We often hear people talk about the importance of living in the moment and the different ways it will benefit us. It all sounds wonderful, especially the lower levels of stress and anxiety, but how exactly can we live in the present when our mind is constantly worrying about the past or planning for the future?
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the benefits of learning how to live in the moment you may not be aware of. Then, we’ll look at some of the obstacles and why we worry. Finally, and most importantly, I’ll show you how to live in the moment and stop worrying using some simple practices that you can easily incorporate into your busy schedule.
The result: a happier and more fulfilling life.
Table of Contents
The Importance of Living in the Moment
“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” -Buddha
While it can be difficult to live in the moment, it has innumerable benefits.
Here are just a few that will enhance your life tremendously:
By reducing stress and anxiety, you avoid many of the associated health consequences, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. Studies have shown that being present in the moment can also improve psychological well-being.
Improve Your Relationships
Have you ever been with someone who is physically present, but mentally s/he’s a million miles away?
Being with unavailable people is a struggle, and building relationships with them is extremely difficult. How about being with someone who is fully present? We enjoy being with her/him because we can make a much deeper connection.
By living in the moment, you can be that person other people enjoy being with, and you make relationships much easier.
You have greater control over your mind, body, and emotions when you are living in the moment. Imagine how much better your life would be if it weren’t at the mercy of a racing mind and unpredictable emotions. You would certainly be more at peace, and much happier.
Why Do We Worry?
Before we answer this question, it’s important to distinguish between worry and concern.
When we are concerned about something, we are more likely dealing with a real problem with realistic solutions. Then, once we do whatever we can to address the problem, we’re willing to live with the outcome.
Worrying, on the other hand, involves unrealistic thinking. We may worry about a problem that doesn’t really exist, or dwell on all the bad things that can happen as a result. Then, we feel unable to deal with the outcome. Either way, we have difficulty dealing with uncertainty, which is a normal part of life.
Certainly, some of our problems may not have desirable outcomes, such as a serious health issue. Some problems may be beyond our control, such as civil unrest or economic downturn. In such cases, it can be hard to avoid worrying, but not impossible.
Why Should You Stop Planning And Worrying Too Much?
There is often way too much talk of building for the future but what about building for the now? We all desire genuine happiness, and in order to manifest this joy we have to live presently. Too much focus on the future often leads to stress and negative thinking.
Here’re 5 reasons why you should focus on living in the moment, rather than planning too much for the future:
1. The present moment is the only moment you have control over right now
No matter how much you plan you never know for sure how life is going to play out. The only time you will know is when you are in that moment.
The moment you experience right now is the only moment you can control. You can choose to enjoy the moment or you can choose to loathe the moment. You can also choose to ignore the moment completely and waste it away, but either way, the present moment is yours to control.
Planning isn’t going to take you out of the present. It might help you accomplish your goals but it is not going to improve your quality of life for the present moment. Planning isn’t going to guarantee you a desired outcome for the future so why not accept what you can control now?
2. Each moment is a gift
There is no guarantee on the number of moments you will get to experience. This is extremely important to realize. No one knows when the next moment of their life is going to be taken away from them. Your next moment is not guaranteed, so why not take advantage of the one you are in?
You can’t live with this unique perspective if you are constantly planning for the next stage of your life. You can only experience this zest for life if you are living in the present moment. It may even sound corny and unrealistic, but it makes perfect sense.
Don’t take moments for granted. Plan when it is necessary but not at the expense of you enjoying the present moment. As the old cliche states that life is short, so you enjoy it while you can.
3. Being present is a great stress reducer
Thinking too much about the future, and the past, are often causes of stress. Even though some stress can be beneficial, the stress caused from not living in the moment can be detrimental to one’s mental, physical, and emotional health.
Over-planning can lead to unnecessary stress when the planning prevents you from living in the moment. Invigorate your life with present living strategies that will enable you to stay more focused on each moment.
You probably don’t have the luxury of meditating five hours a day and not setting some type of plan for your future, but implementing small changes into your life should help reduce stress.
Observe when your mind begins to focus on the future instead of the present moment you are experiencing. Ask yourself if this thought process is necessary. Simple awareness and recognition of your thoughts will assist you in being more present.
4. Plans often don’t manifest themselves the way you want or expect
This is a reality whether you want to believe it or not. How many times have you tried planning something but it just didn’t work out the way you want? How did you react? Did you get upset or did you handle the situation with acceptance and understanding?
Plans fail. As a member of a flawed species, you fail often. It is a part of life.
Attempting to plan for every step of your life is not only impossible but it is probably not healthy for you. The more you plan, the more likely you are to become irritated or upset when those plans don’t come into fruition.
I am not suggesting you shouldn’t plan with the attitude that the plan will fail, but I am proposing that you let life play its course and just be.
Go ahead and make plans if that is helpful for you but don’t lose sight of the present moment. If your plans don’t work out the way you want, then at least try to accept it.
5. Living in the present will make you happier
I don’t like to throw the phrase “make you happier” around too often because nothing makes you happy but yourself. In saying that, living in the present is one of the sure fire methods you can adopt in order to manifest genuine happiness in your life.
Without delving into the all the data and research that is available, it is being discovered that present living is one of the most influential keys to well-being. Too much long-term planning is going to prevent you from enjoying the beauty of now.
Don’t impede yourself from experiencing contentment. Practice living presently, and observe how it makes you feel. Plan when you need to but don’t lose sight of what is currently happening.
Find a balance between living in the moment and planning. You are only going to be able to control the moment you have right now.
The moment you have right now is a gift. Enjoy less stress by relishing the moment. Understand that plans don’t always turn out as expected. Accept the present for what it is and be happy.
Plan as you feel it necessary. Save money for a family and house. Invest in yourself. Set goals for yourself and realize them. That is what you are supposed to do. In this pursuit of planning, don’t forget about where you are in the present.
3 Steps to Start Living in the Moment
Follow these simple steps for more balance and clarity.
1. Overcome Worrying
In order to overcome worrying, you need to do two things:
Calm Your Mind
When you calm your mind, you are able to see more clearly.
The reason some problems seem so daunting is that our mind is racing so fast that we cannot see things as they truly are. Then, we make up a bunch of possible scenarios in our mind, most of which are unlikely to come true.
In addition to seeing more clearly, a calm mind will help us think more realistically. Unrealistic thinking is fueled by confusion and uncontrolled emotions. Calming your mind will reduce confusion and calm your emotions, allowing you to live in the present.
Focus on Solutions Instead of Problems
Some people tend to be more solution-oriented, and others more problem-oriented. Some of the factors that may determine this are gender, upbringing, and education.
People with more education tend to be problem-solvers. That is what their years of education train them to do. In addition, their jobs probably reinforce this way of thinking.
If you’re not problem-solving oriented, don’t worry. You can train yourself to worry less. We’ll discuss that soon.
2. Identify Obstacles to Living in the Moment
In today’s busy world, it can be a challenge to live in the moment. The reasons revolve around how our mind works, as well as outside influences.
Many busy people have a racing mind that never seems to slow down. Their mind gets so agitated from too much sensory stimulation.
You see, anything that stimulates any of our five senses will trigger a thought, and that thought leads to another, and then another, and so on.
If you have a busy life, all your activities will overstimulate your mind and make it seemingly impossible to slow it down.
If you find that you’re easily distracted, you can begin to tackle this with lifehack’s Free Guide: End Distraction and Find Your Focus.
Unpleasant Situations and a Troublesome Past
None of us want to be in unpleasant situations or remember those of the past. They can bring up painful emotions, which we don’t want to feel.
So, how do most people cope with painful emotions? By doing whatever we can to avoid them, we can take our mind to another place and time where things are more pleasant.
In other words, we avoid living in the present moment.
Some people resort to things that stimulate sensory pleasure, such as food, alcohol, or sex. Others will consume substances that dull their mind and keep them from thinking about unpleasant or stressful situations.
A Wandering Mind
From the moment we are born until the time we die, our body and mind are actively performing some function. Therefore, it’s natural for our mind to have some level of activity, whether conscious or unconscious.
Generally, a wandering mind is unproductive. One thought starts an endless chain of thoughts, and this process can go on until we need our mind to perform a specific function or get distracted with something else.
Now, there are times when a wandering mind can be productive, such as when creating works of art, or trying to find creative solutions to problems. In such cases, we need our mind to explore different possibilities.
Most of us are not fully aware of how our environment and social norms influence our thinking and behavior. People and institutions are constantly competing for our attention. The media draws our attention to the past, and advertising usually to the future.
Many people around us who dwell on the past or future try to draw us to their way of thinking. Even the whole concept of the American dream is geared toward the future. It tells us that if we acquire things like a good career, family, and house, then we’ll be happy, which does nothing to help us learn how be present.
3. Practice Mindfulness
How can we start living in the moment in a world that is constantly trying to draw our attention to the past and future?
Before we get into concrete actions you can take, it’s important to understand what mindfulness is. You’ve probably heard the term before, but may not fully understand what it means.
What Is Mindfulness?
The concept of mindfulness is actually quite simple. To be mindful is to live in the moment.
When you are mindful, your attention is focused on what is happening in the present moment, and you are fully in touch with reality.
You are aware of what is happening in your body, mind, emotions, and the world around you. This is different than thinking about these things. To develop greater understanding, you don’t have to think about them so much, but rather just observe them.
This may be counterintuitive to many people, especially intellectuals, because they’re so used to using logic to develop greater understanding. With mindfulness, we calm our mind and emotions so we can see clearer. Then, much of our understanding will come from simple observation. When we develop mindfulness, we literally expand our awareness.
To develop mindfulness, we need to train ourselves to observe things more objectively, that is, without our emotions or preconceived ideas influencing our views.
If you’re ready to live a better life, read on for some simple mindfulness practices that you can incorporate into your daily routine to help you live in the moment.
You don’t have to do all of them, but rather choose the ones that appeal to you and suit your lifestyle.
Mindfulness meditation is the mainstay of developing mindfulness and living in the moment. To practice mindfulness meditation, all you really have to do is sit quietly and follow your breathing. When your mind wanders off, just bring it back to your breath.
Notice how your lungs expand with each in-breath and contract with each out-breath. Let your breathing become relaxed and natural.
You don’t have to do it perfectly. The idea is to start spending time away from the constant sensory stimulation of all your activities, and just allow it to settle down naturally. Start with about 5 to 10 minutes per day, and work your way up to about 20 minutes or longer.
This practice is highly effective and can have both short-term and long-term benefits.
If you want to learn more about mindfulness meditation, take a look at this article: What Is Mindfulness Meditation? 7 Ways to Start Meditating
While this may sound the same as mindfulness meditation, all you’re really doing is taking short breaks occasionally (10 to 15 seconds) to observe your breathing. Stop whatever you’re doing, and take a few mindful breaths, then resume your activity.
You can do mindful breathing at any time of the day during your busy schedule. What it does is interrupt the acceleration of your mind. It is like taking your foot off the accelerator while driving. It’s a nice refreshing break you can take without anyone noticing.
Here are some breathing exercises you can try to learn to help you: 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly)
Walking is an activity that you perform several times throughout the day. We often think we’re being productive by texting or calling someone while walking, but are we really?
Instead of getting on your cell phone or letting your mind wander off, why not use your walking to train yourself to live in the moment and focus on the task at hand?
Mindful walking is similar to mindful breathing, but instead of focusing on your breath, focus on your walking. Pay attention to each footstep. Also, notice the different motions of your arms, legs, and torso. When your mind wanders off, just bring your attention back to your walking.
You can even make a meditation out of walking. That is, go walking for a few minutes outside. Start by slowing down your pace. If you slow down your body, your mind will follow.
In addition to paying attention to your walking, notice the trees, sunshine, and critters. A mindful walk is enjoyable and can really help your mind settle down.
You can discover more benefits of walking in nature here.
Eating is an activity that most of us perform mindlessly. The reason is that it doesn’t require your attention to perform. Therefore, many of us try to multitask while we eat. We may talk on the phone, text, watch TV, or even hold a meeting.
The problem with not eating mindfully is that we don’t eat what our body and mind need to perform at an optimal level. We may eat unhealthy foods, or too much. This can lead to various health problems, especially as we get older.
Mindful eating has many health benefits, such as reduced food cravings, better digestion, and even weight loss.
So, how do you eat mindfully? Start by slowing down, and avoid the temptation to distract yourself with another activity. Here are 3 different aspects of eating where you can practice mindfulness:
- Eating itself: Focus your attention on choosing a portion of food to insert into your mouth. Notice the smell, flavor, and texture as you chew it; then finally swallow it. As with following your breath during meditation, pay close attention to every aspect of eating.
- Choice of foods: Although you’ve already chosen your food before you have begun eating, you can still take the opportunity to contemplate your choices. Think about the nutrients your body needs to sustain itself.
- Contemplating the sources: Most of us don’t think about all the work it takes to provide us with the food we eat. While you’re eating, consider all the work by the farmer, shipping company, and the grocery store. These are real people who worked hard to provide you with the food necessary for your survival.
You can find more tips about mindful eating here: 7 Simple Steps to Mindful Eating
Choose an activity that you perform regularly, such as washing dishes. Focus all your attention on this activity, and resist the temptation to let your mind wander,. When it does, just bring your attention back to washing dishes.
Notice some of the specific movements or sensations of washing dishes, such as how the soapy water feels on your hands, the circular motion of scrubbing the dish, or the rinsing. You’d be surprised at how such a mundane activity can truly expand your awareness.
You can choose any activity you like, such as ironing, folding clothes, mowing the lawn, or showering. Over time, you will begin doing all these activities with greater mindfulness.
Bonus: 34 Simple Things For Living in the Present
When we adjust our relationship with time and find our center, we can take ownership of our commitments and our lives. Here’re 34 simple things you can do to live in the moment:
1. Real Gratitude Takes Time
Gratitude is good medicine and is always time well spent. It helps relieve stress and build positive energy, and it gives us great perspective on life. Every day, you should take some time out to be grateful for what you have. Here’re some ideas for you: 40 Simple Ways To Practice Gratitude
2. Nature Is Our Guiding Light
In nature, things move with the sunlight and the seasons. Society artificially compresses time. Tapping into nature’s rhythms will connect us with life around us and feel more energetic and productive.
3. There Is a Time to Hustle and a Time to Chill
If you’re hustling 24/7, it wreaks havoc on your mental and physical wellbeing. It’s crucial to carve out down time to slow down and breathe. Bring a blanket and book to the park, or take a long walk without your phone.
4. Anxiety Is Mostly a Waste of Time and Energy
Worry steals joy and negatively impacts decision-making. It’s understandable to often feel overwhelmed by life’s unknowns, but spending all day worrying about something that “might happen” is a waste of time and energy. Acknowledge the frightening thoughts, and move on to the task at hand. This anxiety coping mechanism can help:Anxiety Coping Mechanisms That Work When You’re Stressed to the Max
5. Discover What You Want
Make a list of all the things you want to do, including exercise, personal time, family time, reaching, yoga etc. Take a look and make sure it reflect your desires for self-care. If you did these things, would you feel calmer and happier? If so, add them to your calendar and prioritize them.
This guide can help you discover what you truly want: How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up
6. Exercise Doesn’t Have to Be a Grind
Exercise isn’t about quantity—it’s about quality. Are you focused? Can you breathe into and slow down that bicep curl? If so, then a few solid reps do the trick, and you can move on with your life and use the extra time to read a book or take a nap.
7. We Need Space to Digest Thoughts and Emotions.
When you aren’t digesting your thoughts, you create a backlog of mental suffering that keeps you from being present with your friends and family. To fix this, allot time to process your feelings. A hike in nature is a great time to work through that emotional turbulence, in turn allowing you to be more present for the rest of your life.
8. Sitting Is the New Smoking
Numerous studies are linking a stagnant lifestyle with a high rate of mortality. Get up and move around frequently throughout the day to improve your body’s functions and overall sense of wellbeing.
9. Meal Time Should Be Ritual Time
Our ancestors spent hours preparing meals and enjoying them with loved ones. Today, we scarf food down in our cars in between meetings. We should return to seeing mealtime as an opportunity to slow down and nourish our bodies, absorb nutrients, and relax into the digestive process.
10. Cut the Fat
We all have people in our lives who sap our energy without giving back. Draw boundaries and take your time back.
If you aren’t sure how to get rid of these toxic people, take a look at this: 15 Effective Ways Clever People Handle Toxic People
11. Family Time Means No Distractions
Instead of multitasking on work emails when you’re with your family, give them your all. Walk the dogs together or have dinner without devices. Work to get in quality time with your family every day, even if it’s just a few minutes.
12. Communication Isn’t What It Used to Be
Today, the vast amount of our communication is electronic. But it’s important to interact face-to-face to really connect. Wake up and pay more attention to your in-person communication, focusing on things like body language and eye contact. See how much better you feel.
13. Make Hay While the Sun Shines
Not all time is created equal. There are times of the day, times of the week, seasons of the year, and even eras in your life when you need to lean into things and devote more hours to your career or projects. So plan your day for maximum productivity and leisure time.
14. Mix up Your Workspace
Work can suck our time and prevent us from properly caring for ourselves. If you rearrange your workspace a bit, you’ll give yourself more room to think outside the box. Spacial awareness cues our bodies to stay more awake and wires our brains to work more efficiently.
15. Daydreams Give You New Insights
It’s healthy to daydream, but it can also become disruptive. Time debt has us constantly catching up on yesterday’s thoughts. Block off some time to think about a trip you’d like to take, and imagine the sights, sounds, and textures. Building positive and productive daydreaming into your life can be therapeutic and inspiring.
16. Trading Time for Money Is Limiting, but It’s a Necessary Evil
Modern society puts a dollar amount on our time. Can you do a project online to earn more money on the side and buy back some of that time? Ideally, you create a gig where your passive revenue matches and then exceeds your bills. You can use that income to bank money and buy a better future for yourself, or you can choose to chill out and garden all day.
17. Music Is the Space Between the Notes
Music would drive us crazy if there is no space between the sounds. Yet that’s how we live our lives—nonstop motion, never slowing down. Pick an instrumental track you love and make some space to sit with it. Then see if you can sync your breathing with the song’s cadence. If you master this, you can learn to slow down in your regular life.
18. Our Time-Saving Devices Are Actually Draining It.
We created technology to help us save time and energy, but constant alerts, reminders, and notifications take us out of the present. Take a hard look at your relationship to technology and see where you can cut back.
19. Don’t Let Social Media Become a Tick
I get it. Social media is a way to feel connected to your world and in the loop. But checking it can become a social tick that completely removes you from the world around you, and it’s time to break the habit. Have a social media blackout day in order to reset.
20. Five Deep Breaths Can Help You Think More Clearly
Set a timer for every 30 minutes. Whenever it pings, stop what you’re doing and take five deep breaths down to your lower abdomen. Focus on slowing the inhale and holding for a second at the top of the breath. Then make a long, deep exhale. When you train your body and mind to press pause and nourish your breath regularly, you feel calmer.
21. Many Big Life Decisions Are Made Under Duress, Slow down and Stop Reacting
If you think through your history of big decisions, you’ll realize how many you made when you were stressed and under the gun. You make better decisions when you’re calm and collected. If you breathe deeply to your core and focus your energy on staying in the moment, you’ll see reality more quickly and make a smarter choice.
22. The Sun Isn’t Your Enemy
Given the negative effects of UV exposure, sun has gotten a bad rap lately. But we all need sunlight to trigger vitamin D synthesis and balance our neurotransmitters. Make a concerted effort to spend time in the sun to reap the benefits.
23. Give Yourself a Break
Take a 5-minute break once every 25 minutes. Get up and stretch, or do some squats—whatever gets your blood flowing. Listen to your body and let it decompress. Practicing this throughout the day will keep your oxygen pumping to give you more energy.
24. Sleep is Crucial
In today’s busy world, there’s less time to build recovery into your schedule. But sleeplessness makes us tired, weary, moody, less enthusiastic, and unfocused. If you stay in this state for too long, you’ll start to see negative effects on your career, relationships, health, and mood. Try giving up caffeine to reinvigorate your sleep life.
25. Bed Time Is Sacred
The bed should be only for sleep and making love, but we often use it for other things like eating, watching TV, and doing work. Take all those activities and move them elsewhere. When you stare at a screen in bed, you’re compromising your sleep schedule.
26. Quality Time in Low Light Is How Our Ancestors Lived for Generations
When the sun went down, our ancestors would wind down by candlelight or hang out around a fire. The darkness signalled our brains to start shutting down and prepare for sleep. We need the darkness to reset. Every night, take a few minutes before bed to slow down in the dark.
27. If You Need Help, Ask for It
Enlisting help is not easy—many of us are control freaks. But not being able to get help is exhausting, and not asking for help will lead to burnout. Look at your day and see where you’re spending time on menial tasks you don’t need to be doing. Let people help you.
This article is a great reminder for anyone who is reluctant to ask for help: Afraid to Ask for Help? Change Your Outlook to Aim High!
28. We Spend an Average of One Hour per Day in Our Cars
The time we spend in cars is crunching our spine, tightening our hips, collapsing our posture, and slowing down our metabolism. To counter the negative effects, keep your body engaged and postural muscles active. Use your car time productively, like by listening to an audiobook or catch up with your mom on the phone.
29. A Vow of Silence Is Therapeutic
We live in a world of noise, and we spew endless energy on wasted words. Take a few days to be more mindful about your conversation, and avoid saying anything that is unnecessary—you’ll be shocked how much more time you have.
30. Books Can Take Us out of Time and Space
Books give us information, insight, and knowledge, and take us to new places. All the most successful people I know are avid readers. Today, pick up a book you’ve been meaning to read and get through at least 30 pages. Relax into the experience and know it’s time well spent.
31. Enjoy a Moment with a Neighbor
Back in the day, we used to be close to the people who lived in close proximity to us. Today, it’s just a quick smile or wave as we pass in the driveway. Making an effort to connect with the people around you will make you feel less lonely and improve your mood.
32. Traumatic Events Carry a Heavy Weight in Our Mental Timeline
Trauma imprints on our cells and stays with us throughout our lives. When you experience an uncomfortable feeling that’s associated with a harsh memory, close your eyes and follow your emotions in. It may be uncomfortable, but when you breathe into the area, you and heal your past.
Try these steps to let go of the past and move on: 10 Simple Steps To Let Go Of The Past
33. You Can’t Get Back Lost Time
Although there’s no use crying over spilled milk, there certainly is an opportunity to reflect and see how you could have avoided that incident for the future. There is always a lesson in your mistakes you can learn from: 10 Important Life Lessons I’ve Learned From Reading My Past Journals
34. Creativity Takes Our Minds off the Clock
Sometimes it feels like you have no control over when inspiration hits. But this isn’t entirely true. Through meditation and diaphragmatic breathing, you can engage the right hemisphere of your brain and foster creative thinking. This way, your creative juices spring up naturally, and before long, you’re in a timeless flow state.
Everyone can be creative, here’s how to rejuvenate your creativity: What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It
Practicing mindfulness is like regularly putting small amounts of change in a jar. They will all add up over time, and this will add up to greater peace and happiness as you start living in the moment.
Remember, you don’t have to do the mindfulness practices perfectly to get the benefits. All you have to do is keep bringing your mind back to the present moment when it wanders off.
The benefits of living in the moment are well within your reach, no matter how much your mind is racing. If you stick with these mindfulness practices, you too will learn how to live in the moment and stop worrying. When you do, a whole new world will open up for you.
Featured photo credit: Smile Su via unsplash.com
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