It's hard for me to be present in the moment. Like, really hard. I sometimes find myself in a moment in which I should be at peace, or even grateful, and instead I catch my mind wandering to a million different places. I want to start living in the present— at least more than I do right now — but it can sometimes just feel impossible.
And there are a lot of valid reasons why it can be so hard to turn off our minds and enjoy the moment. For one thing, according to psychologist Marcia Reynolds in a piece for Psychology Today, worry and over-thinking is literally what helped our ancestors survive, so we are basically hardwired to always be thinking and assessing.
And according to Susan Krauss Whitbourne in another Psychology Today piece on mindfulness, we live in a culture in which the majority of people are forced to multi-task, meaning our brains literally need to be in different places at once in order to get everything done. (It's also the reason why you might find yourself losing things a lot; in order to remember where we put our phone or our keys we have to have been conscious in that moment, and how often does that actually happen anymore?).
If you're struggling with this too, here are seven ways to live more in the moment.
This may sound hokey, but it is literally the first thing many experts recommend when discussing how to be more present in the moment. In an article for Psychology Today, certified counselor and life coach Michael J. Formica said, "being present starts with the breath. Simply draw a deep breath and let it out through your nose." Formica also noted that exhaling for your nose triggers a calming effect in our body.
2. Focus On Things Outside Of Yourself
In another Psychology Today piece, Jay Dixit, science writer and former Senior Editor, suggested focussing on things outside of yourself in moments when you feel your mind begin to wander. "Focus less on what's going on in your mind and more on what's going on in the room, less on your mental chatter and more on yourself as part of something," Dixit said. He noted that people who do this tend to feel more connected to the world around them as a whole.
3. Practice Mindfulness
In a piece on his self-help site Paid To Exist, Jonathan Mead noted the importance of practicing mindfulness each day. "This isn’t so much of a tip as it is a staple in living in the present. Practicing mindfulness means we practice our awareness in all our actions. Whether we are washing dishes or tying our shoes, our mind is focused on whatever we are doing. We are not thinking about the bills that we have to pay, or the phone call we need to make when we get to the office," he said. Try to focus on the little things, like the way you feel in a cozy robe, or the way a bracelet jangles on your wrist.
4. Don't Try Too Hard
Mead also noted the importance of not trying to force your mind to be quiet in your pursuit of being in the moment. "When we try to quiet the mind, we just disturb it all the more. Instead, simply witness your thoughts as if they are pure sound. Don’t try to judge your thoughts, there are no good thoughts or bad thoughts. Simply witness them," Mead said.
This goes a step beyond mindfulness, as it's not just about being aware of what's happening, but it's about enjoying it. In the piece by Dixit, Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychologist at the University of California at Riverside and author of The How of Happiness said, "This could be while you're eating a pastry, taking a shower, or basking in the sun. You could be savoring a success or savoring music." She noted that people who begin take time to savor things throughout the day generally begin experiencing more happiness and positive emotions.
In a piece for TinyBuddha about being in the present, life coach Erin Lanahan said being present starts with minimizing — and not just physical clutter. "What negative feelings, resentments, bad habits, or old ways of thinking are you holding on to?" Lanahan asked. "What relationships should have ended months or years ago? What clothes and shoes are cluttering your closet that you haven‘t worn in over a year? What junk is taking up space in your filing cabinets or kitchen drawers? Cleanse, clear, release."
7. Ask Yourself Where Your Feet Are
This is another tip from Lanahan. Whenever she feels her mind begin to wander, she simply asks, "Where are my feet," and it helps bring her back into the present moment. "If I keep my attention on the place where my feet reside, I have a better chance of remaining in the here and now. [...] As soon as I begin to feel bad or caught up in how I want things to turn out, I find my feet and begin again," Lanahan said.
Our lives can get incredibly busy — so much so that it can feel like time flies by and we have no idea how we got to where we are. If you're starting to feel like you're missing out on important moments because you have difficulty staying present, try a few of these methods each day and remind yourself that there is so much in life to be enjoyed!