We have a built-in tendency to lose ourselves in thoughts of the past or anticipation of the future. Only occasionally throughout the day do we drag ourselves back to live in the moment. A lot has been written about living in the now or how to live in the moment, but what does it really mean? Here are seven methods that will help you to be in the present and reap the benefits of awareness.
1. Your Past Does Not Define You
You are not the sum of your past deeds and thoughts. Your past most certainly influences you to a great extent. As you grew up, your parents, siblings, peers, schooling, TV, books and events would have imprinted certain views and characteristics upon you. You have absorbed an enormous amount of information which manifests as a unique part of your personality. However, all that stuff is not you. Not the real deep-down you. You have to know that you are in charge right now. So you can choose to discard anything from your past that doesn’t fit in with the person you are now. When you find yourself mulling over past unhappy memories, tell yourself, “That was then, this is now, and I am over all that.”
2. Stop Worrying About the Future
Are you worried about the future? Do you spend time attempting to deal with problems which haven’t yet arisen? Worrying about the future is a truly pointless exercise. Of course, it is sensible to make provision to deal with certainties, but devoting energy to non-existent problems only focuses on those possibilities – enough so, that you can make them real. Worry and anxiety about the future can cause depression and physical illness. It’s a total time-wasting and negative occupation. So don’t do it.
Also included in this ‘future worrying’ is paying attention to the person who is talking to you. Stop thinking about what you are about to say and listen to them instead. How often do you tune people out because the thoughts in your head are more important or distracting? Listen and understand what they are saying to you. You’ll find your communication skills will improve.
3. Your Power is Now.
At what point in time do you have the most influence? In other words, when can you make a difference, change your path, make a decision, adjust your attitude? The past, present or future? A genuine answer to the question is, of course, ‘right now’. Only in the present moment can you change your life in any perceivable way. You can say that you will start tomorrow, but it’s not until tomorrow turns into the present moment, can you take action. Your power is now.
4. Release Resistance
We are all familiar with the feeling that we don’t want to do something. It might be the third day of a new eating plan, or working on a presentation, writing that essay or cleaning the kitchen countertops. We inwardly groan and usually find some distraction that enables us to procrastinate. This feeling of reluctance is resistance. We’re digging our metaphorical heels in, allowing our energy levels to drop in the face of this big black wave of resistance.
When you are about to give in and eat that chocolate, or toast that slice of bread, you are giving into resistance. You are resisting the idea that you are the one in control. As soon as you recognize it for what it is, you are back in the driving seat. Dismiss resistance and you can easily set yourself to complete the task in front of you. Put the bread away, sit down and start writing the essay, clean your kitchen, go for that walk you planned. Cast resistance aside and begin to live in the moment.
5. Slow Down
Stress is on the increase – we’re working harder than ever before. Trying to fit everything in: family, career, the acquisition of possessions, body maintenance, and those fulfilling hobbies we’re all supposed to be doing. We want it all, but we can’t do it all. Not without causing ourselves distress. You have to jettison some of that busy-ness. You have to delegate, simplify and even drop some of those things that cause that buildup of pressure. Your health depends on it. So stop. Right now, at this moment. Stop reading, close your eyes, breathe and drop your shoulders, releasing all that tension and resistance. Doesn’t that feel better?
6. Lose the Self-Consciousness
We’re often focused on the present moment in completely the wrong way. Even walking down the street can cause us to wonder how others are seeing us. Self-consciousness is not living in the moment. Self-consciousness is another word for stress, anxiety and resistance. The way to get rid of self-consciousness is to get out of your head and see, hear, touch, smell, and experience what is happening around you. Feel the ground under your feet, the breeze on your face, the scent of cut grass from your neighbor’s lawn, the sound of a dog barking – all those things are happening around you, and you are habitually not even aware of them because you are living in your head. Even if you are just hand-washing the dishes, feel the water, smell the dish soap, take satisfaction in completing the task. Learn to pay attention to the world around you, live in the moment, and your 'now experience' will be increasingly enriched.
7. Give Yourself Permission to Daydream
This is somewhat paradoxical, but losing yourself in daydreams is good for you. Allow your thoughts to wander where they will. The only stipulation is that you mustn’t be doing anything else. So sit or lie down, get into that bubble bath, relax and let go. Daydreaming allows your brain to process information. Sometimes you will get ideas, receive an answer to a problem or simply feel refreshed. 15 minutes of dedicated daydreaming is like a brain reset. If you find yourself thinking unpleasant or painful thoughts, then bring yourself out of it and back to the present moment. Like Taylor says, ‘shake it off’.