Living in the present moment is all about enjoying today without worrying about what happened in the past or what might happen in the future. It requires a sense of mindfulness about what’s happening right now in your body, mind, and surroundings. When you’re more present in your life, you can potentially increase your productivity, lower stress, support better physical and cognitive health, and improve your relationships. You also can see things clearly without feeling overwhelmed by emotions so you can make thoughtful, rational decisions.
While all this may sound wonderful in theory, it’s easier said than done. The modern world poses a steady stream of things for which you need to prepare — either at work or in your personal life. In addition, it’s virtually impossible to forget the past even if you try because the internet and social media now record people’s lives in so much detail. So how can you ever live in the present moment? Follow these eight tips.
Accept the Past, Welcome the Future, and Embrace the Present
Accept the past as history or a learning experience, open your mind to the idea of the future and its possibilities, and live in the here and now. Whatever happened in the past, it’s over and done — and nothing can change that. The only thing you can do is accept that it happened and then move on. For some people, their obsession with the future may stem from a dissatisfaction with the present. When you believe your present isn’t good enough and spend your days consumed by thoughts of a brighter future, however, you only stop yourself from fully exploring the potential of the present that can take you there. Don’t let your dreams of the future stop you from living your life in the present. The future is only a vision. The present is real and has the power to truly change your life. Embrace it.
Use Your Senses
When people drift away from the present, they do things mechanically with their thoughts flitting randomly between the past and the future. In contrast, you’ll find such thoughts gradually fading away when you use your senses to focus on your current task or activity. When you walk outside on a sunny day, for example, notice how the sunlight filters through the trees and creates little patterns on the sidewalk. Feel the sun’s warmth on your bare skin, breathe in the smell of fresh-cut grass from a neighbor’s yard, and listen to the sound of the birds chirping. Practice using your senses whenever you get an opportunity, and it will gradually become a habit that allows you to be more present in your daily life.
When you eat your dinner while watching television, your attention constantly shifts between the screen and your plate. As a result, you’re unable to fully focus on either activity. If someone asks you the next day what you had for dinner last night, you may struggle to remember. When you do only one thing at a time, however, you can fully immerse yourself in the task at hand and have a more meaningful, pleasurable experience.
Stop Looking at the Clock
If you’re guilty of living by the clock, it’s time to change that habit. Instead of rushing through tasks without truly realizing what you’re doing or worrying about how much time you have left, take your time to complete each task deliberately. Give your full attention to every step along the way. For example, take a few minutes to savor your morning cup of coffee instead of gulping it down. You’ll find it more satisfying and enjoyable. Similarly, you can hit your stride more quickly and maybe even achieve more than you expect when you stop working with one eye on the clock.
Don’t Take on More Than You Can Handle
When you face a full (or overflowing) plate, you may feel as if you have no other option but to rush through the tasks before you. Instead, try to avoid taking on more than you can handle every day. Organize your schedule so you have enough time to breathe between tasks. When you have fewer things to do, you can complete them more mindfully and with more attention.
Write It Down
Start keeping a mindfulness journal. Every morning, write down your thoughts, goals, hopes, aspirations, and observations. This will help clear your mind so you can start your day on a more mindful, present note.
Accept That You Can’t Control Everything
Some things in life are beyond your control. When that happens, the only thing you can do is accept them. If you try to resist and force your own will on them, you’ll find yourself forever bound to that moment and unable to move on.
Be Aware of Your Thoughts
Contrary to popular belief, living in the present doesn’t mean you should empty your mind of all thoughts. Instead, it helps you gain greater awareness of your thoughts and observe them from a distance. You can then recognize thoughts as just a product of your mind, which will enable you to make peace with them. Once you realize your thoughts don’t control your life, you can focus more on the here and now. Practicing living in the present can prove challenging — especially in the beginning. But, if you start incorporating these practices into your daily life, you’ll soon start to reap the many benefits.