Monday, September 14, 2009

Future vs Present: Who Won The Game?

30 days ago, I wrote an article on generation Y – my generation – and the reasons why we are so obsessed with the future and the present is so neglected. At this time, I decided to challenge myself. I decided that during the upcoming month, I was going to stay in the present no matter what and observe how I felt afterwards. The month is now gone and I’m here for a making–up.

Honestly, I never thought it would be that hard. It’s crazy how many times a day I thought about the future! It took me so much energy and I didn’t even know it. My challenge was huge because September was going to be the starting point of a new life for me so my mind was kind of contaminated with loads of questions, fears and excitation.

The first two weeks, I have to say I was heading for my fall. I couldn’t control myself: I kept on asking 300 questions everyday, dreaming every night about my first day in the UK and so on.

But I eventually managed to establish a few tricks to focus on the present. Here are some of them:

¤ A 1 minute meditation exercise. Take a deep breath in and then a deep breath out. Once again a deep breath in, tell yourself everything is going to be okay, and then a deep breath out (just focus on the air getting out of your rib cage). And do it again. You can of course change your mantra depending of the situation and the fear you’re experiencing. After one minute, you’ll feel much better AND you stop thinking about what is going to be next.

¤ My mind tended to fly away as soon as I was taking the subway, walking or stopping at red lights when I was driving. Therefore, I decided to focus on details around me: the blue sky, flowers in the streets, cute guys (hey every detail is good ^^). And as I was doing it I was saying myself stuff like “aw this is pretty/cool/awesome/” and this way I was focusing on something else than my thoughts. So just pick something you like around you and make little comments to yourself. It feels so good and it calms your mind immediately.

¤ Yoga. I practice many sports. I enjoy running but unfortunately I also do my grocery shopping list while I’m doing it so not the right solution! However yoga is perfect because you focus on your respiration and the stretching in the different parts of your body -> Focusing is the key, you only have to concentrate on something and then the future thoughts go away.

¤ Finally, last trick: learning to differentiate « toxic thoughts » from other ones : you can think about the future, of course, but only in some cases. Start by a making up: Here are the facts: what I know, what I don’t know, what I want to know. And then ask yourself which of the questions you’re asking yourself are truly important. Once you made this first selection, make an other one with the important thoughts: what can you do right now ?

Okay, you may need an exemple here :

The facts: I’m moving in a student house in the uk on September 19th

What I know: I know exactly where my house is.

What I don’t know & want to know: what are the furnitures in the room. who are my flatmate. how many shoes I should bring.

Relevant questions: what are the furnitures in my room ? ( so that I know what I need to bring)

Irrelevant questions: shoes are not that important, if i need more, i’ll buy at Topshop. Flatmates are important but I really can’t do anything about it right now, only waiting, so let’s stop focusing on that.

What can I do now: send an email to the person in charge of the accomodation and ask him about the room.

See, if you can do something right now about your future, do it. It will tranquilize you. If you can’t, then try to focus on something else.

So, concerning the fight between present and future, I say the present won the challenge. It was hard but I did it and I feel so much better now. There’s definitely less anxiety. Stress is coming from thoughts about stuff that haven’t happened yet so if you focus on the present, it disappears. Just so you know, it takes about 3 weeks to make it a habit. Give it a try and you won’t regret it. I promise!

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