A lot of us have the unhelpful tendency to get stuck in our heads, blasting through thought after thought, barely able to soak in the moment.
We’re either reminiscing about times gone by, regretting things we haven’t done, or worrying about the overwhelming list of things we have to face in the future. In any case, we struggle to simply just be in the present moment.
And it’s robbing us of our happiness.
So, how do we take back control and start living in the present again?
What does it mean to “live in the present moment”?Living in the present is all about paying attention to what is happening at any given moment. This includes both what is happening around you and what is happening inside you (i.e. your thoughts and feelings).
However, it’s important to note that there is nothing wrong with thinking about the past or future. In fact, it’s essential to do so. After all, thinking about the past helps us learn lessons from past mistakes, and planning for the future gives us direction and purpose.
The problem comes when we spend a lot of time dwelling on either of these.
So present-moment living has a place for small doses of past and future thought focus – just don’t overdo it!
So, put simply, living in the moment is all about paying attention with intention. Whatever you are doing, whoever you are with, you give your full attention and commit to it.
It couldn’t be more easy!
And yet, so many of us struggle greatly with this.
So, what is the secret?
The simple strategy that will help you live in the present moment
The strategy for living in the present moment is no secret. In fact, you’ve probably heard of it a million times.
If you want to be present in your life, there’s only one thing you need:
That’s right. Perhaps the most popular topic in mental wellbeing, mindfulness gives you the beautiful gift of being able to appreciate and live each moment without letting yourself be pulled away by your thoughts.
The concept is simple, but the practice takes….well just that, practice.
If you aren’t sure where to start, check out these brilliant ideas to help kickstart your journey into mindfulness.
Ways to live in the present moment
1. Guided meditation
The main problem many people have when trying to be present is that they feel constantly harassed by their own thoughts. This is especially true when we are feeling negative emotions like sadness or stress.
Guided meditation is the ideal exercise for learning not to let your thoughts stop you from being present.
The most common type of guided meditation is the body scan. This is when your teacher/audio guide talks you through your body, one part at a time, encouraging you to pay attention to how it feels and if you are holding any tension in that part.
While you are doing this, you are reminded to allow your thoughts to come into your mind and then drift off without your intervention. This means you neither pay attention to the thought nor actively try to avoid it. Instead, simply label the thought as a thought and bring your attention back to the body.
This practice teaches us that we don’t need to be in a battle against our thoughts – we can control where we place our attention. And as much as thoughts of stress and worry may want to take over our minds, we don’t have to fuel the flame.
2. YogaMeet guided meditation’s active cousin: Yoga.
Yoga applies similar guidance over your thoughts and where you place your attention as meditation does. The difference is that while you do meditation in a still position (sitting or lying down), yoga is a constant flow of moving and holding poses.
Yoga helps you really tune in to your body – the way it feels, the way it moves – and allows you to focus intensely on yourself. From the top of your head to the tips of your toes, you are encouraged to pay attention to your breath and body feel.
Teachers often include mantras and affirmations in their classes that encourage you to gently keep your mind present.
And as anyone who has tried to hold a tree pose knows – it’s pretty hard to keep your balance when your mind starts wondering!
3. Mindful eatingHands up if you have ever rushed through a meal between work meetings at your desk. Or you have eaten your dinner in front of the TV.
We’ve become awful when it comes to eating mindfully. Our food habits have taken a nosedive with the stressful, fast-paced tempo we live our lives, whether it be work, personal commitments, or looking after the kids. So we opt for the quickest meal and shovel it down our throats.
In doing so, we open ourselves up to the possibility of eating disorders and digestion problems. We also steal precious moments we could be spending being present either with our minds or with our families and friends.
To become more present at mealtimes, it’s crucial to be intentional from the kitchen to the table to your mouth.
That means taking the time to cook yourself a nutritious meal that you then enjoy with no distractions either by yourself or with others. As you eat, make sure you savour every bite, paying attention to the textures and tastes as you take your time to chew your food thoroughly.
You’ll find that doing so makes eating a pleasure, and you’ll feel more in tune with your mind and body.
Are the thoughts flying around in your head preventing you from feeling peace and being fully present in your life?
Then you need a journal.
Ever heard the saying a problem shared is a problem halved? Try sharing that problem with your journal; it’s just as effective.
Not only will getting all those thoughts out onto the page provide you with a tool to work through your emotions and thoughts, but it will also free space in your mind to allow you to be fully present in other areas of your life.
5. Art therapyFlirting with your artistic side provides an outstanding entryway to mindfulness. And you don’t even need to be good at art to access it!
There are many ways to use art and creativity to be in the moment.
For example, do you remember the meteoric rise in popularity of adult colouring books a few years ago? That’s because people realised how peaceful and present this activity can make them feel. And you can use these books to do the exact same.
Another simple art form to get you living presently is to start doodling. Doodles have been proven to improve focus, alertness, and memory as well as reduce stress. Win-win!
From knitting to weaving to pottery, find the creative outlet that helps you stay present and stop your disruptive thoughts from taking over your mind.
6. Nature walksIf you aren’t taking advantage of outdoor spaces to clock in some mindfulness minutes, it’s time to start.
Nature offers a buffet of experience for the five senses. The sounds of birds chirping, the smell of freshly cut grass, the feel of the breeze on your skin… you are spoiled for choice.
So next time you go for a walk, instead of fretting about next week’s deadlines that you are scared you won't be able to meet, take a deep breath and focus on the world around you.
And if you’re not feeling inspired by the world around you, put some music on and shift your walk focus to do some mindful listening. Listen to every word being sung to you and notice how it makes you feel.
7. End of day reviewLife can be hard sometimes. It’s as if every day, we grab a new suitcase from the wardrobe and take it with us everywhere, collecting stress, worries, anxiety, and generally unhelpful thoughts throughout the day. By the time we get home and are ready to relax, our suitcase is bursting with our thoughts and anxieties.
So to give yourself the space to be mindful, try and unpack that suitcase into an end of day review. But don’t worry too much about the negative. Instead, try and focus on the things that went well and the lessons you can take away from the day.
In doing so, you gift yourself with peace and presence.
Final thoughts on living in the present moment
The best gift you can give yourself is to be more present in your life. Don’t let the precious moments go by because you are overly focused on the past or future. Instead, practice the exercises above and learn to make mindfulness your new way of life.
You deserve to be in the driving seat of your own life.