One root of both depression and anxiety is where you live…

Anything that requires your total focus on the present moment will distract you from other issues.  How can we use this knowledge to an advantage?  What are the issues that we should be avoiding?  Very simply put, the past and the future, because more often than not their consideration is unhelpful.  Let me be open this up a bit.  

Some people live in the past, some with regrets that are irresolvable, dispiriting and ultimately depressing.  Some live in the past with a, usually false, sense of nostalgia (even nostalgia is not as good as it used to be) but enjoying happy memories can easily become grasping for a lost past that can never be; this also becomes depressing.  Of course, the past should be remembered.  At the very least, so that mistakes aren’t repeated, but also so that opportunities for gratitude aren’t missed.  But the past is only a place to mentally visit, you can’t live there.

Some people try to live in the future with optimistic expectation.  They are like people on a cruise ship holiday, who instead of enjoying the views as they pass and the wonderful amenities of the ship, are locked in their cabins eagerly hoping that it will be great when they arrive, not realising that when they ‘arrive’ the cruise is over.  Some people will spend the week, waiting for the weekend.  They work through the year waiting for their holiday, but because they are in the habit of thinking in this way, they can’t help spending their holiday counting down the days till they go back to work, usually with dread.  They tell themselves that things will be great when they leave school, when they finish University, when they get a boy/girl friend, when they get married, when they have kids, when they get that promotion, when the kids leave home.  These people look forward to retiring to the point that they wish they could miss all the bit in-between.  Then they look forward to grand kids coming to visit.  Optimism for the future can easily express itself as a permanent sense of lack and distress in the present moment, and we only ever live in this present moment.  That, of course, is just the optimistic ones.  Others will spend their lives noticing the uncertainty of the future and realise that so many things could go wrong that they spend all their time worrying about so many things that if any of the anticipated bad things that actually happen, have already accounted for more suffering in its anticipation than it will in its actualisation.  Again, the future is a place to mentally visit. You should consider the good prospects and look forward to them, consider the possible dangers and take sensible precautions.  But you can’t live there as it doesn’t exist.  The tendency to live in the future creates great anxiety, whether you are optimistic or pessimistic.

Obviously, some clever people manage to flip between the past and the future in their thoughts and manage to have both depression and anxiety.

Right now, is the place to live.  Look out of the window and enjoy the ride.  Stop and smell the roses.  This moment is probably not that bad.  Probably none of the terrible things that have happened in the past are happening.  Probably none of the terrible things that might happen in the future are happening.  Right now, billions of bits of information are entering your brain from your senses and most of them are nice.  Take a moment to notice everything you can feel from your toes to the top of your head.  Notice everything you can hear… everything.  Now use your peripheral vision to take in everything you can see.  (Fix your eyes on one point, then notice the very right and left, top and bottom of your vision).  What can you smell or taste?

Whatever you are doing give it your full attention.  Notice the good aspects of it.  When you are washing up, notice how wonderful warm water is!  You’re waiting for a bus, how splendid are those clouds, the birds?  Don’t drop the plates and don’t miss the bus; that wouldn’t be your full attention, but if you haven’t noticed the water or the clouds then you weren’t giving it your full attention either.

Live now, for it is the only time you can.  Enjoy the journey.  The journey may be all there is.