Living in the Present

If you’re like most of us, you probably feel like time passes far too quickly. It may be impossible to slow down time, but we don’t have to feel like we are being propelled quite so swiftly through life. We can “stop and smell the roses” and take the time to enjoy the moments of life that can sometimes be easily be missed.

Far too often, we let some of life’s most miraculous moments slip right by unseen and underappreciated. We walk below beautiful blue skies or beside colorful flowers and never notice them. We talk with people without really paying attention to what they are saying. We spend time worrying about tomorrow or thinking about yesterday instead of fully experiencing and enjoying what’s happening today. We do not allow ourselves to live in the here and now.

Living in the present means really experiencing life and the world, along with all the many sounds, sights, colors, smells, and tastes we encounter each day. It’s about being aware of our thoughts as we think them and our emotions as we feel them. It means genuinely inhabiting each moment of life.

Research has shown that there are physical and mental benefits to living in the present. According to studies, living in the present can help boost positive emotions like joy and contentment while reducing negative emotions like stress and anxiety. It can help improve memory and attention skills. Evidence even suggests that living in the present moment may help improve our physical health.

It’s never too late to start making the most of the present. If you would like to try to become a little more in touch with the miraculous moments in your life, the following suggestions may offer some inspiration.

A few helpful suggestions…

  • Focus on now. Focus on what you are doing this very minute, not what you plan to accomplish tomorrow or what you did or didn’t do yesterday. Try to concentrate on one thing at a time instead of multitasking. If you are reading a book, enjoy the book. If you are dancing, really dance. If you are golfing, just play the game. If you are talking with a friend or loved, give the person your complete attention. Don’t try to have a conversation while also compiling your “to do” list in your head.
  • Notice everything in your environment. Wherever you may be, take a good look around you. Really see and experience everything you can, even the smallest things.
    • Is there a bird singing in the tree outside your window?
    • What are the colors of the sunset?
    • Are there clouds in the sky?
    • Are there cracks in the sidewalk?
    • Is a friend looking especially happy or sad today?
    • Does that person walking along the street look lost or in need of a help?

  • Don’t rush through life. Take your time. Try not to fill up your day with such a myriad of things to accomplish that you end up rushing from one task to the next. Leave some breathing room in each day so you can slow down and really experience life.

  • Pay attention to your five senses. Pay heed to whatever you are sensing at any given moment. If you’re eating a meal, taste each flavor. If you’re taking a shower, feel the water on your skin. If you’re lying in bed, notice the way your body feels at rest. Make a habit of asking yourself the following questions.
    • What do you see?
    • What do you smell? What do you hear?
    • What do you taste?
    • What do you feel?

  • Be mindful of your thoughts and emotions. Try to experience and accept whatever you might be thinking or feeling without concern or judgement. There’s a chance you may find a pattern that may not be helping you truly engage in the present or appreciate life. If you find you easily become stuck in a spiral of negative thoughts, it is possible to break away and keep your negative thoughts from controlling you. Try acknowledging a negative thought and then consciously and deliberately let it go. Next, replace it by thinking of something that makes you happy or thankful.

  • Don’t let your troubles take the wheel. Of course, everyone has challenges and difficulties they have to face in life. But fretting about something today will not change what happens tomorrow. Worrying takes you away from the present. You can’t to be fully absorbed in your current life while worrying about the future. If you tend to be a constant worrier, make a determined effort to give yourself a break.

  • Be mindful as you breathe. Feel air entering your nostrils. Feel it fill your lungs. Imagine oxygen being carried throughout your body. Feel your lungs expel your breath. Pay close attention to how your breathing pattern changes with your emotions. Let the repetitive flow of breathing in and breathing out help relax you and keep you connected to the present moment.

  • Smile and be happy. Studies have shown that the emotions we show on our faces influence how we feel inside. It makes sense when you think about it. After all, we smile when we feel happy. So why wouldn’t it follow that we also we feel happy when we smile? Give it a try. See if you feel a little happier right now in this present moment with a smile on your face.

Mindfulness Activities

Mindful Body Scan

Slowly focus your attention along your body. Begin with your toes and end with the top of your head. Become aware of what you feel in each area of your body. Your ankles, calves, knees, hips, pelvis, stomach, chest, shoulders, hands, wrists, etc. Let yourself connect with each area of your body as it is in the this very moment, without trying to influence whatever you are sensing. Once you get the hang of it, you can try relaxing each area as you go along.

Mindful Walking

Take an attentive walk. Select a time of day when you don’t have to rush. Walk slowly with a relaxed gait. Allow yourself to become aware of the world around you. Let the environment fill your senses. Notice the different sights, smells, sounds, and atmosphere along your route.

5-Minute Mindful Break

Make time to do nothing. That’s right… nothing. Sit yourself down in a quiet place and “just be” for a few minutes. Focus on the pattern of your breathing. Let your thoughts float in and out of your conscious mind, observing them impartially and with a nonjudgmental, open outlook. Then let them float away. Relax into your body and try to find a sense of comfort and peace in your body and in your environment.

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