A Harvard study resulted in the finding that humans are thinking about the past or the future – meaning not in the present -an eye-popping 47% of the time.
If a person sleeps seven hours a night, that leaves 17 remaining hours. Fully eight of those are spent focusing on what’s already happened and wasn’t hasn’t happened yet. When you’re thinking negative thoughts about what hasn’t happened yet, that’s just unnecessary worry.
What makes it worse is that the study found people are happier being in the present even if the things they are thinking about in the past or future are happy things.
To be clear, doing tasks in the present because of some future need or desire qualifies as being in the present as long as you’re paying attention to what you’re doing. Reflecting on a past project or event in order to do things differently the next time, is also being in the present. You get the drift.
It’s the accidental, unconscious mind-wandering that’s leaving people less fulfilled and satisfied with life in general.
How to Reduce that 47%
To begin shifting your mindset, use a cueing device. Something that will remind you, in any given moment, to think about ‘right now’ instead of the past or future. The old “string around your finger” idea. You see the string and it makes you remember why you put it there.
You can choose an object on your desk or put “Focus on the Present” on your screensaver. Each time you glance at your cueing device, you check in to see where your mind is. With practice you get better at being in the moment – which ultimately makes you happier.