Have you ever been driving, got to your destination and can’t remember anything about the journey? Yep, me too!
Why is that?
Chances are you will have been thinking throughout the duration of the journey, you were living in your thoughts. The thing is, most of us spend over 80% of our time in our thoughts. That’s a long time in our imagination.
Is this a good or a bad thing?
This depends on what you are thinking of. If it’s positive, that’s good. If it’s negative, that’s bad. Also, just think about that journey where you can’t remember any part it, you can’t recall the surroundings or worse still you can’t even remember focusing on the road!! What use is that?
So, not only do we miss a lot when we are in thought, if those thoughts are negative they will also have a massive impact on our emotions and brain biology.
Depressed or anxious?
If you are experiencing bouts of depression or anxiety, you are living in your thoughts. Thoughts happen for a reason and this is a complex subject, but when it boils down to why we feel depressed or anxious, it is because of our thoughts.
Live in the present
If we are anxious, we are living in the future.
This is the worry of something that we have to face, maybe an interview or something we have never done before. Subconsciously our minds will have already made a decision on what it means to us by the experiences you have had in the past, or what knowledge you have been exposed to on the subject. If we have never experienced it before, then this is usually the thought of ‘what if’. However, the ‘what if’ thought is usually based on what we have been told ‘might’ happen, not necessarily on what we have experienced.
What if I mess up, this means I am a failure and it will feel awful and be embarrassing for this to happen whilst I’m there.
If we feel depressed, we are living in the past.
Maybe it was a regret, something you should have done or said, or maybe it was something that happened in the past that is now a reference for how you will feel or behave in the future. A bad experience on a plane maybe?
Whichever it is, these thoughts trigger emotions and in the case of a negative thought, it’s a negative emotion.
We can’t change the past and we can’t predict the future, therefore we MUST live in the present
Don’t get me wrong, we often need to recall thoughts that have happened in the past and use this to prepare for the future, but we must use these thoughts in a positive manner.
We miss so much by living in our thoughts in a negative way, just think back to that vehicle journey. Thoughts are natural, it’s our brain’s way of trying to protect us, always assessing the present situation subconsciously based on what experiences we have had in the past. We can’t get away from this, so we have to learn to accept them.
Accept the thought and stay in the present
The next time you are feeling anxious or worried, just think about where you are at that moment, whats the worse that can happen? Are you in danger? If thoughts of ‘what if’ creep in, that’s fine, just accept them and come back to the present.
If you are not in thought, there can be no emotion, remember that. Look at the physical things around you, focus on your breathing and body or an object. Don’t make any judgments or thoughts about them, just accept them for what they are, and stay in the now.
What if depression or anxiety feels like it is in the present?
Subconscious reactions happen instantly and feel like they are happening in the present, however, this is the emotional response that is happening based on the reference for behaviour that was most likely created in the past. A friend of mine read my article and sent this to me to think about.
Just two things to think about. I can be worried in the present, not just about the future. While I lie in bed I hear noises downstairs, I’m worried. Is someone breaking into my house? What danger am I in?
The noise is the trigger, however, your subconscious then relates the noise to ‘what if someone is breaking into my house’ so you are now thinking in the future, a ‘what if’. This is the thought of the past (learnt behaviour) where the brain has already associated the noise late at night with someone breaking in. We then kick into survival mode, become more alert and prepare for the ‘what if’. However at that present moment, this is just a noise, it’s the subconscious thought (reference for behaviour) that gives it a meaning (someone breaking in).
This is not always a bad thing, we need reactions like this to survive, but if these ‘thoughts’ are stopping you from sleeping at night, you may need to look at practising being in the present.
Also, I can be depressed about the present as well as the past. If things were not working out in my marriage I could be depressed about the current situation, no physical relations, financial problems etc.
If your marriage is not working out for whatever reason, you would have created references for behaviour based on previous incidents/experiences that may make you feel depressed in the present (the emotional response to the thought). If this is affecting your present situation, you have a choice on how to deal with those thoughts now, in the present.
Again, like the above example, these thoughts and references for behaviour are there for a reason. If they are giving you a negative reaction, it means that something is not right. What we must do is not dwell on those thoughts or we will go into a depressive state. Do what you can change now and deal with what is not working, right now, in the present.
Control what you do now, in the present
Remember this, we can’t change the past and we can’t predict the future. What we can do and what we do have control over is what we do now, this includes what we think about. If you are not in thought, there can be no emotion. If there is no emotion, there are no feelings of depression or anxiety.
For those of you who would like to read some more information on this, I have recently read a great book which can help which is called ‘Practising the Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle. Let me know what you think.