Knowing how to live in the present can be difficult. Trust me, I know. For me, the past and the future can press in, making me feel stressed out from both sides.
It’s tempting to agonize over the past- to pick apart and second guess your decisions and to find fault in how you acted. It’s also hard to resist worrying about the future. After all, it could hold anything! What a scary thought!
But here’s the thing- when we give in to these thoughts, we’re cheating ourselves of the present. We can’t change the past, and our control over the future is limited, so the energy spent here is wasted!
If you want to learn how to live in the present, check out these 5 powerful secrets from the world of psychology. Learn to take control of your attitude and live in the here and now!
For more info, check out the School of Life. This cute video sums up exactly why it’s so hard to live in the present.
5 SECRETS FOR HOW TO LIVE IN THE PRESENT
1. TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR OUTLOOK
Learning how to live in the present means learning how to take control of your mind. That’s where all the action happens!
Did you know that you actually coach your brain to be happier?
Our brains are wired to think a certain way. Unfortunately, it’s pre-wired to be negative.
Most of us fall into mindset traps that block us from fully living in the present.
Here are the most common mindset traps that stop us from living in the moment:
- CATASTROPHIZING: This is thinking about the future in a ‘worst case’ way. It’s when we worry that the very worst case scenario will be the one that happens. This is the typical ‘mountain out of a molehill’ thought pattern. It can so difficult to avoid, but when I catastrophize, more often than not I look back and see that there was nothing to worry about!
- Psychology Today have some great tips on how to put a stop to catastrophic thinking.
- FORTUNE TELLING: This is about predicting a negative outcome without really weighing up the situation. This is such a common mindset. It’s dangerous because we can give our ‘fortune telling’ real power, and make choices based on only this. We can even treat it as truth.
- CBT LA have some tips for tackling the fortune-telling mindset.
- SHOULD AND MUST: The first two are more focused on the future, whereas ‘should and must’ is how you look back at your past. This kind of thinking occurs when you look back at your actions and apply the words ‘should’ and ‘must’ to your life. An example of this might be, ‘I should have…’ or ‘next time I must.’ The problem with this mindset is that we are usually harsher on ourselves than we would ever be on someone else. We hold ourselves to high standards, but this can block us from living in the present. We can set the bar so high that it’s impossible to reach.
- Check out CCI Health’s worksheet for the ‘shoulding’ and ‘musting’ thinking style.
2. LEARN TO PAY ATTENTION
Paying attention to small things is a big step towards learning how to live in the present.
One way to do this is through mindfulness. Mindfulness is about being more aware of your thoughts, emotions and experiences in each moment of the day. While mindfulness is a whole topic on its own, there are some easy ways that you could bring it into your life to help you to live in the present.
- Be mindful in your everyday actions. Notice the sensations and details around you when you’re doing small things- going for a walk, eating your meal, or even driving to work. Too often, our daily routines are the things that we do on autopilot. Have you ever eaten a meal you loved and then realized you forgot to pay attention to how it tastes? Or how often do we get from A to B without even really looking around at the route we’ve taken?
- Focus on your breathing. Breathing exercises are a brilliant way to calm you down and bring you back to the present when you are feeling anxious or worried. Healthline have 10 breathing exercises that you can try.
- Listen to what people actually say. Interactions make us human, and conversations are a big part of our everyday life. Learning how to live in the present means being present in each and every conversation. This is one that I am so guilty of forgetting to do! It can be easy to let your mind float off somewhere else, or to hear what you think they are saying rather than what is really being said. But think about how great it makes you feel when someone truly listens to you. Becoming a great listener is about bringing yourself back again and again until it becomes your new habit to fully engage in the conversation.
- Try meditating. Meditation has been shown to be good for us both emotionally and physically. Even a small amount can make a difference. If it’s something you want to explore, why not start small with Pscyh Central’s 1 minute mindfulness exercises?
3. PRACTICE GRATITUDE
Being grateful for what you have is important for living in the present. Being grateful forces you to take stock of what you have rather than worrying or stressing about what you don’t.
You can practice gratitude in any moment. The next time you feel yourself focused on the past or the future, think about the present and do a quick stock take of what you are grateful for in that moment.
I bet that your list surprises you! Once you start cultivating a habit of gratitude, you’ll find yourself being grateful for more and more things. It will have a snowball effect on your life.
To take this further, what about starting a Gratitude Journal? Each day, simply jot down the things that you are grateful for. This will help you to take each day as it comes, and will help you to be positive no matter what life throws at you.
4. MAKE PHYSICAL CHANGES
Did you know that monitoring your body and making small physcial changes throughout the day can impact your mood?
This has been really well researched! This study shows how things such as posture and facial expression don’t just go alongside certain feelings- they actually have a direct impact on your emotional processing!
They found that walking or sitting with a stooped posture actually evoked negative emotions in yourself.
So having a straight posture and putting on a smile will actually trigger your brain to make you feel happier.
This has a massive impact for how you feel in the moment! To know how to truly live in the present, it’s important to monitor yourself physically. If you find yourself frowning or stooping, fix it! You’ll trigger the right pathways in your brain and will feel more positive and engaged with the world.
5. FIND YOUR BALANCE
Every single day you are given a certain amount of time. You get to choose what you do with it. At the end of the day, that time is gone for good, no matter how you chose to use it. It’s a gift.
Understanding this and treating time like a gift allows us to live in the present by using our time intentionally.
Do you spend your time in the present? Or do you spend it beating yourself up about the past and worrying about the future?
Decide how you want to use your gift of time!
Make sure that you carve out time to do the things you truly love. One way to figure this out is to look back at what you enjoyed as a child. Choose the things that totally absorb you.
Also give yourself time to pause in the day. If you find that your day is slipping away and you’re rushing around without really enjoying it or living in the present, stop and take a second. Pause and let yourself re-set.
You might need to:
- Check your thought patterns. Are you falling into a mindset trap? What can you do to get out of it?
- Pay attention. Are you flying through your day without paying attention to it? Do you need to do a short mindfulness exercise?
- Find what you’re grateful for. Stopping to note the things you’re grateful for in life will boost your positivity and happiness and allow you to appreciate each moment.
- Check your physical signals. What message are you sending physically to your brain? Do you need to straighten up and smile? Remember that this will re-trigger your brain for positivity and happiness.
Don’t Forget to Reflect
One of the best ways to reflect is to journal. Even a few minutes of writing in a journal each day can have amazing benefits. Research suggests that journaling can boost happiness in five minutes or less!
It can reduce anxiety, depression and stress, and can help you to develop insight and cope with emotions. It can help you to see things in a new way, and to reflect on what you’ve learned from experiences. These can help you to grow and get the most from life.
The Plan the Life You Love Motivational Planner and Reflection from Etsy will inspire you and help you to plan a life you love. The reflective pages help you to capture key moments in your life– what you’re proud of, grateful for, what made you laugh, a person that helped you, something to work on, as well as words to remember. It lets you create a beautiful memory to look back on.
It’s just a few dollars so why not grab a copy and experiment with journaling?
You might also enjoy:
- How to Stop Being Negative and Live a Positive Life
- How to be Successful in Life: It’s Simpler Than You Think!
- 4 Awesome Ted Talks That Will Show You How to Get Stuff Done
- 3 Vital Areas For Adults to Develop a Growth Mindset and Unlock Potential
- 11 Must-Know Tips on How to Be Happy With Yourself
Comment and let me know what helps you to live in the present. Please also share this post if you enjoyed it- every share helps!
Thanks for reading!