In my perfect world, I don’t think I’d ever leave the present moment.
I would dwell in a state of blissful awareness of the now, paying attention to only what is directly in front of me, both literally and metaphorically.
Unfortunately, that’s not how the real world operates.
Unless you’re a Buddhist Monk, there are going to be times when we need to step out of the present moment and deal with things in the future. There are also times when we need to look back on the past and learn from it what we can.
Stepping out of the present moment can sometimes be a good thing. It allows us to set goals, visualize our dreams, and make plans for the future. It also allows us to be grateful for our past, and reflect on the lessons life has taught us.
Unfortunately, stepping out of the present moment can also be quite damaging. We may worry about the uncertainty future or become anxious in the face of the unknown. We may also experience regret or anger when looking at the past.
For a long time, I had a trouble balancing the present moment with the past and future. I would almost always dwell far too deeply in the future, which gave me severe anxiety. I would dwell in the past quite a bit too, which often involve me becoming frustrated at some past event, experience, or person.
Then, after months of frequent meditation, I would sometimes find myself unable to properly plan, set goals, and learn from the past. I wasn’t reflecting on the lessons life had taught me nor was I the captain of my own journey through life.
Around this time is when I stumbled upon journaling.
I started with The 5 Minute Journal, which has 5 simple prompts which I still use to this day:
- 3 things you’re grateful for
- 3 things you want to accomplish today
- Daily mantra/affirmations
- 3 amazing things that happened today
- What could have made today even better?
This exercise is built to take you out of the present moment. In both the morning and nighttime ritual, you are stepping back and looking at both the past and the future. The odd thing journaling is that although you are temporarily taking yourself out of the present, what I’ve found is that it makes mindfulness much easier throughout the rest of the day or night.
I think it’s because it gives you a structured time to sit down and think about the future. It gives you the opportunity to take yourself out of the now and worry about all the things you’re worried about. It lets you take all those thoughts, anxieties, and to-do’s out of your head and into the real world.
That laundry list of tasks and to-do’s doesn’t look so daunting when you put them on paper, does it?
Likewise, that embarrassing presentation you had at work today doesn’t look so bad when you write down what you learned from it and move on.
Journalling is like weight lifting or running, in a way – it temporarily feels painful, however, the benefits when you are done exercising, both mentally or physically, far outweigh the temporary pain.
There is one caveat though: journalling won’t do you any good if you continue to worry about the future and dwell on the past outside of your journal.
Use your journal like a distraction-catcher – anytime you need to go out of the present moment, make it a habit to try and journal about it. Keep it nearby, and take the thoughts of the future and past out of your head. Use your journaling time every day to reflect and plan so that you can spend your day where you were meant to be – in the now.