As you might have noticed during your breakup advice search, there seems to be a focus on “living in the now” to help survive a breakup. Sound breakup advice will include a consistent and straightforward message. Part of that message will include the premise to “Stay in the now:” Don’t drift, don’t let your mind wander, and don’t start eating that pint of ice cream and wonder how you got to the bottom of it so quickly. Do stay focused, do be attuned to yourself and your surroundings, and do get intensely interested in the now.
But how come?
From a logical standpoint you can’t be in the “now” all the time. Sometimes you have to think about the future. You know, for those outlandish tasks like paying your bills or thinking about traffic so you’re not late for work. So it seems like the breakup advice that is supposed to help you feel better is contradictory to functioning in our daily lives.
The trick is to focus on the now only when it is helpful to do so. Planning for retirement? Probably not the best time to jump on the “live in the now” bandwagon. Another way to look at it is to become focused on the now when you are feeling overwhelmed and need to take a quick mental vacation.
But, why does it work?
And, here’s a valuable takeaway of breakup advice: There is one big rule to the way our brains work with our thoughts during a breakup. If you think about the past you become sad. If you think about the future you become anxious. But, if you focus on the present things somehow just seem better.
I should note that sitting and thinking, “Why did we break up?” is not being in the moment—it’s thinking about the past. A now thought is, “I am having thoughts about a break up.” There is a world of difference between these two. Recognizing you are having a thought gives you greater control over your current emotional state and makes the moment more tolerable. Asking yourself why the relationship ended makes you think about the past and increases your suffering. You don’t need to solve the question to feel better. You need to learn how to tolerate pain in the moment to feel better. Your life is only ever now. And that is what being in the now is all about.