Renaissance Ranch

Time Perspective: How Your Addiction is Affected by Your View of the Past, Present, and Future

Feb 8, 2024

There are many risk factors associated with addiction. From your upbringing to genetics to mental health disorders, much about life can get the best of us and lead us down a path toward addiction.

One little-known factor is our outlook on our lives and the phases of our lives we focus on. These perspectives influence our decisions, mental health, and whether we penchant for risky behaviors. All of these translate to our susceptibility to addiction.

How Your Addiction is Affected by Your View of the Past, Present, and Future


We want you to be as informed as possible regarding you and your loved ones’ risk for addiction and substance abuse disorders. The team at our Utah drug rehab center have created a guide on understanding time perspective, its relationship to addiction, and how to improve your outlook on time.

The five perspectives of time.

Psychologists and researchers generally acknowledge five time perspectives:

  • Past-Negative
  • Past-Positive
  • Present-Fatalistic
  • Present-Hedonistic
  • Future-Oriented

Each perspective has its unique qualities, benefits, and drawbacks.

A person with a past-negative outlook on life focuses on unpleasant or painful events that have occurred in their life. They tend to resent what has happened to them and often dwell on the bad memories and moments.

A past-positive person has a sweet, sentimental view of their history and looks back with nostalgia. They typically talk about “the good ol’ days” and maintain close connections with the people and memories from their roots.

Moving on from the past, people with a present-fatalistic view of time are tied down by what is occurring in their lives at the present moment. They don’t believe in their agency, instead that outside forces control their life, and that they can do nothing about their circumstances. People with this outlook are generally hopeless and miserable at the moment.

On the contrary, a present-hedonistic individual focuses solely on the pleasure they can experience in the moment. They don’t typically delay gratification but rather live in the moment and seek pleasure and joy at the expense of the future. They don’t tend to dwell on what has happened or will happen and live in the moment.

Lastly, people have a future-oriented perception of time. These individuals focus on and work towards their goals at all costs and delay present gratification for future achievements. They view the future positively but at the expense of missing out on what is occurring right now.

The connection between time perspective and addiction.

You may be wondering how an individual’s view of time can affect their chances of suffering from a substance use disorder(SUD) or addiction. Well, the nuances of your outlook on life can directly and indirectly change your behavior, decision-making, and mental health. All of these things impact your risk for addiction.

The mindset associated with a past-negative time perspective can increase the likelihood of suffering from a mental health disorder. Focusing on the negative things in life can cause anxiety and depression. These diseases can result in a person finding any method available to relieve the darkness they feel, including turning to drugs and alcohol. Unhealthy coping mechanisms for anxiety and depression can lead a person down the path to an SUD and addiction.

Similarly, a present-fatalistic mindset can cause a person anxiety and depression because, again, there is a focus on the negative. Without healthy outlets to cope with the stresses of life, individuals turning to substance abuse to relax and calm their minds can find themselves at risk for addiction.

More directly, present-hedonistic outlooks on life pose a risk for substance abuse. The tendency to live in the moment and seek pleasure at every turn changes individuals’ decision-making. A person with this time perspective is more likely to engage in risky behaviors, and that includes the use of alcohol and drugs. Irresponsible substance use can begin the path to addiction.

Alongside the present-hedonistic outlook’s hallmark lack of regard for the future, there is no thought to how actions today turn into habits tomorrow.

The benefits of a balanced time perspective.

While some perceptions of time can be categorized as “good” and “bad,” it is important to understand that viewing life in a holistic way is healthiest. You should not value one perspective over another, but rather cultivate various perspectives. A balanced view of the past, present, and future, can help mitigate the negative effects of any one perspective. Improvements and adjustments to your current mindset can help improve your mental health and lower your risk of addiction.

Focusing on the future without regard for the present leaves you missing out, but only focusing on the present leaves you with an uncertain future. It’s important to acknowledge the good and the bad of the past but not dwell on it. A healthy outlook on time is a balance of viewing the past, present, and future.

An excellent way to combat a past negative outlook on life is to view the challenges and struggles as lessons learned and the vehicle that can lead you into a positive future.

An individual can improve past-positive outlook by not wishing to be back in the past but viewing it as a lovely experience that you got to be a part of and that you can carry into the future.

Present-hedonism can benefit from accountability and discipline. By not allowing decisions of today to overwhelm your judgment, you can enjoy the present while setting yourself up for the future.

When experiencing present-fatalism, where you feel like there is no point in the present and that you are not in control of your life, remember that our Heavenly Father gave each of us agency. We can make choices that change our circumstances.

Additionally, if your feelings of hopelessness overwhelm you, consider seeking help in the form of therapy and counseling. Trained mental health professionals can help you find healthy methods of dealing with these feelings. If you have already slipped into addiction, seek help from our addiction treatment center near Salt Lake City.

The next steps.

Practicing an awareness of your outlook on time and life can help you improve your mental health and possibly decrease your risk of developing an addiction. Life comes with many highs and lows, memories of the past, and possibilities for the future. Learning to ride the waves of life more evenly will bring you great benefits, protecting your health and your peace.