Living in the Moment
Life unfolds in the present. The present is where we have the most control. But so often, we find ourselves living in the past or future where we literally have no control. We dwell on intrusive memories of the past or fret about what may or may not happen in the future. In the future oriented mind, we worry and in the past we ruminate.
If left unchecked, this dynamic can create feelings of helplessness, anxiety, and worry. We relive painful moments traumatizing ourselves over and over. And we remove opportunity to practice stillness and calm as our thoughts control us.
We cannot change the past but we can change our relationship to the past in the present moment. And, we can’t control the future, but we can plan each step to get there in the present moment.
Live in the Moment
Living in the moment—also called mindfulness – of active, open, intentional attention on the present where we have control. Doing so reduces stress, boosts immune functioning, reduces chronic pain, lowers blood pressure, and helps patients cope with illness.
Mindful people are happier, hopeful, more empathetic, and more secure. It’s really true! You might be surprised at some of the people who practice this form of living, including mega-watt celebrities like Chris Evans (see our Chris Evans Post!).
Generally speaking, these individuals have higher self-esteem and are more accepting of their own weaknesses. Anchoring awareness in the here and now reduces the kinds of impulsivity and reactivity that underlie addition like binge eating.
Mindful people also tend to be more accommodating and less defensive. As a result, mindful couples have more satisfying relationships. Kind of neat, huh?
So how can you live in the moment? Are there any practical suggestions that can enhance your ability to focus your awareness on the here and now? It turns out the answer is – YES!
What follows are 10 suggestions to help amp up your mindfulness skills so that you can better remain in the present. Try a few out as starters and add more on as time continues.
Remember, living in the moment is a mindset and it takes time to reprogram your current way of thinking. Are you ready?
Let’s jump right in!
1. Realize that you can’t predict anything; it’s wasted brain energy and time that could be spent really listening to people, looking at nature and feeling totally and completely fine with yourself.
2. To improve your performance, stop thinking about it (unselfconsciousness). Thinking too hard about what you’re doing actually makes you do worse.
3. Practice meditation. If all else fails, take five big, deep breaths. There’s no better way to bring yourself into the present moment than to focus on your breathing. Because you’re placing your awareness on what’s happening right now, you propel yourself powerfully into the present moment.
For many, focusing on the breath is the preferred method of orienting themselves to the now—not because the breath has some magical property, but because it’s always there with you.
4. To avoid worrying about the future, focus on the present (savoring). Experience and enjoy what’s happening right now. Relish or luxuriate in whatever you’re doing at the present moment. If you hoist yourself into awareness of the present moment, worrying melts away.
The flip side of worrying is ruminating, thinking bleakly about events in the past. And again, if you press your focus into the now, rumination ceases. Savoring forces you into the present, so you can’t worry about things that aren’t there.
5. Living consciously with alert interest can help you to avoid aggressive impulses and practice self control. Thus, allowing people to regulate behavior. Focusing on the present allows your mind to focus and decide how to respond thoughtfully rather than automatically.
6. Practice gratitude by focusing your total awareness on the good things happening in your life. Gratitude contains many karmic benefits both seen and unseen. Make a list – right now – of the things you are most grateful for.
Examples include simple things, like your ability to get up in the morning. They can also be more complex – such as a relationship you have with someone.
7. To make the most of time, lose track of it (flow). Flow occurs when you’re so engrossed in a passion or task that you lose track of everything else around you and distractions cannot penetrate. Hours can pass without you noticing.
Make time for your hobbies and passions. Recognize the feeling of complete presence as you do it and learn to incorporate that feeling more and more into your everyday life.
8. If something is bothering you, move toward it rather than away from it (acceptance). Be open to the way things are in each moment without trying to manipulate or change the experience—without judging it, clinging to it, or pushing it away. The present moment can only be as it is.
Trying to change it only frustrates and exhausts you. Example: If you are afraid to fly because of turbulence, accept that bumps will be part of your journey. (Read our fear of flying post).
9. Acceptance relieves you of this needless extra suffering. Acceptance of an unpleasant state doesn’t mean you don’t have goals for the future. Nor does acceptance mean you have to like what’s happening.
It just means you accept that certain things are beyond your control. The sadness, stress, pain, or anger is there whether you like it or not. Better to embrace the feeling as it is.
10. Living a consistently present focused life takes effort. It is simply a matter of realizing where you already are and paying attention to your immediate experience. And if you notice your mind wandering, bring yourself back.
Mindfulness isn’t a goal, because goals are about the future, but you do have to set the intention of paying attention to what’s happening at the present moment.
Summing Things Up
Living in the moment holds many plusses and allows you to move past fear, uncertainty and doubt. One of the resources I like to recommend to my clients is called, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.
Many people seeking out counseling and psychotherapy are trying to live a life that is more rounded and focused in the here and now. This is certainly true of the clients who visit our Chicago based offices. I encourage you to learn all you can about mindfulness and use that knowledge to help empower your ability to live in the moment.
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