It is said that anxiety is living in the future, while depression is living in the past. Think about that for a minute. It’s totally true!
For years I’ve seen people suffering with symptoms of anxiety…..insomnia, heart racing, shortness of breath or difficulty taking a full breath, nausea or butterflies in the stomach, lightheadedness, ear ringing, etc. The commonality is that the things people worry about are all in the future and may never happen. People worry about the futures or safety of their adult children, about whether they’d keep their job, about future financial stability, about whether there will be gas at the gas station on the way home. Statistics report that only about 15% of the things we worry about actually happen. Think of all the time and energy spent worrying about things that never happen! Possibly even worse, if one of those things does happen, time and energy are spent on the worry and then AGAIN dealing with the actual issue. Yikes! Who has time for that?
I’ve also seen people suffering with symptoms of depression…..sadness, tearfulness, hopelessness, inability to enjoy themselves, feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, excess guilt, etc. These people tend to live in the past, stuck in a traumatic memory or loss, or beating themselves up for choices they’ve made. The sad events of our past cannot be changed. The view from 30,000 feet or birds-eye-view makes it clear that our choices were not mistakes, but rather life lessons. I’ve learned many life lessons that have gotten me to the place I am now. I am grateful for them!
Think also for a moment about the fact that we attract or draw to us what we think or worry about. The Law of Attraction is powerful! Also known as “self-fulfilling prophecy” in the psychology world, numerous studies have been done demonstrating it is true. If we believe we will do poorly on a test, we will perform worse than if we believe we’ll ace it. Fact.
So what is the answer? It is to live in the present moment. Let go of the past while cherishing its lessons and look to the future without expectation. For some people this can be really hard to do.
Part of living in the present is being fully present in our body as opposed to being entirely in our head. The brain definitely has a mind of its own. Think about a time you awoke during the night to use the bathroom and the brain took off thinking about something making it difficult to go back to sleep. Ugh. Grounding practices bring us more fully into our body. Breath work, yoga, mudras, essential oils, and crystals can all be supportive in grounding.
Mindfulness practices also help pull us into the present moment. We are so used to multi-tasking. We are doing our banking, placing online orders, checking our kids’ grades, and responding to emails all while we stand in line. It’s not that that’s bad. It can be a great efficiency hack to carve out small periods of otherwise unproductive time, leaving time for the things that really matter. The problem is, the multi-tasking mindset is hard to turn off. Everywhere you see people checking their phones in restaurants, the theatre, and at sporting events. It’s hard, if not impossible, to enjoy those things fully while being distracted by an annoying work email, an electronic bill that’s higher than you expected, or the fact that your child is behind on his homework. Unplugging is only part of the solution. For many, we no longer know what to do once unplugged. Mindfulness practices help. I spoke at an integrative medicine conference a few years ago and was given the opportunity to attend the rest of the conference. I attended a mindfulness talk that utilized an interesting exercise. We were each given an Altoid and the task was to fully experience it with all 5 senses. First I looked at it closely, noticing a few tiny chips and scratches on the surface. I noticed how it felt in my fingers….hard, but not too hard, kind of dusty. Then I smelled it. Finally, I put it in my mouth and tasted it. And for hearing? I bit into it, hearing the crunch. The whole process took less than a minute, but it was a really different experience than rather blindly popping it into my mouth.
My challenge for you today is this. Fully BE in the present. Notice and appreciate the warmth of the sun on your face, the smell of the lilacs, the cool breeze on your skin. Truly connect as you interact with your family and closest friends, placing full attention on your conversation or time together without distractions or multi-tasking. Savor your food. Feel the comfort of your bed as you drift off to sleep. For today, let’s stop and smell the flowers.