Past, present and future are the three elements of our timeline that strongly influence our self, mind and our psychological functioning. Our sense of self is shaped by our past history, and our expectations and goals are a sort of compass that orientates our present. Our mind constantly navigates among past, present and future and most of the time we are not completely aware of this.
How many times have we found ourselves trapped by worry regarding the future? And how many times was that scary vision of the future not even close in time as it may potentially happen although we are not even sure when?
Or on the contrary how many times have we found ourselves ruminating over and over again on past episodes, on things that happened and that we would like to change, on our mistakes and people’s behaviours?
While worrying about the future typically leads to anxiety, rumination often causes low mood.
Beyond the negative consequences that this mindset has on our mood, it also involves a specific risk: missing out on the present moment – our today.
Being constantly focused on tomorrow or yesterday doesn’t allow us to be present in what is happening in the now hence to appreciate and enjoy the beauty of what we actually have or are experiencing.
Oriental philosophers have been the first to embrace this thought and to transform it into a real mantra for living, using meditation as a daily activity. In recent years, some principles of Eastern philosophy have been adopted and tailored to the Western lifestyle, and it comes with the name of Mindfulness.
Being mindful means being aware of the present moment, being in the here-and-now and it can be practiced through meditation or simply by asking yourself gentle questions in order to bring awareness to your senses.
Beyond the efficacy of stimulating a state of calm and awareness, mindfulness can be a powerful tool to fight and contrast our mind’s tendency to wander into the past or future when such activity is not needed or useful.
If you recognise yourself in this tendency to focus too much on the past or future instead of the present moment, working on being mindful through psychotherapy can be quite helpful in tackling such inclination.