How connected do you really feel to your future self?
People often find themselves looking into their past in therapy. Their past mistakes, regrets, shame, or anger influence how they see their future. But what if there was a way to build a happier life for the ‘future you’?
According to research by Hal Hershfield, people who have a vivid sense of their future self make better plans in the long run. Instead of giving in to the pleasure of the moment, they think about where they want to be in the future. As a result, they tend to be more responsible with their money and life decisions.
Hershfield’s theory first relied on the participants’ answers. However, his research also included neuroimaging, which affirmed his findings that when people see their future selves as dissimilar to their current selves, they don’t think about how their decisions impact them in the long term.
Hershfield used VR to recreate the older versions of the participants in a virtual environment to test his findings further. He then asked them questions regarding their future, such as their future consumption and weight. Upon meeting their older VR avatars, the participants decided to put more money into their retirement.
Hershfield’s research demonstrates that to create a happier future for ourselves, we need to like the older self we one day will become.
Positive Future Thinking
Inviting people to connect with their future selves and imagine where and how they want to be is nothing new.
Positive psychology is a branch of psychology that helps people focus on the positives in their lives. It’s very beneficial to open your mind up to a better potential future. People can visualize their possible futures by imagining hypothetical positive scenarios.
Instead of fantasizing about things they want to have and who they want to be, positive future thinking actually encourages one to visualize how they can get to where they want to be.
How Imagining the ‘Future You’ Can Help
A good exercise taught in therapy when you experience negative thought patterns about yourself, or your past is to imagine talking to the child version of yourself. It teaches you to take care of your inner child and become gentler to them.
In the same way, you can start thinking about how you would be in the future and how your current actions would affect the ‘future you’. You need to take care of yourself at every age, and preparing for the future is an act of self-love too.
So how can imagining the ‘future you’ help?
It helps you avoid instant gratification
When you have a greater sense of ‘self-continuity’, you choose bigger long-term rewards instead of instant smaller ones. This is called ‘delay discounting’ in psychology. For example, if you imagine yourself living in a lovely home in the future, you are more likely to start saving for a house. To achieve such a realistic goal, you may have to avoid spending money in a way that gives you instant gratification but doesn’t build your future.
It makes you more resilient
Positive future thinking is a muscle you can train. It’s essentially about getting excited about your future and engaging with the ‘future you’. Even if you feel stuck in the past or the present, training your mind to think about the future and how better things can be, makes you more resilient and hopeful. It even gives you more strength to get through what you are currently experiencing.
It helps you become healthier physically and mentally
Hershfield’s research proves that people who feel more connected to their future selves make healthier lifestyle decisions. At the same time, the power of imagining the ‘future you’ is significant when dealing with mental health problems.
Licensed psychotherapist Haley Neidich says, “A new way of thinking changes our thoughts. Being excited or imagining a positive, successful future enables feel-good hormones to be secreted and triggers an actual chemical experience of decreased depression.”
It helps you live a good life
Research shows that people who imagine positive future scenarios are naturally better at stress management. As a result, they are less likely to experience anxiety and sleep better.
However, people who practice positive future thinking must also be mindful of toxic positivity. Positive future thinking doesn’t promote the suppression of emotions or ignoring your problems. Instead, it simply offers an alternative to the negative scenarios you may be creating in your mind.
It helps you get negative thought patterns under control
If you struggle with negative self-talk and pessimistic views on life, using your imagination can help you realize alternative scenarios about your future. You may feel the reality is much closer to the worst-case scenario, but imagining the best-case scenario takes the same effort.
Once you start training your future thinking muscle, you can begin getting negative thought patterns under control. It will also help you overcome the limiting beliefs you have built over the years.
If you are struggling to imagine a positive future for yourself, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help you improve your prospection. This type of therapy works on changing your negative responses to your past, present, and future. It enables you to build a more objective view of yourself and your future.
Please contact our team today if you’d like more information on how Tikvah Lake can help you overcome negative thought patterns and build a healthy and successful future. We’re available 24/7 and are happy to answer any questions you have at any time.