Lights, Tunnels, Simplification
By Dr. Glenn Fox, C4 Foundation Chief Science Officer
With any ending, whether for COVID, or the end of a long deployment, we often hear about “light at the end of the tunnel.” The thing about long tunnels however, is that they are still dark even when you can see the end. Sometimes when we begin to see that light, it can actually make us more impatient, more agitated about the state of things.
The brain is a future prediction machine. It constantly looks at whatever state we are in and tries to predict what comes next. Where it gets difficult is when we predict a better future ahead, but the present moment remains difficult. This mismatch makes it difficult to keep our best habits and personal connections, and when we can be hard on ourselves and others. We become increasingly frustrated with the present, tough moment, because we see a better time ahead. If only it could get here faster, if only we could just hibernate and scroll through our phones for long enough we would wake up in that better future without all this pain in the meantime.
These moments are not the time to berate ourselves for looking at our phones too much, not working out enough, eating poorly, or whatever. They are not the time to cast aside the pain of others and separate one’s self from our relationships. As we teach in the C4 FROG program, moments like these are a time to simplify.
Simplify by slowing our minds, accepting a long winter, and focusing on things we can control. We can control how we treat others. Let’s simplify what we expect from them and ourselves. Focus on gratitude. Say thank you, and ask people what is going well in their lives. We can control our physical movement. Focus on slow methodical gestures to grasp our cups of coffee, stand and sit with full awareness, feel every strand as how we brush our hair, just notice all the things we do to move in our environment. We can control what we notice. Focus on the smallest things your loved ones do that makes you love them (a very good skill to practice), notice small changes in the lengthening of the days, buds forming on the trees, and appreciate things just as they are in this temporary moment. Finally, we focus on our breath. Breathe easy, let your body breathe in and out. Find a way to appreciate each breath because we do not have infinite breaths to give. It may be February, but indeed, a simple summer is coming.
Glenn R. Fox, PhD