Reframing Your Future
Would you say you are perfectly satisfied with all aspects of your life?
If so, congratulations.
You're well ahead of the game. Most people view their circumstances with mixed feelings.
Whether struggling with painful memories, current challenges, or worries about the future, they are more likely to identify as concerned than content.
But it may be worth your while to consider your circumstances differently, because according to research, perspective predicts positivity.
A Question of Time
Aneta Przepiorka and Malgorzata Sobol-Kwapinska in, "People with Positive Time Perspective are More Grateful and Happier" (2021), found that gratitude mediated the association between time perspective and life satisfaction.
As the authors explain, people with a predominant past time orientation exist in a world of memories and experiences, whether pleasant or traumatic.
People who live in the present are totally absorbed by current events, without considering future consequences, and barely considering past experiences.
Future-oriented people fail to notice present-time pleasures.
Przepiorka and Sobol-Kwapinska (ibid.) note that these perspectives are associated with important facets of human functioning such as energy, self-esteem, affect, mindfulness, happiness, and life satisfaction.
Time Perspective and Life Satisfaction
Apparently, time is of the essence in more ways than one.
Przepiorka and Sobol-Kwapinska (supra) found that positive attitudes towards time were related to increased gratitude and to higher satisfaction with life.
They note that lack of gratitude explains why negative attitude towards past, present, and future is associated with low levels of life satisfaction.
They explain these relationships within the context of the "Pollyanna principle,"described as the tendency to focus on the positive aspects of events while ignoring the negative.
Apparently, that is not always such a bad thing.
Past, Present, and Future
Do you hope for the best or dwell on the past?
This is an important question, and your mood may depend on it. Przepiorka and Sobol-Kwapinska (supra) discussed the links between positive time perspective and different time periods.
They found that the mediating impact of gratitude was strongest within the relationship of Past-Positive perspective and life satisfaction.
They explain these results as demonstrating that individuals who view their past within the positive light of gratitude, experience the strongest level of life satisfaction.
Przepiorka and Sobol-Kwapinska note that gratitude did not explain the relationship between Carpe Diem time perspective and life satisfaction.
They suggest that someone with a strong Carpe Diem perspective makes an effort to focus on the present, regardless of whether it is pleasant or unpleasant — a focus which is not always associated with feeling gratitude. They note that Carpe Diem perspective views time as unique and valuable, but not always pleasant.
Regarding the future, Przepiorka and Sobol-Kwapinska (supra) note that future time perspective is related to life satisfaction, mediated by gratitude, and being able to set goals, anticipate, and plan are important to achieve a sense of well-being.
They point out that future time perspective has been linked with life satisfaction and subjective health, as well as individual motivation in areas including education, work, or environment.
They recognize that future orientation has the potential to yield many types of beneficial outcomes, and also increases happiness through promoting gratefulness for what we expect in the future.
Expecting the Best
Even for people who struggle to reframe past memories or overcome current challenges, there is always hope for a brighter future. Gratitude for what we have and anticipation of better things to come can significantly improve satisfaction with life.
Whether celebrating family, friends, faith, or finances, moving forward with thanksgiving can create an optimistic outlook, and a positive focus on the future.
This column was originally published in Psychology Today.
Wendy L. Patrick, JD, MDiv, PhD, is an award-winning career trial attorney and media commentator. She is host of "Live with Dr. Wendy" on KCBQ, and a daily guest on other media outlets, delivering a lively mix of flash, substance and style. Her over 4,500 media appearances include these major news outlets: CNN, Fox News Channel, HLN, FOX Business Network and weekly appearances on Newsmax. She is author of ''Red Flags'' (St. Martin´s Press), and co-author of The New York Times bestseller "Reading People" (Random House, revision). On a personal note, Dr. Patrick holds a purple belt in Shorin-Ryu karate, participates as a concert violinist with the La Jolla Symphony & Chorus, and plays the electric violin professionally with a rock band. Read Dr. Wendy L. Patrick's Reports — More Here.
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