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Here and Now… Tips for Staying Present

Sep 5, 2022

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” — Buddha

Do you ever notice how often your mind wanders on any given day? One moment you’re thinking about one thing, and the next, your thoughts have completely shifted. Even when we attempt to focus on one thing purposely, something else seems to be vying for our attention, distracting us without notice, making it increasingly difficult to concentrate on one specific task or moment.

Most of our lives are spent living in the past or the future, ruminating over what has already happened or what is to come (or might not come). Our thoughts can easily go from a deadline that needs to be met to ideas of what’s for dinner to memories of a broken heart, all within a matter of minutes (even seconds).

We’ve all experienced this type of rampant thinking where our thoughts become split and unfocused between several different things, and most of the time, we may not even realize it when it’s happening. Nevertheless, this tendency to get sucked into the past and the future can leave us feeling lost and completely worn out.

But we don’t have to stay stuck in a time warp; we can jump off the merry-go-round and step into the present. After all, the only thing we truly have control over is the present. Focusing on the present moment can change our lives by transforming our perspective on life and ridding us of our worries.

Being in the present moment, or the “here and now,” means that we are aware and mindful of what is happening at this very moment. When present, we are not distracted by ruminations on the past or worries about the future but instead our attention is focused on the present moment (Thum, 2008). When being present, we are anchoring ourselves in the now, not in the past or future, as neither of which exists in the moment. It is finding peace in the now and letting go of past narratives and future anxieties.

Some practices that help get us out of our heads and back to our bodies include, yoga, breath work, mindfulness meditation, walks/hikes in nature, mindful eating, and journaling. These practices and many others help one develop self-awareness, find balance, and discover peace.

Let’s take a look at some of these…


 

Just Breathe

“Eternity belongs to those who live in the present.” Ludwig Wittgenstein

 Whether we realize it or not, the simple act of breathing is one of the most powerful practices in staying present. When we purposely focus on our breathing, we force our thoughts to return to the right here and now.

The next time you notice your thoughts going down a rabbit hole of worry, stress, and overthinking, bring your focus to your breathing. Pay attention to the expanding and contracting of your belly as you inhale and exhale.

Notice how with each breath, your body relaxes and your mind eases.

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it”.

― Thich Nhat Hanh

Practice Being Mindful

Mindfulness meditation is a mental practice that teaches us to slow down racing thoughts, let go of negativity, and to regain a sense of calmness in both our mind and body.

The mind is at the center of everything we think or experience, and we can often become overwhelmed by the magnitude of information being constantly processed. Taking the time to be still in the moment without allowing distractions or thoughts to creep in can seem almost impossible. Fortunately for us, we are equipped with the tool to make mindfulness possible, and that tool is our minds. The same mind that allows us to worry, stress, and overthink is the same mind that can be the center of calmness. Much research has provided evidence that mindfulness can be beneficial to your mental, emotional, and physical well-being; it can also be helpful with managing the relationships in our lives.

“The real gift of gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become.” – Robert Holden

Be Grateful For What You Have

If you woke up this morning, you have something to be grateful for. Part of living in the present is being grateful for all you already have, not dwelling on what you once had or didn’t have in the past or what you hope to have in the future. We all have something to be grateful for. When we constantly focus on what we don’t have, we lose sight of all the good in our lives, what you have right now. Take stock of all the good surrounding you, you’ll be surprised in what you find.

Make it a practice every day to find the good in life. Think of at least three things you are grateful for, no matter how big or small. If you can, jot down the things you are thankful for and revisit them whenever you need a reminder of how much good fortune you have.

 “Your life requires your mindful presence in order to live it. Be here now.” ― Akiroq Brost

 Letting Go… Acceptance

While much easier said than done, to start living in the present, you must let go of what wasn’t or once was. Being present means accepting things for what they are in the moment—understanding that as much as we may desire, we cannot control everything that happens to us in life. What we do have control over, however, is how we respond to what is happening right now.

“If you were conscious, that is to say totally present in the Now, all negativity would dissolve almost instantly. It could not survive in your presence.” — Eckhart Tolle

 Journaling / “Morning pages”

 Get it out on paper. One of the best ways to stop ruminations and mindless chatter in our heads is to journal.

A particular type of journaling called morning pages does an excellent job setting the tone for a mindful day by allowing for mind dumping.

Early in the morning (if possible, as soon as you wake up), take a few minutes to pull out your journal or a notebook and make an entry to clear your mind.

“Morning Pages typically consist of three pages of writing/musings, but don’t let the number of pages deter you from writing. Write whatever comes to mind. You’d be surprised at how quickly those three pages fill up. There is no wrong or right way to write these pages. They are your thoughts on paper.

Remember… Be Gentle With Yourself

Being present doesn’t mean that your mind will never wander. Our minds will always wander; that’s inevitable. The goal is not to stop our thoughts but instead not become consumed with them. To get to the point where we become witnesses of our thoughts. To allow them simply to come up in our minds, acknowledge them, and let them pass by.

If you find yourself getting carried away in your thoughts or see that they are bouncing all over the place—whether with worry, fear, anxiety, or even anticipation, don’t be hard on yourself; just observe your thoughts without judgment, and return to the present. Refocusing on the present is the practice of being mindful.

“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.” — Alice Morse Earle

 

 Sources:

Thum, M. (2008). What is the present moment? Myrko Thum. Retrieved from http://www.myrkothum.com/what-is-the-present-moment/

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