I find that feelings of joy, stress, anxiety, and fear is felt now, but is triggered by thoughts of the future. The feeling at the end of the week when looking at the upcoming weekend can bring thoughts of joy. It is not that we wont ever have any problems again in life, it is just that we feel as if our ‘future looks bright’. When we feel depression, it is the exact opposite. We feel that the ‘future’ does not look bright.
This ‘future gazing’ is usually wrong. That weekend full of happiness that we predicted turns out to be consumed with cleaning up the damage from a water leak in the house. That situation that we predicted would bring us pain and misery turns out to not be that bad. Whenever we ‘predict the future’, the longer we project out, the worst our predictions are. The book Stumbling on Happiness describes how bad we are at predicting the future because we don’t predict the details. For example, we imagine our vacation will be full of fun but skip over the uncomfortable crowded plane ride.
The key thing to note is that we get to predict the future we want. Therefore, we have the ability to control how we feel. Even when we can reliably predict the immediate future (right before you go into that meeting to discuss problems in the office you can reliably predict that at least part of the next hour or so will be uncomfortable), we can still predict that our coming weekend will be great. Even if we feel this weekend will also be problematic, we can ‘predict’ that our future vacation in three months will be full of happiness.
We can pick any future moment and concentrate on it, and feel the happiness that predicted future can provide and make us feel right now.
Feelings of depression are caused by believing that the bad feelings we feel right now will always be felt for the rest of our lives. This is never true. All feelings are temporary. It is just a bad trick that our mind plays on us. We can use this in our favor by making the choice to predict a bright future. We have the ability to feel joy at any time.