HOW TO LIVE MINDFULLY IN THE PRESENT
Are you trying to live in the present? Hoping to strengthen your attachment to the here and now? Struggling with regrets from the past?
If the answer yes, you wouldn’t be alone. The hard truth is most of us – meaning men and women – have difficulty living in the now. This is particularly true if you have anxiety and your mind is constantly racing.
The reality is when you aren’t living in the present, you are living an illusion. It means you are holding yourself a prisoner to what was and unable to experience what is.
But how can you live in the present when you constantly ruminate on the past? Moreover, how do you focus your mind to be in this moment – as in this very second in time?
I’m going to level with you – it’s not easy. I recognize saying this may not be what you want to hear. But you came here looking for answers and not a load of B.S.
Here’s the deal – living in the present takes time and practice. It’s a mindset that slowly develops and becomes a way of life.
For that to happen, you need to give yourself the chance to create positive change. I am using the word “create” because in truth, that is what you are doing – creating an opportunity to live differently.
BENEFITS OF LIVING IN THE PRESENT
You may be wondering what some of the benefits are of living in the present moment. The simple truth is there are too many to list on this one page. That said, here are a few of the big ones:
- Less mental stress
- Greater happiness
- Reduced anxiety
- More positive thoughts
- Better physical health
- Acceptance instead of denial
- Happier life outlook
- Enhanced sense of gratitude
- Ability to self-forgive
- Stronger self-love
LIVING IN THE PRESENT
Before diving deep, it’s important to acclimate yourself to the realities of living in the present. This means developing an ability to tune into yourself and your surroundings.
Mastering this skill will serve as a foundation for all that follows.
To accomplish this, I highly recommend you to conduct an easy to do exercise called the body scan meditation. Doing so will allow you to strengthen your inner-eye; a Zen term used to describe a gateway to higher consciousness.
After you’ve done this, I encourage you to try and incorporate the following 10 behaviors into your life. It may help to bookmark this page and revisit to help reinforce key concepts.
1. STOP REACHING FOR SUBSTANCES
One of the ways you sabotage yourself from living in the present is by reaching for a tool to “checkout”. While marijuana, alcohol and other substances can be fun recreationally, they shouldn’t be relied on as a conduit to calmer living.
To live fully in the present, your mind needs to be clear and free. Substances do nothing but block your senses while projecting a false reality.
2. ASK YOURSELF “WHAT AM I AWARE OF”
To live in the moment means to lean into your five senses. This means touch, smell, sight, hearing, and taste.
Throughout the day, pause for a moment and ask yourself this question: what am I aware of right now?
Examples include seeing a bird, smelling the grass, tasting a bite of food, touching a tree or hearing water flow.
You will need to get very comfortable with this question and identifying the answers. This will be key in shifting your thinking from the past to the present.
3. ENGAGE IN DAILY MINDFUL MEDITATION
Part of here and now living means checking into yourself. This may seem paradoxical when the goal is to live in the present. But you won’t be able to become part of this moment unless you meditate.
There’s no need to become a Zen lifestyle master for this step. Moreover, you don’t have to spend hours engaged in this activity.
Instead, carve out 10-15 minutes a day and dedicate it to meditative activities. One way to do this is by conducting the body scan mentioned earlier. Many people find doing this in the morning is a powerful way to set the tone for the rest of the day.
4. MINDFUL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF ACTIVITIES
When you are engaged in mundane chores, like washing dishes, vacuuming the carpet, ironing shirts or folding the laundry, take note of the little things.
Notice the water moving over plates. Become aware of how the carpet responds to the vacuum. See the steam rising from your iron. Observe how the fabric feels as you fold your clothes.
Do you become distracted? If so, acknowledge this and do not try to fight it. Instead, give your mind permission to wander a bit and then gently return to the task at hand.
5. STOP FIGHTING YOUR THOUGHTS
Perhaps the biggest barrier to living in the present are thoughts from the past. Sometimes, memories can be painful. Other times, they can be downright toxic.
What you’ve got to do is remember that your thoughts don’t define you. At their core, they are nothing more than fragments from a time gone by.
Instead of trying to fight them, it is far better to accept that they enter your consciousness. A mistake people make is trying to “block thoughts” or somehow purge them from the mind.
The problem is the more energy you put into stopping thoughts, the more power you give them. Instead, it is best to accept their presence and let them naturally move out of your awareness.
Say to yourself: I am aware of [fill in the blank] and acknowledge it is in my mind.
Allow yourself to be mindful of this thought while drawing into your awareness other things occurring in your stream of consciousness. Eventually, the unpleasant memory will fade.
Remember the words of the famous psychiatrist Carl Jung: What we resist persists.
6. FOCUS ON BREATHING
A tenant of living in the present is developing an awareness on breathing. But the mistake people make with including this activity is thinking it’s just a mindful exercise.
Instead, focusing on your breathing allows your mind to connect with your body in a way that lowers your heart rate and blood pressure. In turn, this empowers you to become less anxious.
Once you are in a calm place, you are better equipped to be present in the moment and take part of life as it happens.
If you have never spent time focusing on your breathing, consider a guide that helps you to develop skills in this area. Here’s an excellent option available on Amazon.
7. STOP ENGAGING IN LEARNED HELPLESSNESS
If there’s one thing that will prevent you from being present in the here and now it’s this – being a prisoner to the past. A telltale sign that you do this is by constantly bringing up events from yesteryear as an excuse for not changing your life today.
Example: My parents were horrible with money and that’s why I am so bad with it today.
While that factoid about your parents may be true, it’s not a permission slip to replicate their actions. When you live in the present, you say no to becoming a victim to the mistakes of others.
Use today – as in this very moment in time – to write a new narrative about yourself. Once you do this, you are truly stepping into the here and now.
8. EXERCISE SELF-COMPASSION
Here’s a term that is widely used but often misunderstood. When you peel all of it away, self-compassion really is nothing more than the ability to recognize our own suffering with a loving heart. But don’t confuse self-compassion with self-pity.
The key difference is this: when you exercise self-compassion, you connect your personal pain with that of others, thereby encouraging the process of healing. In this way, you are truly living in the here and now.
9. RECOGNIZE THERE’S SOMETHING IN THE NOTHING
For a lot of people who struggle with issues of anxiety and depression, it can be almost impossible to quiet the mind and simply “be”.
If you are a person who constantly feels you must be active in order to feel productive, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
But I have news for you. If your goal is to live in the present, you’ve got to give yourself permission to chillax. And not just because it will keep you calm and centered.
Instead, relaxing without purpose empowers the mind to see something in the nothing. Creativity doesn’t happen when you are focusing on tasks. Instead, it happens when you are unfocused and detached from worry.
10. STOP CRITICIZING YOURSELF
The final way to live in the present is to completely stop criticizing yourself. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look at past performance to identify areas of improvement.
But it does mean stop beating yourself up for old mistakes. It also means ejecting the mental tape you play that reinforces toxic thinking.
Instead, reprogram your thoughts with positive affirmations that focus on today. This means realistic self-dialogue with a forward-looking theme.
Example: I am not a victim of my past. Today. I am writing my own future.
BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER
Living in the here and now is a process. It doesn’t happen instantly and requires patience. But when you think about it, doesn’t this make sense?
Hopefully, the ten suggestions listed above will help you move away from old ways of thinking so that you can be more present in the moment.
How many are you willing to try?