There are usually two things that cause dis-stress in our day-to-day experiences. One is unrealistic expectations of reality - how we expect things should be, or how we think others should behave.
The second is not being mindful in the moment.
Living in the moment is essential for dealing with the stresses of everyday life. How much time do we spend every day waiting for the next thing to happen, thinking about the next thing we have to do, or ruminating about something that’s past?
The secret is not only to stay in the present moment, but to find positivity in it. What is amazing and wondrous? What can we be grateful for? What lesson can we take from this moment, right now?
Staying present in the moment can be an exhausting task, and it’s not easy. Something happens, though, when we do so - we become calmer, more focused, less clumsy, and joy over the experience of life arises. Prejudices and dislikes give way to acceptance and peace.
There will be many times, even after you think you’ve mastered this skill, that you find your mind wandering into the future or the past. When you notice it happening, gently bring your mind back to the present without judgement. Remember the saying, “Energy flows where attention goes.”
Here are some exercises you can use right now to stay in the present moment:
- Be aware of what’s happening around you, like you do when dreaming. Notice everything in your environment - use that kind of focus to be aware.
- See your environment through the eyes of someone who has never been there before.
- SLOW DOWN. Take your time with every task you’re engaged with.
- Notice and be amazed by things you encounter that you don’t normally pay attention to - light reflections, the movement of leaves in the breeze, the sound of traffic, the way people move, patterns on the walls and floor.
- Shake up your routine - take a different route to work or put your clothes on in a different order. Pay attention to the differences while you’re doing it.
- Taste every bit of food you’re eating. Notice the aromas. Notice the textures.
- Observe the sensations of your body. How do your feet feel in your shoes? What does the pen in your hand feel like? What parts of your body are making contact with your chair?
- Pay attention to the task your working on right now. Describe them to yourself as you’re doing them. For example, say to yourself, “I’m washing my hair and the lather feels great on my hands. Now I’m rinsing the shampoo out and putting on the conditioner.”
- Describe what you’re doing as though you were teaching someone else how to do it.
- Wear a favorite cologne every day, and use the aroma to remind yourself to stay in the moment.
- Pay attention to your breathing. Notice the rise and fall of your chest and abdomen. While doing so, say to yourself, “In…. Out…”
- Ask yourself, “What 'hat' am I wearing right now?” A Driver Hat? A Good Listener Hat? An Efficient Worker Hat? A Dishwasher Hat? Do the very best at the task you're working on right now.
Living in the moment doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t enjoy reminiscing about happy past times, or avoid planning for our future and setting goals. The difference is finding (and scheduling into our busy lives, if necessary) appropriate times for those activities. The obsession over being somewhere other than the present is where problems arise. Make time enjoyable in the moment it’s happening.