Anxiety is experienced when we focus on the future and experience that as a negative projection of what might become.
Depression is experienced when we focus on the past and create a negative association with that also.
Excitement is felt when we focus on the future and do so with anticipation of what’s to come – a positive association.
Fondness is felt when we focus on the past and remember those times positively.
Clearly excitement and fondness/gratitude are healthy states of mind but if we spend too much time in either the future or the past, we are not experiencing now in real time, which could, eventually, lead to a depressed or anxious state.
The present moment is the optimal place to be, even though experiencing the excitement of what’s to come may well feel better momentarily, it could actually be a way of detaching from the anxiety or depression you feel?
Many people oscillate between feeling down and then detaching from that state by switching to the future to imagine something exciting. For example; have you ever had a great holiday only to feel a little deflated on your return? To manage the feeling, you may have started looking at or imagining the next holiday in a few months time.
What’s the best response?
Being present! And the best way to be present is to practice mindfulness.
Remember those tips from a few weeks ago on progressive mindfulness? They’re powerful, you just have to use them consistently. Here they are again:
- Be mindful once per day while doing a menial task – For example while brushing your teeth be very present, feel the bristles, taste the toothpaste and be aware of any smells. Be in the moment for the two minutes it takes to do this. If the mind wonders off, don’t worry, it will bring it back to what you are doing.
- Be mindful while eating one meal per day – Its obviously going to be best if this is a meal you eat alone. Chew every mouthful completely, be really aware of the textures of the foods in your mouth. The different flavours and smells. Again when the mind wonders to the “to do” list of life, bring the mind back to the present by focusing on your meal once more.
- Be mindful while walking each day – If you make this part of your daily walk to and from work it will really help set the stage for your day and calm the mind for a restful evening on the way home. If you don’t walk very much to get to work, try parking further from work or get off public transport one stop earlier.
- Build in a mindfulness stretching or exercise programme – While doing your daily exercise or stretching you can do so now being very mindful of the smells, sounds, sensations and colours all around you. Be aware your body as it touches the floor. How the ground feels underneath your feet.
- Develop a specific mindfulness practice for 10-20 minutes – By this point you have experienced mindfulness and the benefits it offers so you will be more likely to stick to a specific period of time calming the mind and meditating. Remember when the mind wonders which it will, try not to judge it, simply bring yourself back to the moment and focus on the breath for example.
I hope you make a start with mindfulness and build up to enjoying the many benefits.