“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”
“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.”
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 happiness-friendly.
Three habits that have helped me a lot to make that shift into being much more mindful are to:
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 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 only 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 100% on your breaths going in and out of your body.
Do either of those things for just 1-2 minutes.
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Wise advice about being mindful of the present moment Henrik.
Many people disrupt their present with worries about the past, or thoughts of the future.
R. G. Ramsey
Henrik, I love these three simple practices that you’ve shared. There is a soothing sense of calm after you accept the present and let go of trying to change it. Slowing down is key. And I believe society doesn’t place an emphasis on that because they correlate it with not being “productive”. Just do you. Don’t follow the standards set down by others. Do what’s best for you. Slow down. Just be. It’s okay to be. And not want to he anywhere else.
Even if we try to control our thoughts on not going into past, there are people around you who try to drag and provoke you to discuss n think on the past, who have fun later being successful in pulling one down n back to past pain, how to deal n tackle these people.
Just try to stay away from like that peoples that’s it
I look forward to your emails. They are always positive and worded where I can understand and relate. Thank you.
I’m inlove with your writings! It’s sort of my guardian angel that keeps me positive and lively! Keep striving peeps!
It helps me lot because I thought this same things few minutes ago mind-blowing Really “god” was there who listen my pain and situation and give solutions on this website.
Thanks god it helps me lot.?????
I find myself reliving the past many times. I also revisit painful memories believing I should have done something different. This article is an eye-opener for me. The first part cut me to the core. Thanks for the sound advice!
Interesting you say that, I have been dealing with the exact same thing, (until recently). wishing I could have done things 10, 20 yrs ago differently and beat myself up literally (at times, not all the time) about it. But I literally had to tell myself like Henrick said,
STOP IT. YOU CAN’T CHANGE THE PAST BESIDES IT WAS NOT ALL BAD. and yes, it does leave you replete with grief and makes you melancholy.
I’ve recently purchased a bicycle and ride on the trail, it so so medicinal for me to take in GOD’s creative nature, and like Henrick said keeps in me the now!!
I love this article! It is what I do all the time and I didn’t have really any techniques to help me to stop doing that, so thank you very much!
Observing your breathe continuously for 15 minutes helps to calm down your mind tremendously. Also, continuous worrying about the past or future zaps you of your energy and leaves you tired and exhausted. Going to the temple, talking a daily walk, and talking to good and genuine friends, keeping busy reading a book or novel etc also help calm and soothe the inner mind.
As they say, too much analysis leads to paralysis. Be present…today.
Thank you for this reminder. To put simply pick the weeds and water the fruit. Weeds will grow regardless, it is important to be aware of the weeds, pluck them, doing so gives more life to the fruit. The fruit is that which makes you feel alive!
I read your comments in my email on a regular basis, however, I have a big problem staying in the present, every time I try my mind goes back to wandering all over the place,thoughts going all over the place .Any advice please, as is driving me crazy.
Today, of all days, you have caught me dwelling on the past … and the future and everywhere but now .. in the present!
Thanks for the help!
I need to be calm … stop … breath … be in the NOW..
I look forward to more of your words.
Thanks for your wonderful message. Your mail helps in being focused and productive. Eagerly waiting for your next article.
Thanks for this article, because for me it’s so important to try every day to stay in the present. it’s something difficult but is a great way to connect with your world.