• Reflecting on Your Past, Present and Future

    Patrick R. Connelly, LCSW, the Mindful Counseling Center owner and CEO, offers this article as food for thought when transitioning from 2023 to the new year. We have posted it for the last couple years before or around the new year, as it continues to speak to challenges we humans face as we try to make the most of our lives and find balance between our present self and our past and future selves.

    Where are you this year? When have you been? Where are you going?

    With the dawn of a new year almost upon us, I am reminded of long driving trips, passing through several states on an exciting journey to somewhere new.

    Entering a new state [year] can be filled with anticipation, wonder, curiosity and a desire to soak in the sights. It is often connected with positive feelings and emotions. You may notice things that seem different than the places you’ve traveled before, as well as things that look the same or have a certain familiarity. After some time, you may have more of a settled feeling in a new state [year] – you know where you are, and you’re immersed in the experience.

    End-of-Year Reflection

    As you near the start of 2024, you might be contemplating your past, present and future “states.

    • Where have I been?
    • Where am I at right now?
    • Where do I hope the upcoming year’s journey will take me?

    For example, you may be anticipating the approaching year with both positive and negative emotions. There may be places or things that you hope to see and experience. You may also feel uncertain or concerned about what’s to come. On the other hand, you may find yourself revisiting a time in the past year – replaying a conversation, thinking about something you could have said or done differently.

    In the midst of all the looking back and forward, don’t forget to also reflect on your current state in of body and mind, and your connections to others and the world. What are you awed by? What are you grateful for? How do you feel balanced in your life? What is not balanced? What would help restore your balance? What are your challenges and hardships? What is good? 

    Such contemplation can be a way to transition to the new year with a heightened sense of awareness, acceptance and gratitude for things past and present, and a sense of direction of things to come.

    Mind’s Drift Away from Present

    Of course, thinking about what’s to come and what has already transpired is not a phenomenon exclusive to the turn of the year. Instead, they are natural, normal human tendencies, happening countless times every day. Even when you try to remain in the present, it is very easy for your mind to drift into replaying, reminiscing and ruminating on things from before or planning and worrying about the future. 

    Let’s talk a little about not letting rumination, planning and worrying rule the day and consume your precious present moments. 

    Practicing Mindfulness

    Being intentionally mindful can aid you in staying in your present experience. At the very moment you become aware that your thoughts and attention have drifted into the past or future, you are practicing mindfulness. It is that awareness that allows you to return to the present moment.

    Noticing your breath, the sounds around you, the sights you see – all of these are helpful ways to notice, and then come back to and immerse yourself in the present moment.

    It can be helpful to remind yourself that drifting attention and thoughts are a part of our humanness, not a sign that you are “failing” at mindfulness.

    Mindfulness practices can help remind you that the present moment is all that you really have. It is the only state of mind where you have some degree of choice as to how to proceed.

    So, what choices are here for you now – in this moment – as you finish up 2023 and continue your journey into 2024?

    Contact the Mindful Counseling Center at 609-377-5859 for assistance with mindfully staying on course in your journey in this upcoming year of being the person you want to be, no matter the state you are in.

    Also see Why is Mindfulness Important?