If you are depressed, you are living in the Past. If you are anxious, living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the moment.

If you are depressed, you are living in the Past. If you are anxious, living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the moment. – Lao Tzu also attributed to Junia Bretas (see comments for details)

Is this guy in the present? From his body language, I would guess not.

Is this guy in the present? From his body language, I would guess that he is not. We can put the past behind us, if we try.

What does that mean?
This quote is a favorite of mine, even if I can’t find a solid attribution (but lots of places say it’s his quote).

If we are focused on the past, we are probably depressed. We’re either comparing today to how good things used to be in the past, or we are second guessing decisions we made or actions we took some time ago.

If we are focused on the future, we are probably anxious. We’re either worried about how badly things could turn out, or we are worried that the decisions we made yesterday won’t help us as much as we might have hoped.

If we are focused on this moment, largely to the exclusion of the past and future, we are mostly at peace. By focusing on what can be done, and doing it right now, we are doing the best we can, and that is all the more we can do.

Why is focusing on the present important?  
According to the quote, and backed up by my personal experience, spending too much time regretting the past or worrying about the future gains us nothing. The only thing over which we have any control is the present, and that is where it is most important to focus our attention and energies.

That isn’t to say we cannot learn from the past. It does not mean we shouldn’t plan for the future. It just says that we shouldn’t live there. By living in the present, we can put what we learned to good use, and execute our plans.

Focusing on the present keeps our attention on the important tasks, on the things we have (hopefully) selected as some of the most important things we need to accomplish at that time. It helps us to live a life with fewer regrets about the past, and less anxiety for the future. Why? Because we stayed focused got it done.

Where can I apply this in my life?
All of that said, I imagine pretty much all of us have some anxiety about the future, and are somewhat depressed about the past from time to time, or about certain things in our lives. That appears to be normal human behavior. Not optimum, but common.

That said, let’s take a moment to consider when we have been anxious about the future. Can you think of certain specific times when that was the case? In those times, on what were you focused? How well did that work for you? When and how did the anxiety abate? Did you change focus and get over it, or did it remain until the event moved from future to past?

Speaking of the past, can you remember any times when you had regrets about the past? Did any of them leave you feeling a bit depressed or unmotivated about what had happened? In those times, on what were you focused? How well did that work for you? When and how did the depression or regret abate? Did you change focus and get over it, or did it fade with time?

Now, let us look at the present (even though it may have happened in the past). When have you been calm, collected, and going with the flow? When have you been living in the moment? How good was that feeling? Did you waste any time or energy on regret or anxiety? Can you remember a time like that?

Hopefully you were able to remember a few instances of each of these. Try to remember how you got out of being anxious about the future, and how you got over the depression of past events. Take a moment and write down a few ideas about how you might do it, should you ever find yourself in that situation again.

But to know you need to use one of these techniques, you have to notice that you have stepped out of the present. What are some of the clues you noticed in your times of anxiety or regret? How can you better notice that you are no longer in the present? Can you get help from a friend, who might notice your anxiety or depression before you do?

Ultimately, it’s up to you to figure out how much effort you are willing to put into living in the present. That may depend on your tolerance of anxiety and depression, or your dislike of the peace and tranquility of being in the present. But now it is a conscious decision, not an accident.

From: Twitter, @Thinkiatry
confirmed at : http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/523350-if-you-are-depressed-you-are-living-in-the-past (no specific source, but widely attributed to him)
Photo by Fahad Khalil

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33 Responses to If you are depressed, you are living in the Past. If you are anxious, living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the moment.

  1. Sarah 11 February 2016 at 8:28 pm #

    This is a VERY hurtful quote. It seems very blaming. While I agree that we can focus too much on things we can’t do anything about, depression and anxiety is not always about the past or the future. It sometimes just is due to biology or sometimes your present that is out of control. It’s like people who tell someone who is clinically depressed that they just need to think more positively or exercise or take vitamins and they’ll be fine.

    • philosiblog 15 February 2016 at 10:48 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by, and for expressing your concern.

      Quotes are just words. Yet you say you are bothered by them, and then in the third sentence, agree with my primary focus of the blog post. In the fourth sentence, you agree with my comments about over sensitivity and outlying (or underlying) medical issues.

      I’m not sure how you came to your conclusion (final sentence) based on the prior sentences. And my blog does no such thing. If you are turning to my blog for medical advice, you’re doing it wrong. If you think you have a medical condition, seek medical help. If you are considering why you have a pattern of being glum when you reflect and anxious when you project, then this quote might apply to you, and my blog post on it might be insightful. If you are clinically depressed or diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, my blog post might not be the best place for you to consider for your medical treatment. Once you’re on an even keel, biochemically speaking, perhaps the topic may be of more use.

  2. mpshaw 5 December 2015 at 8:14 am #

    What a load of rubbish. It implies that depression and anxiety are some kind if opposite, which they’re not, many people suffer from both. Also “the present is the only thing we can change”, so you’re not changing the future?

    • philosiblog 14 December 2015 at 8:00 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by, and for leaving a comment.

      It sounds like we are talking about two different things, although they have the same names, so I am sorry if my use of the terms caused you to misunderstand my point. The quote and I are discussing simple feelings of depression or anxiety in an otherwise normal person. It looks like you are talking about a clinical diagnosis of depression and/or anxiety, which is a medical condition. Hopefully you aren’t here at my blog for a medical diagnosis or recommendations, right?

      As for the future, it’s not here, so we cannot act on it. Our actions in the present may alter our path, and thus the future we eventually arrive at, but we cannot directly change the future. Does that make more sense now, or do you still take issue with the concept?

  3. Amerhan29 18 February 2015 at 12:44 pm #

    I really appreciate this very well explanation. Without this I cannot get the exact meaning of this saying.. (I mean)…. THANKS 🙂

    • philosiblog 8 March 2015 at 1:07 am #

      Thanks for stopping by and for leaving such a kind comment.

  4. gina 7 November 2014 at 5:50 pm #

    I really appreciate your way with words. Obviously the quote resonated with you and you put it into such a nice perspective. You never know when you are going to stumble across something you desperately need, thank you. Hopefully I will find some free time and get to look over the rest of your blog because I imagine there’s a lot I would appreciate it.

    • philosiblog 17 November 2014 at 5:53 am #

      Thanks for the kind words, and I hope to hear from you again, after you’ve taken the time to browse some of my other posts.

      Yes, that quote resonated with me. I find myself divided by topic. For some things, I am depressed. In other things, I am anxious. Fortunately, there are some things with which I am at peace. I simply try to reduce the depression and anxiety, and slowly move things into the category of ‘at peace.’

      I hope you can also find a way to move more things into that category. And keep smiling, at least it works for me. 8)

  5. LMV Touw 2 February 2014 at 7:13 pm #

    “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” This is NOT a Lao Tzu quote but a translation of “Depressão é excesso de passado em nossas mentes. Ansiedade excesso de futuro. O momento presente é a chave para a cura de todos oa males mentais.” By Junia Bretas, a Brazilian motivational speaker
    Please remove name saying the quote is from the Lao tzu and, if you wish to continue offering the quote, change to provide correct attribution as well as changing the metatags.
    Thank you
    LMVTouw, Taoist

    • philosiblog 2 February 2014 at 8:14 pm #

      Thanks for the update on the origin of the quote. I guess that because the quote was a foreign language, none of my searches could find it.

      Do you have a bio link for Junia Bretas? Everything I can find is in a language I don’t understand (probably Portuguese, isn’t that what Brazil uses?) Also not coming up with any better citations for the quote than I did for Lao Tzu, can you help there either?

      Thanks for helping to make the site better.

    • jim 3 March 2014 at 4:23 pm #

      omg, shut up!

  6. Jax 29 January 2014 at 11:10 pm #

    This quote, and the insight was very help in the fact that most of my down time come because of me revisiting the past. I found this sight yesterday, and I have stumbled upon a true jem. Thanks you kindly!

    • philosiblog 31 January 2014 at 4:06 am #

      Glad you found the quote, and that you found it to be of use to you.

      Remember that you are stronger than you think.

  7. Dilkhush Sane 21 January 2014 at 8:38 am #

    Can you give a citation for the saying? I have not read it anywhere. Maybe I need to do some catching up.

    • philosiblog 21 January 2014 at 10:06 pm #

      Nope. As I stated in the article (at the bottom where I give citations, picture credits, etc…)

      “(no specific source, but widely attributed to him)”

      Sorry I could be of no further assistance. Much of what was written that long ago has been lost, and much has been passed down orally which isn’t strictly true. Such is life.

  8. beaniegrl420 14 January 2014 at 11:50 pm #

    This is actually a translated quote by Junia Bretas, a Brazilian speaker. Just an FYI

    • philosiblog 15 January 2014 at 4:46 am #

      Thanks for stopping by, and for leaving a comment. I imagine others have said it as well.

      I have seen this quote listed as being by several people. When in doubt, I usually go with the oldest of the people listed, as they are the least likely to have overheard someone else saying it. 8)

  9. Al 28 August 2013 at 10:39 pm #

    Glad this helps you, but this quote can actually be harmful when said to those experiencing clinical anxiety and depression. These are real medical conditions where a person cannot simply make themselves think differently. Events may play a role in seeding depression in many cases but the best way, at least with my experience, to describe this awful existence it is that the emotions of distress, despair, and other symptoms keep on going even when you are not thinking about anything even remotely to the original event. You may have even completely forgotten the event. They are often triggered by things that are totally unrelated and can actually even be thoughts that are seemingly positive. It’s like you are living in a very distorted world. I think it would really benefit those with depression if those who haven’t experienced the real clinical thing would be careful about making these kinds of comments, especially before someone begins treatment, that suggest it is straightforward to control clinical depression. This is a condition that by definition involves excessive distorted feelings of guilt (many of us get trapped in this condition because we excessively blame ourselves for our morbid thinking). Anxiety is similar, even with the help of modalities like CBT, many of us still experience the physical symptoms before we have a chance to stop making ourselves think about the future and we don’t need more anxiety over the fact that we can’t easily control these thoughts.

    • philosiblog 29 August 2013 at 4:15 am #

      Thanks for the feedback. I’ll happily admit that I don’t know everything. It was not my intent to provide a medical diagnosis, but I agree with you that there are people who need one.

      It sounds like you have some personal experience, and I am sorry for that. I hope you are doing better. And I thank you for sharing your experiences. It helps to have additional voices, giving alternative views.

    • Luis 18 April 2016 at 10:08 am #

      I agree with you… This is helpful for those that just experience mild or occasional worry… Those who struggle with clinical depression, anxiety, and other conditions may find this harmful. I for one am clinically treated for depression, anxiety, insomnia, OCD, ADHD and PTSD… I found this article while doing a search on “why struggle to live past today, if tomorrow will be the same”. My thoughts after reading this article was simply “someone else who doesn’t understand and thinks it’s just a switch in my head that I can use”.

      • philosiblog 20 April 2016 at 3:25 am #

        Thanks for stopping by and for leaving a comment for Al.

        While I understand how my writing (and the quote) could be misinterpreted, I thought the post and the subsequent comments were sufficiently clear that this is not a diagnosis for those with true medical conditions, but for the rest of the people who are able to get past their temporary issues. If you re-read the opening section, it talks specifically about where our focus is, and how the focus can be a problem. If your problem is with something other than your focus, then this post isn’t about you, and you should seek advice elsewhere.

  10. Xeno Hemlock 12 July 2013 at 8:14 am #

    Very nice 🙂 This hit me.

    • philosiblog 13 July 2013 at 12:32 am #

      Well, hit it back! But seriously, I’m glad it meant something to you.

  11. jhabhabz23 9 July 2013 at 1:09 pm #

    Reblogged this on A Y M A N A Y T E R.

  12. satyrlovesenchiladas 21 June 2013 at 4:29 am #

    Reblogged this on satyrlovesenchiladas.

  13. tivrfoa 19 June 2013 at 10:58 pm #

    This is really cool quote! =)

    • philosiblog 20 June 2013 at 4:55 am #

      Thanks, I’m glad you liked it. And thanks for leaving a comment.

  14. Jim Ulvog 19 June 2013 at 1:20 pm #

    Great post. Good encouragement. So many more things could be said – just one – the present is the only thing we can change.

    • philosiblog 20 June 2013 at 4:53 am #

      Indeed, the present is all we can change. Thanks for leaving a comment.


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