We can come to a point in our lives where we feel we are dwelling on the past too much and aren’t able to concentrate on ‘the now’. This can stop us from enjoying each day and from getting ahead with life. I wrote about a few strategies for addressing this issue in Part 1 and suggested consulting a doctor if these were of no help. A different approach may be useful if the problem is more a case of being ‘stuck in a rut’ rather than having a major issue which needs to be addressed.
The five senses, smell, taste, hearing, vision and touch connect us to the past as well as to the present. Sometimes thinking about how our senses remind us of the past and trying some new stimuli using our senses can provide help to get out of a rut.
Smell is the sense most closely connected to our memory. The brain needs to recall when you have previously been exposed to a particular smell and what you saw at the time to identify it. This is why the scent of the aftershave your favourite uncle always wore will make you think of him. To help get out of a rut it could be helpful to be conscious of the fragrances in your home. If you use air freshener, scented candles or aromatherapy oils try a different fragrance. Choose one that will lift your spirits such as jasmine, sandalwood, ylang ylang, orange, rose, lemon or lavender. Fresh flowers with an uplifting fragrance could also be helpful as your sense of sight will be involved as well as your sense of smell. Try buying yourself a new perfume and wear it regularly.
The sense of taste is closely connected to the sense of smell. If particular tastes and foods drag you back into the past try some new foods and drinks. If certain foods or recipes remind you of a person, place or event in a negative way, try substituting something else. Experiment with new recipes. Just cooking something different is likely to make you feel more positive and thinking about what you are doing as you put together a new recipe will keep your brain more active than automatically cooking the same old thing.
There is a strong connection between music and memory. Special songs or pieces of music will make you remember a particular person or period in your life. Sometimes this is a positive thing, other times it will not be. If you feel sad when you play music by a particular artist perhaps it is time to make an effort to listen to something different.
It may even be that you avoid modern music and regularly listen to music from decades ago. Even if this music doesn’t have any specific bad associations perhaps you are bored with it. Make an effort to broaden your musical experience. Try listening to buskers in the city centre or go to a free concert if money is tight. Making the effort to go out will also help you get out of a rut.
Listen to some of the music your kids listen to. Among the variety of music you expose yourself to you are likely to discover some artists you enjoy. Download some of your discoveries or purchase CDs and make a point of listening to your ‘new’ music instead of the same old stuff.
Look around your home and take note of any possessions which are tying you to the past in a negative way. Are there items cluttering your house you feel obliged to keep because they were gifts? Are you holding onto some things just because they once belonged to someone else and you ‘inherited’ them? Perhaps it is time to sort through your possessions and part with those that do not bring you joy. Yes, I am talking about decluttering. If this is a difficult task perhaps a friend could help.
It may be time to introduce a few new things to your décor. I don't mean cluttering your house, but a small number of carefully chosen things may lift your spirits. When you look at ‘new’ things that have no association with the past you will involve the sense of sight in your project to move on.
You could also be conscious of the sense of touch to help you get out of that rut. If you find the tactile sensation of a particular item, perhaps a wool blanket brings back sad or unpleasant memories you could pass it on to someone else. Replace it with a mink blanket that has a different feel or a doona so you can still get warm but without the negative emotion.
By being aware of things in our environment that are tying us to the past we can consciously make changes.The act of actually doing something will also help us concentrate on the present rather than the past.