Leaving the future

Article number 43, words 500

The article is written by Carmen Codreanu,.i would like to thank her for writing the article for my blog

Our tendency to slide into the future started in the era of our ancestors. Hitherto foragers were not thinking of next month or next year, as they lived rudimentary from hand to mouth and had no food to preserve. But with the advent of the agricultural revolution, society took a different turn as now farmers had to keep seasons (future) in mind for planning their crops. Droughts and floods impacted their crops as well, so thinking and worrying about the future made sense because farmers could anticipate ways to protect their crops.  

Thinking about the future is an essential part of the present. Decisions we take now in the present bring ramifications for years. Hence, is it obvious that planning and preparation is essential for a good life. But what we do is not only think about the future, but worry about the future. We dwell into our negative thoughts and imagine multiple scenarios in which things will play out, putting ourselves through unnecessary stress. We create imagined problems and we feel anticipatory pain for things that might never happen. How crazy is that? 

One way to escape this trap is to find balance in your thoughts. Balanced thinking is a concept applied in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which recognizes that negative thoughts are often the trigger for anxiety and low moods. It is most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression and it is based on the concept that our thoughts, feelings, sensations and actions are interconnected, and that negative thoughts and feelings can trap us in a vicious cycle. Cognitive behavioural therapy helps a person understand what’s going on. If a person is upset in some way, her thoughts are probably negative, neither realistic nor helpful. By seeing things more in the middle, we can reduce the emotional distress and hence put ourselves in a better position to plan and make better decisions for the future.

So to find balance in our thoughts and plan properly for the future we must search for biases, identify, label and challenge our thoughts. We must replace the negative and unhelpful thoughts with more realistic and helpful ones that bring clarity of mind and put us in the right mindset. Ask yourself, how likely is that event to happen? What are the facts for my fears? What action can I take now to influence the future outcome? We need to understand ourselves first, rather than overthink and over engineer about the future. 
Next to balanced thinking, we can use mindfulness to anchor ourselves into here and now. Mindfulness is the energy that can help us to stop from sailing into the future. Mindful breathing is at the core of mindfulness, as it brings mind and body together. Only when these two are unified, we can stop being preoccupied by anxieties of the future. By setting an intention to be mindful we become more aware of experiences around us: the sounds around us, the taste of the food, the freshness of an early morning. Being present in a conversation, enjoying a sunset without thinking of tomorrow are all good ways to enhance our awareness and calm our mind.

Another factor that can cloud our minds and prevent us from taking the right steps is turning inwards and not outwards. Under the pressure of uncertainty we tend to see only ourselves and our distress, which naturally narrows down our view and we fail to see other perspectives. This is detrimental to us, as in these very moments we mostly need to feel connected and grounded. By reaching out to our dear ones and speaking out our minds, we lessen our anxiety and can get a fresh perspective. Or if we know someone else is struggling, we can make a compassionate gesture, which in turn will leave us happy. Just as when we offer a gift, it leaves us happier than keeping the gift for ourselves. So looking outwards by reaching out and caring for others, acts in our very own interest and can set us in motion for the future.

There are no answers for what the future will bring us. But by being intentional about what we think and being in touch with life in the present moment, we can defeat our anxiety and plan for the future from a place of calm, focus and resilience. Planning doesn’t mean we know all the variables, more often than not we don’t know. So while we can not say that everything will turn out just fine, we can say that I have the right thinking, I did everything I could now for things to turn out well in the future, and I’m hopeful that it will. As a species we have a gift for problem solving so adding a modicum of hope and optimism benefits us.

The Heart of the Buddha’s teaching, Thich Nhat Hanh
Sapiens: A brief history of humankind, Yuval Noah Harari
Healthy Therapy Blog https://www.harleytherapy.co.uk/counselling/balanced-thinking-benefits.htm
in-Depth Cognitive Behavioral Therapy https://psychcentral.com/lib/in-depth-cognitive-behavioral-therapy/
Anxious about what’s next?https://hbr.org/2020/08/anxious-about-whats-next-heres-how-to-cope

Disclaimer: Ideas, views and opinions expressed in the
article represent my own views in my private capacity and not those of any of
my current or previous employer, any institutions. The article is a
research work based only the limited, dated and open source information.
For the sources the statements have been quoted with the authors
name. This article is only for the reading pleasure and while I invite the
feedback and comments on the article, I will not be responsible or liable to
any such comments as the same belong to the responder.

Leave a Reply