It is very easy to get distracted from the “here and now“. What with deadlines, future assignments, goals we want to hit, and plans we can’t wait to make, is there really any time TO be present?
And, although we can all understand being excited for the future- there is a big difference between being excited for what the future has in store for us, and micromanaging every aspect of today, tomorrow, and the next day in anticipation for what is to follow after.
When we become so consumed with preparing ourselves for what happens next, we not only can’t enjoy the present, but we also don’t get to enjoy the moment we have been planning all that time for; because, by the time it gets there, we are already pre-planning the next thing!
It can be hard, sometimes even scary, to live in the present… to accept things for what they are and to stop trying to control what is to come next. But, although it may be scary at first, once you get the hang of it, it can end up being the best decision you’ve ever made.
Can you imagine a life where you are not over-preparing and over-analyzing every move you make, but being fully alive in the current moment instead? When you’re on vacation, you are physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually present for that vacation; instead of being physically present, but mentally with your job, school, weekly planner, etc.
I found a helpful article on TinyBuddha.com by Andrew Brodsky that lays out 5 helpful steps to practice being present in the moment and enjoying what you have right in front of you:
1. Look inward for reinforcement, not outward.
When you feel stress or anxiety, resist the urge to look for external reinforcement. External reinforcement is the sugar high of emotions; it comes in a quick blast and then fades, and then you need another hit. All those seemingly harmless behaviors—checking e-mail, reading news blurbs—are ways of leaving the present. They are ways of trying to get external reinforcement that this moment is okay.
The present lives in us, not outside of us. We do not have control over the outside world, but we do have control over what is inside of us. When you feel the need for reassurance, remind yourself that all the resources you need to be present and at peace are inside you. Remember that they have always been there, and they will always be there.
2. Control your information stream.
Put your news consumption on a diet. Put your phone away. Regulate your use of external information for emotional support, especially from social media. Facebook, Twitter and the rest can be wonderful ways to connect with friends. But overuse them and they begin to make you feel disconnected instead.
3. Write down your goals—and then throw them away.
Goal setting is a great way to prioritize what’s important to you. Just remember that goals are about the future. Once you’ve identified them, let them float away into the future, where they belong. The real rewards are not in attaining your final goals, but in working towards them. And that only happens in the present.
4. Embrace gratitude.
At regular intervals take a few moments out of your day and list five things you feel grateful for. Gratitude is an amazing weapon against anxiety, and it is a powerful way of reminding ourselves of the power and value of the present.
A great way to immerse yourself in gratitude is to perform acts that help other people. Volunteering and acts of kindness help us focus on others, rather than ourselves, and are an amazingly effective tool for living presently.
5. Practice mindfulness.
Develop a simple, repeatable mindfulness habit. If meditation is your thing, spend fifteen minutes each morning in quiet contemplation, simply being present. The core of my contemplative process is running. It’s my way of burning out the noise and anxiety of the future and the past (which do not exist) and bringing my awareness back to the present. Experiment and figure out what works best for you, and then make it a habit.
We sometimes get so detached from the present moment that it seems like foreign territory, and lowering our defenses to allow it in can seem scary. When we let go of the future and allow ourselves to be in the now, we are actually committing an act of bravery. Diving in may be hard, but it’s the only way to find the true richness of life.
Are you struggling with living in the moment, accepting the present for what it is, or are you just interested in talking to someone about things going on in your life because you simply feel that you do not as you should? Sometimes having a partner in your journey can help. Give us a call to set up a free phone consultation at Life Skills Resource Group Orlando at 407-355-7378, and one of our Orlando Individual Counselors, Orlando Life Coaches, Orlando Teen Counselors, and Orlando Child counselors would be more than happy to help you, a family member, or a friend work on changing your life.