While most would agree that reflecting on the past isn’t always a good thing, I think it’s worthwhile remembering achievements you’ve had, situations you’ve come through and reliving happy memories.
Last week I took some time to think about some of things that have happened over the course of the last four years. I graduated university; I gave a speech at an event with hundreds of people; I had an amazing year long internship; I got promoted in the first job I ever had, I went on the most amazing holiday to San Sebastian; I joined an incredible MH community; my sister got married; I’m travelling more now than I ever have before; I landed my dream job and I’m filming videos and teaching in schools about mental health.
That’s not to say I haven’t had difficult patches throughout and I think it’s important to reflect on them to see how they’ve changed you, for the better. I sadly lost three grandparents in a short space of time; watched my family struggle to adapt to losing central figures; had emergency surgery; was unwell for nearly a year after; I got very down about not having a job after university; got diagnosed with depression and struggled massively with my body image and confidence. But all those things, as cringy as it sounds, have made me into who I am today.
Living in the present is about recognising all of the above things I’ve mentioned as they happen. It’s about taking each day as it comes and not putting so much focus on the months or years that lie ahead. It’s about taking notice of and taking pleasure in the things that happen every day around you; the extra few minutes you give yourself in bed in the morning; the last cup of tea you drink before you go to bed for the night; sitting round a table with your family members having a laugh. It’s about recognising your achievements and rewarding yourself for them at the time.
It’s not about worrying what will happen years down the line; whether you’ll be married and have kids; whether you’ll still be in the same job or have the same friends; it’s not about worrying how you’ll cope if something bad happens. It’s so difficult not to worry about those things, however, and too often they creep up on you without even realising.
Living in the present helps you to do the above, less. It takes time to learn to live in the present, and it’s something I remind myself about on a daily basis but it’s incredible. It helps you to take those risks you never would’ve imagined before because all you’re thinking about at that time is what you’re doing there and then. You aren’t thinking about yesterday and you aren’t thinking about tomorrow.
If there is one thing I’ll never forget from the first counsellor I had, it’s to live in the present.
It’s incredibly freeing. It’s incredibly hard to do. But it is incredibly worthwhile.