A new trend has developed and it emphasizes the importance of being in the present moment and developing your inner Zen.  However, many people struggle to understand and strike a balance between living in the moment and planning for the future. So, how do we really become present in whatever we are doing, but also plan for the future? The answer is much simpler than you would expect. It’s one word, balance. How do we establish that balance? To answer the question, it would be wise to resort to a scientific explanation that explores the biological effects of living in the moment and planning for the future. Before any assumptions are made- yes, a balance can be established so that a person can attain long term happiness as well as be content with the present.

Science and facts

Dopamine is  primarily released when a person seeks short term satisfaction or pleasure. This hormone has marvelous effects on our body and psyche among which are high attention, improved short-term memory, elation, boldness and a temporary desire to take risks and grab the world by its horns. Some scientists even claim that dopamine is equivalent to “one shot” of heroine. In short, it’s an effective hormone that is released by the body. Now you may ask where is the catch? nothing seems to be wrong in this equation. However, the side effects come from prolactin. It is a hormone that is released once dopamine wears off causing depletion, irritability and depression.

When Dopamine is high, prolactin is low and vice versa. The long-term effects of such a cycle (i.e. constant highs and lows) affects the stability of the entire body and causes lower immunity and speeds up the ageing process of cells. All of this is to say that these cycles can get addictive and promote addictive behavior such as returning to a certain action to seek that short-term gratification. For example, a person gets a “high” when they buy a new car, house or whatever merchandise they acquire. It’s all exciting in the beginning but once you get over the initial phase of excitement the toy becomes something of the past and you start seeking a new objective of gratification.

As for those who seek long term satisfaction, the hormonal effects that take place in the body are quite different. The hormone that is released is called Oxytocin. Some qualities for this hormone are:

  • It gets released at a slower rate than Dopamine
  • Evermore, it is safer, deeper and long-enduring
  • It freely increases in the body without the addictive cycles of Dopamine (the highs and lows)
  • Keeps dopamine from wearing off

In short, Oxytocin lasts longer and is safer once produced. If you were to ask yourself am I really living in the moment or jumping from one new thing to the next? Living in the moment means that you are fully present in every action that you take. You are aware of the things that you are currently doing. You can be present in the moment while also writing down your goals and aspirations for the future with a plan that breaks down how you’re going to achieve what it is that you want. To put it into simpler terms, here is an easy-guide that explains how you can start living in the moment and envisioning for the future:

Living in the present moment

  • Meditate

Being in the Now takes a lot of concentration and practice. It is not something that you will do overnight. The best gift you can give yourself is to start meditating. Meditation has been proven to increase the level of concentration in the mind because it teaches you how to filter your thoughts by learning which ones to focus on and which ones to ignore.

  • Exercise

Exercising not only improves your health, but it also teaches you how to connect your mind with your body so that they can become harmonious together. It is a great way to establish complete presence in whatever you are doing. Take the time to really concentrate when you’re exercising, focus on every rep and you’ll see even better results as you create the muscle-mind connection.

  • Slowing Down

We all know how demanding society can be when it comes to the work that must get done. It is important however, that we stop, take a step back, slow down and go easy on ourselves. This step is crucial for growth. It cultivates within us a sense of calmness and relaxation that allows us to become more grounded with our present. The way I like to picture it is stopping time to do the things I enjoy whether it be going out for a walk or hanging out with good friends.

  • Unplug & Go Wild

An essential part of this process is going after what makes you happy, as the quote states “Happiness is not a destination but a way of life.” Follow your heart and do the things you want to do: travel, hike, camp, dance, sing. Do whatever it is that makes your inner child come out, leave it all on the ground. Your choices that make you happy will allow you to be more present in the things you do because not a care in the world is given when you’re having fun. Being in the present moment comes down to establishing a connection with yourself, accepting your current circumstances, habits, social, personal and academic connections. Living in the now means enjoying what you have.

Planning for the Future

It is important that a balance is struck between living in the moment and making sure your future is secured. Security can mean so many different things for different people, but it all comes down to being able to live comfortably (whatever comfort is for you) without having to worry as much.

  • Set Goals

Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals and writing them down is an important part of planning for the future. You should know where your life is going and what direction you’re going to take. Otherwise, whatever you do will not amount to anything that is going to build you up and ensure that you have the lifestyle that you desire.

  • Have a purpose for what you do (Your WHY)

Lots of people take action without knowing why they do so. Consequently, when they come across a hurdle or obstacle they quit, because they don’t have a reason that pushes them outside of their comfort zone. Therefore, knowing the reason behind what you do and acknowledging WHY you work and push so hard to achieve your goals is essential. It is going to be your guide when the tough gets going and you feel like you no longer believe in yourself. Instead, you’ll be believing in the purpose behind what you do, knowing that it will help elicit change.

  • Set a One, Three, Five and Ten Year Plan

When they said the great set big goals, they weren’t kidding around. It’s the envisioning of a better future that helps you stay focused on what you want. Set goals and a clear plan on how you will accomplish them. See it visually in your mind and start taking the necessary actions for their attainment. For each stage in your life, as you progress, your goals will change and that’s completely normal. They may even change within the year according to your pace or the environment around you.

  • Accountability

Studies have shown that accountability increases the likelihood of a person achieving any goal set. Find someone whom you trust and ask them to hold you accountable for any goal you’ve set.

  • Take Action

Finally, take massive action. Acting towards your goals is the most important step in this plan. If you don’t do anything about your success, no one is going to do it for you. It’s a one-man job and it is only the man who wants to change himself that is going to have to act. If you must change certain habits within yourself, then do so wholeheartedly by setting the stage for a better you and a better future.

From a biological stand point you now understand how short and long term pleasures work. If you’re living in the moment, then you’re choosing to engage in activities that make you happier. In doing so, a change in your mindset takes place because you now realize that happiness is from within and not from external factors. You then go on to doing more of the things that make you happy. Oxytocin is released, because your main drive is now from within, it’s controllable. The more you enjoy the things that you do, the more likely you can focus your energy on that sole activity and thus increase your concentration capacity. Simply put, you start doing more of the things you want, which propel you to a better future.

2 Comments

  1. Hello Nadeen,
    It’s true that striking a balance between present and future is tough and very few can attain a proper one. And, it’s gets more tougher once our past also starts influencing our present. They say that our present decisions and quality of life is somewhere deep down affected by our past too. So, a balance between all three of them is what we all require to enjoy the different planes of life. Awareness and consciousness are the two key elements which should be practiced by everyone to attain that balance.

    • That’s very true. Everything is a balance in the end and every individual’s balance is unique to him or her. For some remembering the past allows them to better their present but for others it could be detrimental and I do agree, awareness and consciousness are very important! Eckhart Tolle’s books are amazing at doing that if you haven’t read them yet 🙂

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