One of the things that I often find myself discussing with clients is our concept of time. Time confuses me. I once went on a trans-Pacific flight to Thailand. It was light out for 15 hours and I watched the sun set and rise. When I got off the flight, I was in the future, but it was actually the present. It was hard for me to wrap my mind around until I began to view time differently. In our Western culture, time is understood as being linear -> past-present-future, and researchers have found that this perception of time has a major impact on our emotions.
Some people spend a lot of time and energy getting stuck replaying problematic events in their past like a movie (e.g. "If only I hadn't been taken advantage of, I would be happy"). Others worry incessantly about the outcomes of far off, future events (e.g. "What if I never meet the man of my dreams?"). Ryan Howell at San Francisco State University determined having a "balanced time perspective can make people feel more vital, more grateful, and more satisfied with their lives."
A balanced time perspective is the ability to hold the past, present and future in equal regard. If you focus too heavily on the past, the present or the future, negative emotions and outcomes can result. For example, focusing too much on a terrible childhood could limit you from experiencing the joys in your life each day. Treating your self to a night on the town may be a great way to enjoy the present, but could create problems if you were to "live in the present" every night of the week. Finally, too much emphasis on the future may leave you worrying about the unpredictable nature of the unknown or leave you paralyzed to make changes in your day to day life. If you find yourself focusing on a certain time perspective more than the others it may be worthwhile to try to balance your focus.
San Francisco State University. (2012, April 30). "Happy People Have A 'Balanced Time Perspective'." Medical News Today. Retrieved from
Licensed Psychologist in Fredericton, N.B.