This Too Shall Pass: Thinking About Now From the Future Reduces Stress
Research shows that the ability to think about how we'll feel about something in the future can help us get through difficult situations and reduce negative emotions. Here's how to do it.
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Temporal distancing refers to our ability to think about the outcomes of stressful events in the relatively far future. For example, you might tell yourself that “time heals all wounds” or “this too shall pass.” The ability to think about a future when you will no longer be feeling so bad helps you get through difficult situations. It can reduce the intensity of negative emotions and the distress caused by the situation.
Practice Temporal Distancing
Recall a recent stressful event. Be sure to choose something very specific. For example, try to recall “When Sam broke up with you” instead of relationship break ups in general. Now imagine what your life will be like 5 years after this event. Ask yourself these questions for help with temporal distancing.
In 5 years, what will you be doing?
How will you be spending your time?
How will you be feeling?
How will you feel about this particular event?
Think or write about your life 5 years after the event.
Use Google Calendar to Practice Temporal Distancing
Next time you are really upset about something, open Google Calendar and find the date that is one year after the stressful event. In the Description box, reflect on how you feel now and how you think you’ll feel in the future. Set a notification for this date to remind you to reflect on how your feelings have changed in a year.
And next time you are in the midst of a stressful situation, try to look at the situation from a point in the future.
About Dr. Tchiki Davis
Dr. Davis is founder of The Berkeley Well-Being Institute. After getting her PhD in psychology at Berkeley, she started creating online content & programs to boost well-being—some of these have reached more than a million people. As author of Outsmart Your Smartphone, and contributor to Psychology Today, The Greater Good Science Center, and Shine Text, Dr. Davis aims to share her insights on happiness & health with people all across the world. Learn more about Dr. Davis.