It’s common to worry about the future or relive the past and forget to pay attention to what’s happening in front of us now.
Life has a lot of demands, and we are constantly working to keep up with them. To be present and mindful of where we are in the moment can be very difficult.
Let’s first define being mindful so that it’s easier to pursue it:
a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
Practicing mindfulness and being present takes some know-how and practice, but it can be life-changing.
To Begin, You Must First Let Go
We must let go of those wandering thoughts and focus on the present and our emotions at that moment. There’s no one size fits all formula. Everyone has to figure out a way that works best for them. Each day you’ll have to do something different to let go and practice living in the moment and, hopefully, get to where it becomes second nature.
How to Let Go
Take Each Day As It Comes
You have no control over the future. You can plan and prepare as much as you like–and you should–but at a certain point you have to take a step back and say, “I’ve done everything I can and know.”
Get to a point in your daily life where you are comfortable saying that to yourself.
As an example, I used to get anxious when I would check my workload for the next day and see sick patients needing additional special care. My anxiety would make me think, “What if I can’t do it? What if I screw up?” etc.
Finally, during my fellowship, instead of saying, “what if,” I started saying, “I’m going to.” If any self-doubt crept in, I would remember all the times in the past that I had success. Once I established some positive memories, I’d let go of worrying about my upcoming cases with the idea that I was “ready.”
To translate this idea back to regular life, plan for your future, then let it go once your planning is complete. Things will get in your way, but worrying about the future, and all the random things that might happen, will only take away from your present happiness. So tell yourself you’ll worry if and when something does occur.
On that note…
Permit Yourself To Let Go
For all the perfectionists out there: worrying about something will not change its outcome or give you the desired result.
A big part of being present is also just trusting yourself. Have faith in your ability to handle your own life and job; have faith in your ability to make the right decisions for you and your situation.
Taking your mind off of something doesn’t mean you don’t care; it just means that you are trusting your future self to handle whatever comes your way.
Whatever past issue keeps you up at night, whatever you blame yourself for or whatever you’re regretting–it’s done. That time has passed. If there’s a way to fix it, then go about fixing it. If there’s no way to fix it, then let go!
Worrying and perseverating only disrupts your current day, time, and happiness.
To reframe this issue, consider how often you remember what OTHER people have done. How much do you think about other people’s mistakes? You probably don’t.
So, you can’t let go of those embarrassing moments because you’re worried about what people think of you? I bet they aren’t even thinking about it.
So then, why are you?
To Be Present
First, practice letting go. Then:
Keep Yourself Busy
A great way to stay focused and present is to fill up your day.
When you have so much to do, it’s hard for your brain to wander and for random, unproductive thoughts, to creep in.
To take it a step further, do work while at work and leave life tasks for when you get home. While this is not always possible, depending on what you do, it can help to reduce job-related stress. Plus, with this routine, you become disciplined to do work while at work and be present while there. Then at home, your focus can shift appropriately.
Fill Your Day With Activities That Interest You
Preventing boredom can help distract you from wandering thoughts and live in the present.
Pick up activities you’ve always wanted to try, sign up for groups and events; list things you’ve always wanted to do and do them. No one is stopping you from living your best life except for yourself.
If you’re genuinely interested in what you’re doing, you’ll be more likely to be fully present.
Try Not To Multitask
Multitasking is proven to reduce your productivity and effectiveness in getting things done. Plus, it increases stress. By multitasking, you are never truly focused on one thing; your attention is divided. How can you be mindful when your mind is full of twelve unrelated things?
Stay Away From Social Media
Comparison is a happiness killer. If you want to be more mindful and present in your own life, block out what others are doing. You have your own path and journey to take. Trust it and trust yourself. You are working to be your best, and that is enough; life will work itself out.
Stop Trying To Do Everything At Once
Are you getting married and trying to find a job? Feeling overwhelmed? Take a step back, breathe, and give yourself some space for rational thought. There is a time for everything. Is it necessary for you to find a job before you get married? Can it wait? What’s the rush? Is there a rush? Or are you just putting pressure on yourself because it’s something else you know needs to be done?
Things have a funny way of working themselves out. So let’s work on stress reduction. Stop worrying about completing all the life tasks you need; mindfully choose to do them one at a time, highest priority first.
Alternatively, if multiple things are happening at once (e.g., you’re moving, preparing for a job, and getting married), then devote a specific time of day for each task. This way, you will be able to practice being present at the moment for that particular task. For instance, hammer out logistics for moving in the mornings and get some packing done; right after lunch, do your job prep; in the evenings, schedule your wedding planning sessions.
Don’t we all need to do more of this? Meditation exercises in the form of deep breathing, practicing stillness, and becoming aware of our body, can help drown out the chatter in our heads and cultivate mindfulness-based stress reduction.
The good thing about journaling is that you don’t have to do it daily. Use journaling to help you reflect on your day.
Writing down your experiences and associated thoughts and feelings helps empty your mind and process everything. In doing so, you reduce the wandering thoughts and related stress and improve your ability to return to the present and focus on where you are.
Knowing how to live in the present moment and letting go of what is outside your control takes a lot of patience and practice.
So much of life passes us by because we are distracted or stressed about the past or the future. The more we can practice living in the present moment, the more we can improve our inner peace. Whatever your approach, be consistent. You have to incorporate these steps into your daily routine slowly, and over time, you’ll notice a difference!
Featured photo courtesy of Unsplash.com