So much in our everyday lives can have an impact on our mental health, both positively and negatively.
Work, relationships, education. These are all things we dedicate so much time to, that we don’t necessarily think about how they might be having a detrimental impact on our mental wellbeing, particularly in times as difficult as these. They’re just there, a part of our day we can’t change.
Something we can change, however, is our outlook. How we think about the past, present and future can be vital for our mental health, particularly the latter. But when considering your mental health, is it better to plan for the future or let yourself live in the moment?
It Gives You Something To Look Forward To
A common trait amongst people who suffer with their mental health is a feeling of hopelessness about their future. If you have no future, then what’s the point in today? How do you get yourself out of bed every morning if you aren’t taking small steps every day to where you want to be? Alternatively, if you have a plan for your life, however vague it might be, it makes it much easier to perceive the here and now positively.
Individuals need goals to work towards. That doesn’t even need to be a promotion or a relationship milestone, it can equally be a sense of relief. Working towards a few days off or a holiday can give you a sense you’re moving along in your life, heading towards a light at the end of your darkening tunnel.
While it won’t solve all of your problems in the here and now, planning for the future can make your future feel more realistic. That notepad full of steps and goals reminds you the dark times will end, even if you just need to push a little harder.
It Makes Difficult Decisions More Manageable
Life throws difficult decisions at us every day. Sometimes we can’t do anything about those decisions, other times we’re forced into them to try and improve our lives. The more we try and better ourselves and our situation, the more difficult decisions pop up, and that can adversely affect our mental health.
Take buying a home, for example. This decision forces you to face a myriad of other difficult decisions. Which area should I buy in? What do I need to get a pre approved mortgage? What level of renovations can I afford to fix? Whether it’s a busted wall or a mortgage pre-approval, you’re going to have questions spinning around in your mind keeping you up at night.
By planning this somewhat in advance, it makes difficult decisions and the life changes that come with them easier to manage. Drawing up a list of pros and cons seems more attainable, as your plans have helped you draw conclusions in advance and consider alternative outcomes.
Planning for the future might not immediately solve difficult decisions, but it puts you in a strong starting position to manage them.
It Makes Your Goals More Attainable
In much the same way that planning for the future makes your goals more manageable, it also makes them more attainable.
There’s something about a circled date on your calendar or ticks on your checklist that makes it easier to work towards the future. Without a plan, life can feel unorganized and out of control. With one, your goals suddenly become a much more accessible list you simply need to work through.
After all, taking these one step at a time is what self-growth is all about. If you can start to view the challenges in your life as scalable walls, you’ll be jumping over them in no time.
Your stress and mental health concerns will never subside if you continue to look at the future and what you want from it as some far off dream you’re never going to be in the right place to achieve. A good plan simplifies that future and makes it attainable, no matter what you might think about yourself right now.
Or Should You Live In The Moment?
Alternatively, living in the moment could be the key to improving your mental health.
While planning for the future and looking forwards is healthy, sometimes it’s important to take a step back and take stock of how far you’ve come already.
Living in the moment helps you:
- Acknowledge your achievements
- Enjoy every second of the day
- Reduce your stress levels about the future
- Take more risks in the moment
Ironically, this thinking can also help you plan better for the future. That snap decision might introduce you to someone who could change your life. Taking stock of your past achievements can help you put your dreams into perspective and solidify your plan.
It’s impossible to say that something will or won’t positively impact your mental health. Everyone is different, struggling with unique problems created by unique material conditions.
However, many people have been able to change their mindset through some simple planning for the future. Remember it’s important to not try and map out every step of the next week, year or decade, but have something to work towards. After all, you’re never sure how things are going to change.