Everyone desires to find and create a life of purpose and fulfillment. But sometimes we are easily distracted by our seemingly mundane day-to-day responsibilities, memories of the past, and plans for the future, that we can lose sight of that desire.
We lose control of our mindset.
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. We are often preoccupied with multiple things, none of which is occurring right now.
Our minds are very active and constantly attempting to break free to occupy themselves with the past, the future, and pure fantasy (and I can’t really blame you there – hello, white, sandy beaches, anyone?). While it’s good to prepare for the future and learn from the past, we live in neither place, focusing on the present has many benefits.
Try these ways to live in the moment and be present and mindful with your life:
1. Make decisions on what you know now to curb worrying. I know this one sounds like I’m advising you to just snap your fingers and make worry disappear. We all know that’s not going to happen, no matter hard you try (if I figure that out, I’ll let you know). But we must remember that worrying is simply a result of staying focused on the future and what could happen – and circumstances over which you have no control and cannot predict. Keep your thoughts on your environment and your current activity. You can’t worry if you leave the future alone.
2. Accept your mistakes and let them go. Just the opposite, 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 – everyone else probably has (they’re too focused on their own stuff). And when life hands you an opportunity, take it.
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. Emmy-nominated filmmaker, speaker, and Webby Awards founder Tiffany Shlain wrote an amazing book on this subject, 24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day a Week, and in it explains how she and her family turn off all their devices for 1 day each week and spend time with each other, and how much closer to each other they became. It’s worth a try.
4. Do one task at a time. Current research is overwhelmingly in favor of single-tasking. I hate to break it to you – multitasking just doesn’t exist. You may be able to juggle multiple priorities and work on multiple projects, but you can only give 100% focus to 1 thing at a time. When you do, you’ll find you perform the task faster and at a higher level. Let multitasking be a thing of the past. Single-tasking is much more conducive to living in the present.
5. Eliminate unnecessary items. Clutter is distracting to both your mind and your eye. 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. Listen to Marie Kondo – things in your life are meant to spark joy. If they don’t, it’s time to go (and while we’re on this subject, before you buy something else, really consider the reason you want it, if it’s necessary, and if it fits into your life).
6. Forgive. When you hold a grudge, the only one suffering is you! Anger is distracting and keeps you from enjoying the current moment. You grant and acknowledge forgiveness for the sake of your own health and happiness. You don’t always get closure or resolution and that shouldn’t stop you from your own reconciliation; it’s not always about someone else.
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 (see multitasking). Get up, get ready, and leave the house with time to spare. Pad your planning time for unexpected issues – because you know they happen.
8. Listen. If someone is speaking to you, give them your full attention and participate in the conversation to the best of your ability. Put down your phone. Turn toward them. Ask questions. And listen with the intent to understand, not to respond.
9. Spend 5 minutes of each hour describing your environment. This may feel weird at first. 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. To do this, stop what you’re doing, close your eyes, take three deep breaths (inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth), release your shoulders, and then open your eyes. 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 taste more. You’ll become full faster, which leads to eating less. It will allow your stomach to digest food properly. It’s a complex system, but the brain is involved, too. Try eating an entire orange one piece at a time. Go slowly and focus on the flavor of each section. Same thing with instant ramen, a sandwich, or gourmet meal. Savor and enjoy each individual flavor.
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. Learn to say no. Allow yourself the creative space to just…enjoy.
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. Like all skills and habits, it takes practice and time to develop. Indulging in worry and regret are also habits – so choose your habits wisely. While it’s not possible to always live entirely in the moment, you will ultimately find that life is more enjoyable and meaningful when your focus is on the present.
Which one of these tips speaks to you? And how will you implement it? Let me know!