We spend about half of our lives thinking about something other than what we are actually doing in this very moment. The now famous Harvard study brought light to this reality with a study using an iPhone app that pinged participants at random times throughout the day, asking them what they were thinking about right this second. The study revealed that 50% of the time, the mind was wandering away from what they were currently doing, but not only that, it also showed that participants were significantly less happy when their minds where moving around rather than staying focused on the now.
Most of us spend a lot of our waking hours lost in the past, reliving beautiful memories or more often than not repeating an old conflict, mistake or negative situation. Or we get lost in scenarios dreaming about what will happen in the future, creating wishful daydreams or creating disasters in our minds that go round and round about a scary or dangerous monster that will never actually come to light.
This way of thinking makes our life much more limited and miserable than is necessary and the key to solving this problem is to live as much as we can in the only moment that is ever really important. This present moment right now, the only moment that ever was and ever will be. By focusing our mind and staying present in everything we do, we will see things in a whole new light and feel a lot more optimistic.
Here are our TOP 10 ways to anchor ourselves in the now and focus on what is rather than what might be or what was.
To get things done more effectively, it is important to single task, but additionally, focusing on just one single task can help you to get and stay in the present moment. That means you don’t have a gazillion windows open when you work on your presentation, it also means that you don’t use your smart phone or computer when you watch a movie and you put your phone down when you have a conversation with someone else. Set the tone already in the morning as you wake up, slow things down and do one thing at a time. You’ll be amazed how this single focus can pull you into the present moment and make you experience what you are doing right this very second.
#2 Do Something Physical
Doing something physical overrides your internal dialogue and gets you into the present moment. Exercise of course is the best choice because it has many added benefits like encouraging the growth of new neurons in the hippocampus and regulating the brain’s stress response, but a physical activity can be as simple as taking a shower, cleaning the house, taking a walk around the block or doing 20 push-ups. Any kind of physical activity will work to pull your wandering mind back into the present moment.
#3 Talk to Someone
Talking to someone or even journaling in your diary is an effective way to reign in your mind, provide perspective and get you into the present moment. When you talk to someone else, really listen to what they have to say and you will realize that the inner dialogue will slow down and eventually stop and you can enjoy the present moment and the face-to-face interaction with another person a lot more. Not only will you pull yourself into the present moment, you will also significantly improve your relationships.
#4 Connect with Nature
Connecting with nature has a lot of benefits and can improve our mood, lower our stress levels and increase our sense of well-being. However, in order to get you into the present moment, you don’t have to spend hours outdoors, a recent study revealed that a momentary interaction with an item of nature can have a hugely positive impact on our mental health and getting into the now. Whenever you have a moment of feeling disconnected, take a mini-retreat with nature. Enjoy the tree at the bus stop in the middle of a busy city, pet an animal, walk barefoot on grass. It will get you out of your head and into the present moment.
#5 Get Off Your Cell Phone
We’ve all been guilty of overusing our cell phone, but in order to stay in the present moment, it is hugely important to get off our cell phone on a regular basis. Stop playing time-wasting, mindless games, stop texting all day long and stop checking social media every five minutes to catch all the latest news, because all of this disconnects us from our present moment experience. When we are glued to our phones, we are disconnected from what is actually going on around us in this very moment and are unable to connect to the person in front of us, whether that’s our co-worker, client, partner or friends. Of course it’s ok to have a phone, it’s a very useful tool, just be mindful about how you use it and whenever you catch yourself mindlessly checking emails, playing Candy Crush or looking through your Twitter feed, put it down, look around you and experience the beauty of this present moment.
Do you have a stack of CDs hidden in the back of your closet that you don’t even listen to anymore? Do you have clothes hanging around that you haven’t worn in years and are waiting for them to be back in style? If you want to start living in the now, then it’s time to get rid off all the stuff that you no longer need or want. Of course it’s ok to have a few keepsakes, but having all that useless stuff around only weighs us down and it’s like a reflection of old emotional baggage that we can’t quite let go off. Let go of the old, both externally as well as internally and you’ll be surprised how much easier it is to stay in the present.
#7 People Watch
People watching is one of our favorite things to do and it means that we are simply sitting down in one place and get into observation mode without checking our smart phone for new messages or social media feed. You can extend this beyond watching people and can include nature watching. Schedule some observation time and simply notice everything and everyone around you fully. You’ll learn a lot and can completely immerse yourself into the present moment. Every time we travel to a different place, we love to sit in a local café and watch people. Through this simple act of observation you can learn quite a bit about customs, culture and mannerism. But you don’t have to travel to do this, you can observe people and surroundings anywhere, anytime.
#8 Savor Your Senses
Give yourself the gift of savoring your senses for a few moments each and every day. Stop your routine, even if it’s only for a minute and smell the roses, grounding yourself in what is going on around you. Experience a genuine love affair with your food and absolutely immerse yourself in the flavors. Take one sensory experience each day and allow it to stop time. Listen to music, enjoy a meal, smell the roses or essential oils, sit and watch the sunset or spend time with a painting. You won’t just get into the present moment, you can even create a spiritual experience. Whenever you savor one sense, others will be drawn in as well, but try to focus on the single sense you chose, because practicing this kind of focus can train your present moment awareness muscles at the same time.
Meditation is one of the easiest tools to help you live in the present moment and it can at the same time be the foundation for many other miracles happening in your life. If you don’t have a daily meditation practice, yet, simply start by taking a few minutes to sit or lie down and observe your breath. Don’t do anything else, simply focus on how the breath enters and leaves your body, how smooth it is, how deep it is, how rhythmic it is. Don’t judge, don’t try to change it, simply observe your breath and when your mind wanders – which it will – don’t get frustrated, but simply pull it back to your breath. To get you started on a daily meditation practice, have a look at our book ‘Meditation for Beginners’ and enjoy the magic of meditation today.
#10 Experience what You Are Doing
This is challenging for most of us, but it’s a surefire way to get into the present moment and stay there. Actually experience what you are doing in this very moment. It may sound weird, but how often have you had dinner without actually tasting your food? How often have you listened to music without noticing the lyrics? How often have you talked to someone without actually hearing what they are saying? If you are doing something, stay on task and engage with it. Notice the different instruments in that piece of music, listen to the person you are talking to and isolate specific flavors in your meal. Not only will you pull yourself into the present moment, you will also enjoy what you are doing a lot more.
There are many advantages of living in the present moment. When we can manage to stay in the now, we significantly decrease mind made suffering, gain much more clarity and focus, allow things to flow naturally, feel more centered, calm and relaxed and experience life in a much more positive way. Make it a point to move away from the thought loops that switch back and forth between fantasies and memories and return to this present moment.
PULL YOUR WANDERING MIND BACK INTO THE PRESENT MOMENT
Joschi & Monika