This article was originally published in Discover Magazine.

Research has shown that mental time travel can motivate us, help us cope and even inspire better choices in the present.

Do you often find yourself thinking back to the past and reminiscing about different experiences and memories? Or, maybe you find yourself focusing more on the future, imagining yourself accomplishing a goal or just thinking about what your life could look like.  

“I think people kind of go back and forth from the past to the future, like in a time machine,” says existential psychologist Clay Routledge, vice president of research and director of the human flourishing lab at the Archbridge Institute. This “human ability to mentally time travel” intrigued Routledge and inspired numerous research studies. According to the science, mentally looking back in time — and to the future, where we can imagine our future selves — can be beneficial in many ways.  

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