It’s impossible to enjoy life at the highest level without being fully aware of the present moment. Life can only be lived in the present. Often our minds are preoccupied with multiple things, none of which is occurring right now.
“All that is important is this one moment in movement. Make the moment important, vital, and worth living. Do not let it slip away unnoticed and unused.” ― Martha Graham
Our minds are very active and constantly attempting to break free to occupy themselves with the past, the future, and pure fantasy. While it’s good to prepare for the future and learn from the past, focusing primarily on the present has many benefits.
Try These Ways to Live in the Moment
1. Avoid worry. Worrying can only happen when you look to the future. Keep your thoughts on your environment and your current activity. You can’t worry if you leave the future alone.
2. Avoid regret. Regret arrives while thinking about the past. The past is over and no longer exists. You bring your past mistakes to life by thinking about them. Let them go.
3. Turn off electronic devices. Cell phones, computers, iPods, and gaming systems distract from the present moment. Find your enjoyment in your life rather than in an imaginary world or in frivolous communication.
4. Avoid multitasking. Try doing one task at a time. Current research is overwhelmingly in favor of single-tasking. You’ll find you perform the task faster and at a higher level. Let multitasking be a thing of the past. Mono-tasking is much more conducive to living in the present.
5. Eliminate unnecessary items. Having too many possessions is more of a burden than an advantage. Owning too many things results in disorder that clutters both your physical environment and your mind. If you don’t need it, consider giving it away or selling it.
6. Forgive. When you hold a grudge, the only one suffering is you. Anger is distracting and keeps you from enjoying the current moment.
7. Go slowly and deliberately. Rushing creates a unique type of anxiety. Give yourself the time you need to enjoy the current activity. Address one task at a time and give it your full attention.
8. Listen. If someone is speaking to you, give them your full attention and participate in the conversation to the best of your ability.
9. Spend 5 minutes of each hour describing your environment. Take 5 minutes and describe to yourself everything you see, hear, smell, and feel. It’s an easy way to bring your mind back to the present moment and keep it there. There’s no way to compete the exercise without being mindful.
10. Eat slowly and enjoy your food. By eating slower, you’ll have the chance to enjoy your food more. You’ll also eat less, which is a good thing for many of us. Try eating an entire orange one piece at a time. Go slowly and focus on the flavor of each section.
11. Under schedule. Too many obligations results in a crowded schedule and time concerns. It’s not easy to stay focused on the current task if you’re worried about being on time for the next one. Leave space between your obligations. Do less and experience more.
12. Meditate. In times of stress, we’re often encouraged to pause for a moment and simply be in the ‘now.’ This kind of mindfulness, an essential part of Buddhist and Indian Yoga traditions, has entered the mainstream as people try to find ways to combat stress and improve their quality of life.
And research suggests that mindfulness meditation can have benefits for health and performance, including improved immune function, reduced blood pressure, and enhanced cognitive function.
A 2013 article published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, draws on the existing scientific literature to build a framework that can explain these positive effects.
The authors specifically identify four key components of mindfulness that may account for its effects:
- Attention regulation
- Body awareness
- Emotion regulation
- Sense of self.
Together, these components help us attend to and deal with the mental and physiological effects of stress in ways that are non-judgmental.
Although these components are theoretically distinct, they are closely intertwined. Improvement in attention regulation, for example, may directly facilitate our awareness of our physiological state.
Body awareness, in turn, helps us to recognize the emotions we are experiencing. Understanding the relationships between these components, and the brain mechanisms that underlie them, will allow clinicians to better tailor mindfulness interventions for their patients.
“Feelings, whether of compassion or irritation, should be welcomed, recognized, and treated on an absolutely equal basis; because both are ourselves. The tangerine I am eating is me. The mustard greens I am planting are me. I plant with all my heart and mind. I clean this teapot with the kind of attention I would have were I giving the baby Buddha or Jesus a bath. Nothing should be treated more carefully than anything else. In mindfulness, compassion, irritation, mustard green plant, and teapot are all sacred.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation
Avoid missing out on your life and losing so much time to the past and the future. Living in the moment is a habit and a skill. Indulging in worry and regret are also habits.
While for most people it’s not possible to live entirely in the moment, life is more enjoyable and meaningful when your focus is on the present.