrow that brings, I quickly chose to do something different this time round; any time I find myself looking back upon the relationship and feeling sad that it is over, I chose instead to reflect upon and recall some moments which were filled with happiness or excitement or tenderness or joy or simply contentment. And what happened as a result? Remembering the past brought feelings of joy and celebration, rather than the more usual feelings of sadness.
Because I make sure that every time I remember the past, I don’t cry because the good times are over, I celebrate because those good times happened! And the great thing about doing this is that the more you do it, the easier it becomes to acknowledge that things are over but that is is still perfectly OK to relive the memories of those good experiences and to enjoy reliving them. Indeed, I would go so far as to say it is a beneficial thing to remember them – anything which brings us more joy and happiness (especially for free!) has got to be good, right? After all, being sad because those good times are over will never bring them back, so why waste your time on being sad when you can use exactly the same amount of time and effort to remember the good times positively and enjoy them for what they were?
Yes, they are over, but they happened! If they had not happened, then that might be cause for sadness, but how much worse is it to deny the happiness they contain by only remembering that they are over?
Queen Victoria spent a significant portion of her life in mourning over the death of her beloved Albert – just imagine how much happier a life she might have had if only someone had advised Her Majesty to look back not in sadness but with joy…
So what events are you looking back upon in your life and allowing to fill you with sadness for them being over? Next time you find yourself doing that, don’t cry because they are over, smile because they happened and see how much of a lift that gives your day!