At the end of my last post “The Power of Living in the Now” I asked you to start creating the “right now” habit to refocus your attention when you drift to the past or look too far ahead to the future.
There are many ways you can train yourself to cut links with the past and stop chasing the future so you can live in the present. Being present sounds easy, but it’s a challenge these days with all the distractions.
Here are 16 ways to live in the present
- Try meditation. I’ll admit, I’m still working on meditation. I find my mind starts to wonder if I’m not careful. I have found just focusing on my breathing helps. With simple breathing meditation, focusing on your breathing and not following any thoughts that arise, until you can count 60 breaths without getting distracted.
- Practice mindfulness. Once you have done this, try being more mindful of what is around you, the thoughts in your mind, the breeze in your hair. Try to push all other thoughts aside that don’t relate to the thing you are focusing on.
- Don’t follow your thoughts. One of the most important lessons that meditation teaches you is how to distance yourself from your thoughts and simply observe them rather than get caught up in them. You may suddenly recall something that upset you last week, or a scary experience from a few years ago.
What you do with these thoughts is up to you. Either observe them and think about what lesson you learned from the event at the time, or simply allow the idea to go back into the vast ocean of your thoughts just like a wave falling back into the sea.
- Give up the myth of multitasking. Multitasking is a dangerous myth that prevents people from practicing mindfulness and working effectively and efficiently from moment to moment. The truth is that the brain can’t work on 2 things at once. All it can do is switch back and forth between the 2 or more tasks really rapidly. However, this means that at the end of an hour, for example, you’ve got 30 minutes of work done on 2 tasks, and they are likely to be half finished, compared with having worked on one thing at a time and completed it, then turned your full attention to the next chore on your list. Multitasking is a time waster, that prevents you from living in the moment.
- Don’t follow your fantasies. When you’re at work, don’t spend your time thinking about what you are going to do with friends and family at the weekend. Get the work done. Then spend your free time on meditation and on things you like, which recharge your batteries. Treat yourself to a bubble bath before bed, or the latest novel by your favorite author. Take a walk outside and observe everything, trees, flowers, the sounds of birds and so on.
- Stop thinking the grass is greener. Many people fail to live in the now because they are constantly chasing after the future life they want and not making the most of the present life they have. It’s easy to envy others, or try to keep up with the Joneses, but the more you have, the more cluttered your life can become. It gets focused on things rather than people, or your own self-development.
- Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. If discontented thoughts start to creep in, think of 5 things you are grateful for in your life. Try keeping a gratitude journal and each day write down 3 things from the day that you are grateful for. This will slowly help you build an attitude of gratitude.
- Just do it and pay attention while you do it. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you really want to do now. Make your to-do list a “done list”. Seize the day. Grab the opportunity and make the most of it. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Eat the chocolate ice cream and savor every mouthful. Delight in the way it feels so cool on your tongue, and so on. And if you are worried about your weight, walk around the block a few times to burn off the calories.
- Set your intention for the day and for each action. This may sound like goal setting or living in the future, but it is actually a way of focusing the mind to keep it going in the direct you wish. You could set an intention of not rushing through the day so you can really experience everything calmly.
- Stop judging. Humans tend to slap labels on things, good, bad, up, down. It is all a question of perspective. If you and your friends are each standing on a different floor in the house, for the person on the top floor, up would be the ceiling or sky, and down would be the next floor. For the person on the bottom floor, down would be the basement, or the ground. Accept that things are neither good nor bad, they just are. This is particularly important when it comes to your thoughts. Don’t judge, just observe.
- Always begin where you are. The path of self-improvement can be a long and winding one. If you are lacking in self-confidence, you may feel like a complete mess that needs a great deal of work.
- Your best is good enough. Most of us dread public speaking, but the truth is that the only way to get really good at it is to practice, to keep doing it over and over again until you improve. With each opportunity for failure comes a chance for success, and a teaching moment, that is, a time in the present when you can learn valuable lessons and use them as the foundation for doing better next time. You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to try your best. If you procrastinate at work because you are a perfectionist or worry about getting judged, remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be completed by your deadline.
- Stop watching the clock all the time. Of course, we have to stick to our timetables, but we have to leave time for things that will rest and rejuvenate us, including things that we love, and savoring those things in the moment.
- Go with the flow. Most people have trouble going with the flow, that is, living life moment by moment and seeing what will happen. Type-A personalities and control freaks will actually try to do the opposite. Instead of going with the flow, they will try to re-direct the river. They might succeed up to a certain point, but the effort will be exhausting and the stress of trying to hold everything together so it doesn’t all just wash away can be overwhelming. As the famous quote by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr says, “…grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
- Separate yourself from media. It is true that cellphones are very convenient, but studies have shown that they eat up a lot of time with talking and texting, checking emails and so on. Cut the calls and cable and try to have a technology-free weekend and get back to basics.
- Make regular time for loved ones. One of the greatest things you can ever give to a loved one is the gift of yourself through the quality time you spend with them. If you’re all acting more like roommates than a married couple or a family, schedule family time regularly and enjoy it moment by moment.
Try one new way a week and let me know how they work for you.