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How to live in the present without fretting about the future

New research by reveals that money (56%), health (47%), and family (45%) are the nation’s biggest worries for the future and 64% of Brits worry about the past once a week or more.

In a year filled with worry and uncertainty, a survey of 2,000 respondents undertaken in September 2020 reveals that 27% struggle to live in the present.

There are notable differences in answers between younger and older respondents. Nearly a third (30%) of younger respondents aged 18-24 and nearly half (46%) of those aged 25-34 say they always or often worry about the past and struggle to live in the present. This compares with just 9% of 55-64-year-olds and 2% of those aged 65 plus.

The research also looked into the views of parents on these topics, revealing that those with children are more likely to say they worry about the past and struggle to live in the present (31%) than people who aren’t parents (13%).

How to deal with uncertainty

For anyone struggling to let go of the past and live in the present, Thomas Webb, Psychology Professor at The University of Sheffield offers three pieces of advice:

1. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness involves focusing on what’s happening in the present moment. You are aware of what’s happening in your body, mind, emotions, and the world around you, but you don’t think or dwell on these things – rather, you simply observe them.

2. Have self-compassion

This involves being kind and understanding towards yourself when confronted with personal failings and recognising that this is perfectly normal and part of the shared human experience. Self-compassionate people recognise that being imperfect, failing, and experiencing difficulties is inevitable, so they tend to be gentle with themselves when confronted with painful experiences rather than getting angry when life falls short of set ideals.

3. Don’t dwell on the past

Finally, know that it’s okay to think about the past and the future. You don’t always have to live in the present, but try not to dwell on the past unless you can learn from it. Only think about the future in small doses and in a healthy, positive way (e.g. don’t spend time worrying about the future, think about it just long enough to prepare for it and then move on).

“Our research shows a lot about us as a nation, and how much we think about our pasts and the future,” said Kamran Altaf, Head of Life Insurance at “With all that has happened this year, it’s understandable that some people might worry about the future, but it’s important to try and find a balance between living in the present and planning for your future. ”

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