How thinking about the future can make life more meaningful

By Summer Allen
May 1, 2019
Image by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

 

Research suggests that thinking about the future—a process known as prospection—can help us lead more generous and fulfilled lives.

Mindfulness is all the rage these days, and for good reason. Focusing on the moment can improve our well-beingfoster compassion, and help our relationships. What about going beyond the present moment? Yes, thinking about the future can trigger anxiety—but a growing body of research suggests that it can also make our lives more meaningful.

Humans aren’t alone in having some ability to consider the future, a process that scientists call “prospection.” After all, your dog gets excited when they see you holding a leash because they anticipate a walk is imminent; your cat may show similar excitement at the sound of a can being opened. There’s even evidence that some animals—like bonobos and ravens—can choose and save tools that they plan to use in the future.

 

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