Many authors have written on the advantages of living in the present and how it can promote happiness. It has been found that people who tend to dwell in the past and worry about the future are not very happy. They miss the present as they are constantly preoccupied by thoughts of past, old hurts, and grudges. This leads to anger, unhappiness and depression. In order to be happy, it is very important to let go of old grudges and enjoy the present moment. Past is something that is beyond our control and it cannot be changed. We can only learn from the past and avoid the mistakes we made. However, when we dwell on those past mistakes, it generates negative feelings like anger, resentment, hatred, and feelings to take revenge from the perpetrator. This becomes a road block for our happiness and we feel insecure and lose our capacity to enjoy the present moment.
Our mind tends to produce thoughts on a constant basis, which are either of the past or the future. These thoughts are the source of our everyday tension. The past drives us backwards while the future pushes us forward. The mind does not know how to remain in the present and this is the primary source of depression, anxiety, guilt and worry.
What is this present moment and how do we define it so that we can enjoy it? The present is eternal because it renews itself constantly. Most of our reflections are of the past. We do not live in the present. An emotion is a thought linked to a sensation. The thought is usually about the past or the future, but the sensation is in the present. Our mind tends to link sensation with thoughts. As adults we learn to deny ourselves the immediate experience of an emotion. We learn about shame, guilt and sorrow and they throw us out of the present and take us in the past or the future. In order to feel the present, it is important to consciously feel the emotion, experience it fully and then release it.
Our emotions arouse two sensations, pain and pleasure. All human behaviors can be boiled down to these sensations. According to Anthony Robbins, a renowned motivational speaker, we naturally seek behaviors that give us pleasure and avoid things that give us pain.
When we focus on the present it allows us to release the pain as soon as it occurs. When we pay attention to our feelings, we assume the role of being an observer and it facilitates an insight and awareness. You become comfortable with the pain as you begin to honestly feel it. No one can hurt you unless you give them the permission to do so. The hurt comes when you give meaning to the situation in your mind. It is helpful to know that you can live beyond this meaning and interpretation when you stay in the state of witnessing the present and do not allow the pain to penetrate inside. It appears to be hard when you first start doing it but as you continue the efforts, you become competent.
It is important to pay attention to your feelings. Be aware of your low moods when you do not feel uplifted and charged up. Gently observe your thoughts. If you notice that you are being too hard on yourself and have drifted in the past, don’t allow your thoughts to continue to berate yourself and pull you away from happiness. It is important to understand the power of your moods in order to stay in the present moment. When you begin to believe in your thoughts that appear when you are in low mood, you will be afraid to stay in the moment and are more likely to drift in the past or the future. Because when you are in low mood, you will have negative thoughts and feelings of insecurity. You will have the urgent need to change your affect immediately. Therefore, it is advisable to ignore your self defeating thought patterns for the time being until you feel charged up again. Decisions made when you are in low mood, can be impulsive and may not yield intended results. Too many future and past worries tend to distort your vision and distract you from the present moment. In order to stay focused, concentrate, and achieve your goals, it is crucial to become present moment oriented.
Happy people tend to remain in the present regardless of what happened in the past or what might happen in the future. Happy people understand that life is really nothing more than a series of present moments to experience and they make the best out of these moments by paying attention to them and staying focused versus being distracted by thoughts of past and future. Happy people are also grateful and contended for what they have. They do not spend much time worrying about the future, fretting over the losses and painful experiences.
Lot of people carry the weight of the past and they live with this baggage all their lives. When we give too much emphasis to the past, it produces fear in the present and the weight is carried in the present moment. By the time we become adults, we are so much burdened by the weight of the past that we lose our normalcy and develop chronic depression and other dysfunctions. However, it is possible to escape this when we learn to live in the present and stop dwelling in the past. One can cultivate this habit and train the mind to do so. With practice, it becomes easier. Conscious awareness is also important to cultivate this habit. The realization that you are dwelling in the past is needed and then you can work on how to change the focus and live in the moment. When our mind spins forward and back ward and constantly dwells in the past, we can actively observe our mind and make some adjustment and give auto suggestion to pay attention to the present. It is helpful to make statements like, “Here I go again”, I am doing my old thing again –dwelling in the past”,” It is not going to help me”. Thus by interrupting the thought pattern, we can keep our thinking in the right frame of mind and bring our attention back to the present.
When we focus on the present, we can eliminate the fear. For example, financial problems health related worries can be reduced when you bring your attention to the present, and keep your attention in here and now. You need to be alive and remain in the present at all times. The past has gone and the future is unknown therefore living in the past is unproductive and meaningless. For example, a lot of people go on vacation but when they arrive at their destination, their mind is not actually in the present. Although they were there physically but mentally they did not capture the beauty of the nature, enjoy the scenery, and engross in the moment. Most of the time they were planning for the future and remained occupied with their business problems and relationship issues. It is important to look at the moment, accept the present, identify with the present moment and feel happy. When you are using all your five senses to dwell in the moment, you will be able to appreciate the beauty of nature and remember those moments. Children have this capacity but they lose it as they grow and become more occupied with thoughts of past and future. It is relevant to quote here the lyrics of the song written by Pearl Jam with regards to the importance of living in the present:
“Do you see the way that tree bends? Does it inspire? Leaning out to catch the sun’s rays, a lesson to be applied. Are you getting something out of this all encompassing trip? You can spend your time alone, redigesting past regrets, oh. Or you can come to terms and realize. You’re the only one who can’t forgive yourself, oh.
Makes much more sense, to live in the present tense. Have you ideas on how life ends? checked your hands and studied the lines. Have you the belief that the road ahead, ascends off into the light? Seems that needlessly it’s getting harder to find an approach and a way to live. Are we getting something out of this all – encompassing trip?—Makes much more sense, to live in the present tense. (Eddie Vedder)”
Generally speaking, we believe that the past creates the present and the present creates the future. In order to enjoy the present moment, you might want to envision your future and see yourself in that future. Take the memory of that future and insert it in the present .If you imagined a future with no thoughts of worries about the past and future, live that vision now. If you get troubled with thoughts of fear, and anger, reject those memories and relive vision of your future memories. This practice will improve your potential to stay in the present moment and experience the pleasure. People who are depressed and anxious can also benefit from this practice. It is possible to train your mind and the power of mind is amazing. Vivid visualizations can temporarily fool the mind and give you the pleasure as if it is happening in reality. Writer has discussed the concept of visualization with guided imagery in other blogs also, like Panic Disorder, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
In order to find happiness one has to fully experience life. For example, looking at the maps of destination vacation will not give you the pleasure of actually visiting the place. When you visit the place, you can actually derive pleasure by driving on those scenic routes, looking at the lakes, fountains and mountains. The experience leads to real happiness, and it is inherent in the present moment, not in the past or the future.
People who suffer from chronic depression and anxiety should cultivate the habit of living in the present. They are deeply stuck in the past, and it is hard it to get out of their thoughts and feelings. Past is not in your control and you have not seen the future so you do not have any control over the future. Present is the only moment that you have control over and you can make the best of it by paying attention to the present moment and focusing on here and now. I also recommend the book written by Eckhart Tolle, entitled “The Power Of Now” to the readers. This book really explains the importance of living in the moment and how it is beneficial to get over your past which could have been traumatic and painful.
In summary, my advice is to start observing your thoughts. Are you focused on what you are doing right now or have your thoughts drifted to the past or future? You will probably catch yourself drifting many times during the day. However, do not let this disappoint you. This number will reduce significantly as you begin to observe your thoughts regularly. Additionally, you will discover that you will feel more contended and happy when you stay in the moment. This positive experience will give you the confidence to carry on the observation in the future and also increase your potential to stay focused in the present.
Hypnosis can also help the person reduce anxiety and worries and assist the person to focus on the present as opposed to dwelling in the past and doing idle worries.
Please visit our Blossom Hypnotherapy page to learn how hypnosis can help reduce symptoms of Anxiety disorders.