There is only one time and place where you can be and have any control over. The present moment.
But most of us still spend a lot of our regular days lost in memories, reliving a sunny vacation or maybe more commonly repeating an old conflict or negative situation over and over in our thoughts.
Or we get lost in scenarios about what could happen in the future. Maybe through wishful daydreams. Or maybe by building monsters in our minds as thoughts go round and and round and create scary and dangerous mountains out of molehills or just air.
Or the mind may become split and unfocused between several different things and tasks.
If you spend a lot of your everyday moments and time in the future or the past – or both of them – or you have difficulty focusing and you feel this may have a negative effect on your life then maybe you want to learn to live more in the present moment.
I first tried it several years ago and it has had some huge benefits for me. Some the most important ones are:
- Less negativity and more action. Too much time in the past or future tends to create a lot of fear, worry, lowers your self-confidence and you’ll get less of the very most important and often difficult stuff done.
- Less stress. When you try to do things but put a lot of pressure on yourself by reliving past failures that you want to avoid now then that adds a lot of stress to anything.
- You’ll find more fun and excitement in what you do. Rather than feeling stressed and like you just have to get to the finish line as quickly as you can. Doing something and just being focused on that and nothing else makes the doing more joyful. Or it at least feels more OK to do it.
- Sharper and more relaxed socially. Learning to be present has had a huge positive effect on my social skills. When you are just in the present moment in a conversation then you don’t fear what could go wrong based on bad previous experiences. You won’t build up a big negative future scenario before your date or meeting at work. You may do a bit of planning. But when you are in the conversation or meeting you are just there to 100%. And that makes it so much easier to think fast, to be witty, to listen well and to have a great and relaxed interaction.
Those are some of the biggest benefits.
Here’s what works for me. Just a few simple things that I use in my normal day.
Don’t aim for staying present all the time though. Because that is probably impossible and perfectionism tears self-esteem apart.
Just focus on improving. That is what I have done. Little by little I have learned to stay present more and more during my day. I hope this guide can help you to do the same.
Single-task not only your work.
I and many others have often written and talked about the importance of single-tasking your work to get it done more effectively.
I have found that it becomes easier for me to stay present for more time throughout my day if I single-task everything as best I can.
That means to not use tabs when I browse the internet but to just be fully engaged with one thing online at a time. It means to not use my smartphone or my computer as I also try to watch the TV. Or to use any of those internet-devices during a conversation.
Get a good start to your day and set the tone for it by single-tasking as soon as you wake up.
If you have to multitask, then try to set off some specific time for it during your day. Maybe an hour or so in the afternoon.
Do it slowly.
When you wake up and starting doing your first thing of the day, then slow it down a bit.
Do it and the next few things at a relaxed and calm pace. It will probably not take that much longer than if you do it fast. And you’ll be able to stay present more easily, to focus on each thing you do and to find a simple joy or stillness in it.
Do that instead of increasing your stress right away and getting stuck in worries or though loops about what may happen today before you even have had your breakfast.
As you move through your day, try to do it slowly when you can. Walk or ride your bicycle a little slower. Talk slower (this not only makes you feel calmer but I have also found that people tend to listen better to what you say when you talk a little slower).
Tell yourself: now I am…
This is something I have started using quite recently and it helps my thoughts to not wander off.
As I do something I simply tell myself this in my mind: Now I am X.
For example, if I am brushing my teeth, then I tell myself: Now I am brushing my teeth.
This habit is maybe most important when doing things where it is easy to drift away to the future or past. It could be when you brush your hair or teeth or when you are taking a walk to the supermarket.
I don’t tell myself this line all the time, but I pepper it a bunch of times throughout my day.
Minimize the input to have less thoughts running around in your head.
If I check the email, Facebook and three newspaper websites online early in the day then I have found that I will have more thoughts bouncing around in my head. And so it becomes a lot harder to concentrate on anything, to stay present and to not be dragged away into some negative thought loop.
So the kind option towards myself has become to not check anything early in the day. And to check things as few times as I can. If I minimize such things then my day becomes lighter and simpler and I not only stay present more easily but I also tend to get more things of importance done.
No, no, no + reconnect with the here and now
The four tips above make it easier to stay in the present moment and to use it and enjoy it fully. But each day I still drift into the past or the future. Or my thoughts become split between different things.
If you have read any of my stuff on self-esteem then you know that I often use a stop-word to quickly disrupt and stop the inner critic or a self-esteem damaging train of thought. I do the same thing here. As quickly as I notice that my thoughts have drifted away I say to myself: No, no, no.
Then I quickly follow that up with focusing on just my breathing or just on what is happening around me right now with all my senses for a minute or two to draw myself back to the present moment.