“What day is it?”
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favorite day,” said Pooh. ~A.A. Milne
So many of us (myself included) spend the majority of our time living in the past or future. I liken it to driving a car. We have a large, clear windshield right in front of our faces. Yet, how often do we find ourselves looking in the rearview mirror, peering at what has passed? The next thing you know, we are straining our eyes to see what might be coming at us a mile down the road.
The car’s windshield represents the here and now-the present. The rearview mirror is an analogy for depression-living in the past. Worrying about what lies ahead is anxiety-fearing the future, which is almost always uncertain.
The crazy thing is this: we all know we cannot relive or change the past and, despite what disillusions we may have, no one has mastered controlling the future. So why is it so difficult to be fully present, engaged in the here and now? Think about how much of our lives we continue to waste because we are consumed with the past and future!
If you find yourself stuck thinking, “If only…”, “I wonder what could have been…”, or “I wish I had only…” then you may be taking up residence in the past. What is done, is done. Forgive yourself, and others, and rejoin the living. Even good memories can hold us back as we long to return to happier times. Visit those memories every so often, but do it with a smile then pull yourself back to the here and now.
Perhaps you are struggling with the “What ifs…” or the “I could never go on ifs…”. When we spend a majority of our time worrying about what could happen and making up extreme scenarios in our heads, we have become enslaved to anxiety. I firmly believe that anxiety is just the fear of the unknown. What good does it do to obsess about things that will most likely never happen? It robs us of precious time. It drains our mental and physical energy. It distracts us from interacting with those around us. It steals our todays.
You may be thinking, “Easier said than done”, and I would have to agree-for the most part. Try making little changes in your daily thought processes and incorporate one or two of the following suggestions for living in the present, and see what happens.
- Meditate. There are numerous aids on the internet to help you learn how to meditate, whether it be a YouTube guided-meditation or a website with instructions and tips.
- Ground yourself. Stand barefoot in the cool grass or lie on your back and stare at the stars.
- Journal. Write down everything you are experiencing in the moment-sounds, sights, smells, emotions, thoughts.
- Play an instrument or listen to a song. Empty yourself of everything but the music.
- Color. Print off pictures or buy a coloring book specifically geared toward adults.
- Drink a cup of tea or coffee. While you sit there, take in the aroma and flavor as you empty your mind of to-do lists and guilt.
- Be kind to yourself. This should go without saying, but sometimes we aren’t very good at loving ourselves. You’ve made it this far in life without being swallowed by a giant whale or burned alive by a mob. Forgive yourself. Use positive self-talk. Focus on your strengths.