Stop Living in the Past
Have you ever sit back as an adult and wondered how good the ‘Old Days’ used to be? Or a sudden memory from the past made you sigh helplessly, Ah, the Good old days! Maybe, on some of the days, you opened your heart with your friends about how much you miss something from the past. Or you wished to go back in time and do some of your most favorite things all over again? Do you often feel tired of this adult life and wonder why did you ever want to grow up?
Did some of the most embarrassing moments from the past make you laugh so hard that you get out of your breath? Or a memory from the past broke you into tears? And you really do not know the reason why the past is always more fascinating for you? About 70 percent of people think that the world is getting worse.
If you too think like that, if you live in the past all the time, then this article is for you!
I have always wanted to find the scientific answers to all these questions which suggest a strange human behavior. And found out that even the ancient civilizations had the same way of thinking- Declinism (the tendency to believe that the worst is yet to come). ‘Declinism’ is the negative bias that influences the people to view the future negatively while having a positive outlook on the past. Findings suggest that we tend to remember positive outcomes more than the negative ones from our early lives (adulthood, early childhood).
Declinism has been called as the ‘trick of mind’ and as an ‘emotional strategy’, to bring something comfortable from the past to nestle the people when the present seems intolerably dull.
Two main factors of Declinism:
- So-called positivity effect (means that, as people get older, they tend to experience less negative emotions, and they are more likely to remember the positive events over negative ones).
- The Reminiscence Bump (suggests that aged people tend to remember more of those events that happened between the ages of 10-30 years, which means that they remain stuck with the memories from the past.)
Both of these factors can lead people to declinism.
For one reason or another, we often think that the past was better, or was more enjoyable than our present is. But truthfully, more often it’s not, the past wasn’t actually better or more enjoyable; it’s just that we seem to remember it that way, and this occurs for a variety of reasons.
Uncertainty of Future Makes Past Look Better
As humans, we are always craving for certainty. We want to know that our partner will love us forever, we will live in our dream house, our friends will remain our friends till the end, we will be going to get our dream job that we are striving for, and we will always have enough food to fill our bellies and a roof over our heads. But, unfortunately, nothing in the world is 100 percent promised. Instead, life is filled with much uncertainty. We are living in this moment and yet cannot predict what would happen next?
But, now if we look at the past, everything has a complete sense of certainty that what’s going to happen next. We might look back at the fun time with our friends, an enjoyable family gathering, a professional accomplishment, a road trip, or something else. All-knowing that what will be the play out of a particular event beforehand, is all that we need. This is what makes it look more reliable.
The ‘WOW’ Moments Become Hard to Get
When we are young, we experience a lot of things for the first time. You took a ride for the first time, wow! It was amazing. You, for the first time, attended a concert, wow! This was the best concert ever. You got a promotion, wow! That was quite a milestone. These initial experiences can have many ‘WOW’ moments, which can create expectations and a sense of comparison. A comparison between the current moment and the prior golden achievements. The past is comfort food.
Does the present moment really not fun? No, it’s a ‘No’. It is just because you are comparing the current moment with a previous one that ‘wowed’ you a bit. This moment made your expectations high for the next moments, and when the following moments could not amaze you up to that level, you tend to think that the previous moment was the best one. So, stop comparing the current moment with those moments that were a part of your past.
‘Are you enjoying this moment? Yes or no? If No, then you might start to find a reason that will make you answer ‘yes’.
The Maturity Factor
As we get mature (with time), our way of perceiving things change. We become more aware of everything, come to know wrong from right, set some boundaries, become more realistic, and start to think more rationally. The best becomes the new ‘normal’ for us.
For instance, if you read your old chat (say 1-2 years old) you will be amazed at how immature you used to be. Earlier there were fewer tensions, responsibilities, and stress. Now you have got more mistakes, more memories, and more guilt.
Present Pain is Always Worse than the Pain in the Past
Let’s consider some simple questions to understand the concept. Was everything in your past used to be perfect? Haven’t you been through any suffering in the past? Didn’t anything happen in the past upon which you cried a lot? The answer is ‘No’.
A lot of awful things happened to you in the past. Suppose, while playing football you broke your ankle at the age of 9. You still remember that it was very painful, and you have the scar. a few days back, you fell from the stairs and broke one of your legs. Does the broken leg hurt you more than the broken ankle?
Yes. It is because the broken leg is hurting you now. You are mentally and physically present at the moment. And any present pain is worse than the pain from the past. Yesterday is a day in which we do not suffer anymore. So, we think it is better than today.
Your Confidence Level Boosts Up
As we grow older, we come to recognize the life lessons from past experiences and how all those struggles have helped us to reach where we are now. It is very common for someone to look back at the prior stresses with a mentality that ‘it was not so bad after all’. And you get the confidence that if such a thing happens again you will get through it easily. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you experienced the past positively as you experienced those stressors first-hand the first time around, it just means that you have more confidence now if you were faced with a similar difficulty.
Fewer Social Comparison
A few years back, social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter either were not as popular or did not even exist. Back then, people were more contented with their fates.
While it’s hard to break its habit now, and we are repeatedly comparing ourselves. There is an immense need to minimize the social comparison tendencies because life isn’t a competition among others, but rather it’s you competing against yourself.
Focus on what you are doing, and what brings the best out of you. Because your life purpose is to live a fulfilling life of your own.
Tips to Enjoy the Present You Don’t Need to Escape From:
Now you don’t need to live in the past. Here are the tips to enjoy the present.
- Be comfortable with the life uncertainties (if everything becomes predictable then where is the fun.)
- Live in the present (live fully in the present. In the future, you’ll be cherishing the memories of today.)
- Appreciate everything (appreciate everything you have and from everything you are being protected.)
- Do what you love, and love what you do (If you just “survive” the workweek constantly waiting for the next weekend “to get here,” you are wasting 71% of your life (5/7 days.) There are two solutions: find a new job that you actually enjoy, or find something that you appreciate about your current career)
- Dream for a better future but work hard today (Don’t allow dreaming about tomorrow to replace living in the moment)
- Don’t embellish and dwell on past accomplishments (there is still plenty of time to build upon the past successes)
- Manage your expectations (not everything you work for is going to be the best thing you have ever done)
- Minimize comparison (you are not here to impress anyone, you have got your own set of priorities, and rules to act upon. So, focus on that)