Here You Are: 3 Essential Habits for Being in the Present Moment

by Henrik Edberg

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”
Buddha

One of the most common habits that make life miserable is to not be where you are.

What do I mean by that?

That your body is right here, right now. But that your thoughts are elsewhere in time and space.

They are in the past, reliving an old, painful memory. Or replaying an argument – that you still want to win – for the hundredth time.

Or your thoughts are in a possible future. Worried and stressed about what may happen at work or in your relationship. Or trying to plan for every possible scenario and through that hoping to fully control the future.

And the more time you spend in the future or past, the more you – in my experience – tend to also:

  • Be ineffective. Making decisions becomes very hard if you second-guess yourself all the time or become paralyzed by all the possible outcomes. And overthinking zaps so much energy that you lose motivation to take action.
  • Miss life as it happens. If you are not fully here in this moment then it is very easy to miss and to not fully enjoy a victory or simply a beautiful, fun or small moment in life.

Maybe you cannot spend all of your time in the now. Because there are things you can learn from reexamining your past. And there are things you sometimes need to plan for in your future.

But the kind of obsessive or addictive way to spend so much time in a regular week in the past or future can be replaced with something smarter, more helpful and happinessfriendly.

So how can you truly be here both in body and mind?

These three habits have helped me a lot in the past few years to make that shift:

1. Slow down.

Start your day with doing whatever you do first in your morning slowly.

This will make it easier and more natural to keep a slower pace and to focus fully on what you are doing for the rest of your morning. And starting your day in this way will often prevent you from going into your own most common thought loops that cause worry, anger or sadness.

Plus, doing something in a calm and relaxed manner is often the quickest way to do something well.

And you can of course slow down what you are doing at any time during your day to get your mind back to what your body is doing.

2. Tell yourself: Now I am…

I often tell myself this silently in my mind: Now I am X.

And X could be that I am brushing my teeth. Doing the dishes. Taking a walk and listening to the sounds around me.

Just reminding myself of this helps my mind to stop wandering and it brings my focus back to just that one thing I am doing right now and nothing else.

3. Disrupt your thoughts + quickly reconnect with the here and now.

If you are a regular reader then you know that I like to use a stop-word or phrase to silence the inner critic.

This works well for getting back to the present  moment too.

When you catch yourself going into somewhere else in the past or future with your thoughts then – in your mind – shout: STOP!

Or: No, no, no, we are not going down that road again!

Then, right away after you have disrupted those thoughts find your way back to the present moment by either focusing on what is going on around you right now with all your senses – the sights, the sounds, the smells and so on – or by focusing on your breaths going in and out of your body.

Do either of those things for just 1-2 minutes.

Image by Steve Jurvetson (license).





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{ 20 comments }

Madalina September 18, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Hi,
I was just being somewhere else but here when I noticed the newsletter. And I was telling myself to stop thinking about the past and just focus on what I am doing now. So your article is perfectly timed. Thanks. This might just work out.
Madalina.

Henrik Edberg September 19, 2013 at 10:15 am

Glad you like the article and thank you for reading, Madalina.

singmewell September 19, 2013 at 10:33 am

Thank you, Henrik, for your three wonderful and well-articulated recommendations. I like the crispness of the interventions and your encouragement to use them. I will.

Henrik Edberg September 20, 2013 at 12:56 pm

You’re welcome, glad to be of help.

steve werner September 20, 2013 at 2:55 am

You can’t hear enough about “living in the moment”

Missing life- that one really hit home.

SW

Henrik Edberg September 20, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Yeah, that thought helps me a lot to motivate myself to stay in the moment as best I can.

Anita September 20, 2013 at 11:53 am

Hi,

A very nice article.

Being in the present is the most important parameter for keeping the mind calm. The calmness of the mind brings out the best in us.

Once again thanks for the article.

Henrik Edberg September 20, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Thank you for the kind words, Anita!

Jaye Mike September 20, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Hi-
I currently struggle with reexamining my past a tad too much. Reading your helpful hints will contribute to my group in which I struggle.
Thank you.

Juliette September 26, 2013 at 7:06 am

I had a horrendous childhood …I free myself by living here and now.
Meditation helps me .

Rainer Proksch September 20, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Thanks for the wonderful article. This is a reminder for all who always live in stress thinking about a bad experience in the past or calculating the result of something that is going to happen in the future. We all are busy with something or the other that we often forget to enjoy the present. Your article is a wonderful reminder to live life in the present.

Leslie September 22, 2013 at 5:11 am

Thank you so much for this, Henrik. I am relatively new to your blog, but I absolutely love it! Regarding your 3rd suggestion, I have a phrase that I use to bring myself back to the present. I love wild roses, so I repeat this phrase: “Wild rose blooms…wild rose blooms.” It reminds me to be aware of the here & now, & it brings a pretty thought to my mind, too. Thank you again, you are a treasure.

Serena September 23, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Good post. This is exactly what I struggle to do, live in the present moment. Because whether we like it or not, the past effects us: the poor decisions we made a year ago can completely screw up our lives today. Every day I deal with the negative consequences of my actions and desperately wish I could turn back the clock…so hard to stay focused in the present. Requires strength of mind.

Negar September 24, 2013 at 6:33 am

I liked it, thank you :)

Ben September 25, 2013 at 10:19 pm

Nice! One of the things I tend to struggle with is constantly thinking about what comes next instead of focusing on where I am currently.

Anders Hasselstrøm September 28, 2013 at 12:18 pm

Hello Henrik,

Thanks for an inspiring blog. It is nice to see a successful and motivational blogger from Scandinavia.

You touch upon an interesting topic which is essential these days. People have computers, internet and smartphones 24 hours a day and it is getting much more difficult to stay in the present moment. People check their emails or Facebook 100 times a day and it is not unusual to see groups of people sitting together but not communication. Scary? I think so. What will it be like in just 5 years from now?

Anyway, I like your advice Henrik and I usually spend 10 or 15 minutes each morning to meditate and remind myself to be aware of my focus throughout the day. Meditating has helped me a lot to maintain focus.

Have a wonderful day Henrik. Danish weather is lovely today – Hope yours is the same :-)

Best,
Anders Hasselstrøm

Gavriel October 1, 2013 at 8:56 am

I only recently started reading your blog but I am really loving it! I especially have found breathing a good anchor to get back to the moment. It is nice to have extra tools in the arsenal.

Emily Brownell October 1, 2013 at 8:22 pm

It’s such a simple concept, to just live in the present moment and yet the more advanced we get the further away we get from being able to do just that. In a way we make it harder on ourselves. http://thefrugalouslife.com/2013/09/27/dont-hold-yourself-back/

Vincas October 2, 2013 at 7:17 pm

Thank you,I will try these tips

Social Natural October 4, 2013 at 12:54 am

You and Eckhart Tolle should collaborate in the future.

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