It’s the latest catch phrase of our decade. Everyone is constantly telling us to stop worrying about the future, to move on and forget about the past and to live in the “here and now”.
While almost each one of us will agree that we want to be “here and now”, to live our lives to the fullest, and to be aware of the present moment, given our lifestyles, it can often be difficult to revert old habits and to break the cycle of anxiety for what’s to come and reminiscing about what we could’ve or should’ve done.
Below are just a few practical ways to live fully in the present moment and measures that you can take to practice being present, especially if you’ve got a particularly busy lifestyle:
When you’re walking from one meeting to the next or driving to and from errands, try to resist the urge to instantly put in headphones or turn on the radio. Instead, try to just skip a song and take that moment to enjoy a few minutes of silence.
Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, pick one meal every day where you will just eat and only eat. No commuting from place-to-place, no working and no distractions. This little ritual can help make you more aware of what you are putting into your body and consequently make you less likely to overeat, more likely to choose healthier foods, and also give you a chance to enjoy some time for yourself.
When we have a million deadlines coming up or several chores to take care of, it can be tempting to test the limits of our multitasking capabilities. However, as more and more studies are being conducted on multitasking, scientists are realizing that “by doing less, you might accomplish more”; the more we multitask, the less effective we become at accomplishing tasks overall.
Try mono-tasking for yourself by taking activities that you tend to do while in a class/ meeting or watching TV (ie. checking email, reading the news) and instead allotting a shorter but dedicated amount of time to solely doing that task. It can help to bring more focus to the single task at hand and it might even improve productivity!
Around every hour (or whenever you can remember), practice asking yourself the question, “how am I feeling?” This little exercise of mentally "checking-in" can help to make sure that we are in touch with our emotions, while also giving us a chance to bring ourselves back anytime we feel like we’re getting too caught up in something, like an argument or a stressful situation.
Pick a certain time every day (Example - 9:00 PM) and set a daily alarm to remind yourself to "Step Back". The moment it rings, pause what you’re doing (if appropriate), walk over to a quiet spot nearby, or just go to the bathroom and take a moment to close your eyes and relax.
Remind yourself that you're alive and that you've got people who love you. Think about all the people in the world that you love and how grateful you are to have them in your life. After a few minutes, you can resume whatever task you were previously doing but while also retaining the sense of appreciation and gratitude for those around you.
Everywhere we go; there are people around us, whether on the metro, in our office buildings or even going up and down the stairs and elevator. Wherever you are, just take the time to say hello to those around you. It is extremely simple and yet an effective way of making sure we notice the people who are in the room with us. Sometimes just the small act of acknowledging the existence of those around us can help prevent us from getting too stuck inside of our own heads.
Meditation is all about bringing our attention to one thought. Practicing meditation both individually and with a trainer can helps us actively regulate the mind. Especially when we want to live more in the present, this can be an effective way of training our minds on how to gently come back to attention after becoming distracted. It also helps to be more in tune with our hearts and our inner selves.
Open your phones and go through the settings for each of your applications, and turn off any notifications and alerts for things that you don’t need to know about immediately. While it might seem like a small matter, these little buzzes and notifications for emails, coupon deals or social media updates can often steal our attention throughout the day, making it harder to stay alert and present. Instead, only turning on alerts for calls and texts helps to get less distracted during the day and to make sure that you check other applications only when you have the intention to do so (like whenever you’ve allotted the mono-tasking time for it!)
There will always be days when we find it hard to stay present. However, no matter how caught up we get during the day, writing a diary when we’re winding down can help to recollect all the moments and observations that we might’ve missed when we were in a hurry. Even taking five minutes in the night to note down the outline of what happened that day – the work you did, the people you met, and what you ate – can help to point out things that you would like to improve on, moments that you didn’t take the time to appreciate and little dots that you had observed but were never able to connect.
Try to set an order and a general time for the tasks you need to do in the morning. Having a certain wake up time, after which you’ll do certain tasks like brush, go for a run, shower, and then meditate can help to start the day afresh and to keep us in a proper rhythm. Rather than frantically running around, we can naturally follow the flow that we’ve set, helping us to become more alert and focused on activities at hand.
Throughout the day, try to find pockets of time in which you can take a small pause. It can be right before a meeting is about to begin, a few minutes before you begin to eat, or the moment when you’re about to get out of your car to get to your next errand. When you find yourself in these pockets of time, with a small window of opportunity, just take a moment to sit, breathe, and relax, before moving forward in a calmer and more collected manner.