How Thinking About The Distant Future Can Lower Your Stress

Personal Development

You’ve heard it before: Be in the present. Relax in the Now.

In fact, popular meditative practices, such as Yoga, Pilates, Qi Gong, are geared toward alleviating stress by assisting you to calm down and savor the preciousness of this moment.

Being in the present is associated with lower levels of stress and wellbeing. A recent study published in the medical journal, The Lancet, showed that mindfulness-based therapy is equally as good as pills in treating recurring depression.

There is no doubt that practicing mindfulness can help to minimize chronic worry and stress. But thinking about the future can be equally helpful in eliminating the day to day stresses that could have an adverse effect on your emotional and physical wellbeing.

So, here are some therapeutic benefits of future thinking:

Mitigating guilt from impulsive behavior

photo-1427348693976-99e4aca06bb9If you have ever been eager about attending an event such as a wedding or a pool party, it is likely that you took precaution over your diet.

Tempting as it was to consume all those cookies, dips and fries, you kept yourself from doing it because you wanted to look your best at the poolside or at the wedding.

If you broke down and binged on these unhealthy foods, you would certainly spiral into a whirlwind of guilt. Chronic guilt is a sure way of falling into an abyss of stress.

Thinking about possible future events can reduce your disposition to engage in impulsive behavior, which could later be a source of stress.

Researchers from the University Of Buffalo School Of Medicine confirmed that future thinking could deter guilt-inducing instant-gratification.

In the study, overweight women were asked to think about a future event and then they were later given food and told to eat as much as they wanted. Another group of women were not asked to think about the future, but they too were given as much food to eat later. The study found that the first group of women who were asked to think about the future ate fewer calories than those who did not think about the future.

Gaining a clearer perspective

Sometimes, events that seem catastrophic right now may fade in comparison when you think about the future.

For example, if you have a minor squabble with your partner, this event may seem very overwhelming in the present. It gets you angry, frustrated and utterly stressed out. But when you think about the future possibilities you and your partner have, the impact of the quarrel may seem negligible.

In another recent study, researchers found that students who had failed their mid-term exam tended to be less stressed when they thought about the future.

Future thinking did not have an impact on motivation on these students but it gave them a better perspective on how to improve their performance.

The study showed that the students who adopted a long-term-perspective often performed better in their final exam than they did in their mid-term.

It makes you more optimistic and resilient

Even if the present looks bleak, thinking about the future can help to keep you going against all odds.

Marianne Williamson, a spiritual teacher and New York Times bestselling author of a Course in Miracles observes that something beautiful happens to people when their world falls apart—an intelligence emerges that gives them unprecedented resilience to live another day and to take another step.

Resilient optimism is not a kind of ‘woo-woo’ living in a bubble act. Rather, it is a strong faith in the idea that the future will turn out better than the present.

On the contrary, failing to look beyond today’s problems, being unable to imagine a better future can lead to immense pressure and even depression.

Thinking About the Distant Future

There is a fine line between appreciating the Now and revelling in the magic that emanates from the present, and projecting your thoughts into the future to see the hopeful possibilities. Yet, there is nothing wrong with any of these two perspectives; both can be invaluable in minimizing your disposition to stress.

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