living in the moment

Living in the Moment: 11 Steps to Be More Present

How much time do you spend living in the moment?
According to a Harvard University research study, we spend nearly 47% of our waking time thinking about the past or the future.

Living in the present moment, is an evidence-backed practice that psychologists have linked to reducing stress and anxiety in everyday life.

In this article, we’ll be looking at the benefits that living in the present moment creates, and how to worry less about the past or the future, focusing on how to be present minded.

What Does It Mean to Be Living in the Moment?

Have you ever been so absorbed in something that it feels like the rest of the world disappears?

It could be something as simple as watching your favorite TV show or hearing some juicy gossip at work. It’s those few moments when you’re completely in the present and nothing else matters.

It’s a special feeling, and it doesn’t always have to be something dramatic to experience it. It can be in the little things too.

… we spend nearly 47% of our waking time thinking about the past or the future.

What Are the Benefits of Living in the Moment?

living in the moment V2 - couple hugging watching the sunset
  • By being focused on the task at hand you become more productive but also learn to stay present, which contributes to your overall mental wellness
  • Being present has been shown to have positive effects on both anxiety and depression
  • The practice of being present in our day to day life is shown to reduce the aging of the brain
  • It can improve mood regulation and mental health
  • People who apply present moment awareness to their own life are happier with less stress
  • As stress is a significant contributor to physical health problems such as heart disease, reducing stress and anxiety, and living your daily life deeply aware of the present, positively affect both mental and physical health.
  • We pay more attention when we talk leading to improved relationships and intimacy

The Wandering Mind

Woman looking anxious holding her head with both hands

Have you ever found yourself daydreaming, lost in thought, or completely absorbed in a task, only to realize that time has flown by? Our minds have a natural tendency to wander, a tendency that can be traced back to our primitive past.

Lessons from Our Ancestors

  • Our ancestors lived in a world where danger was always lurking around the corner, and the ability to anticipate and prepare for any potential threats was essential for our survival.
  • This is why our brains are wired to worry, anticipate any dangers, and at times, anticipate troubles.

Problem-solving and Worrying

  • When we find ourselves worrying about something, it’s simply our mind’s way of trying to solve a problem and find a solution.
  • In our past, this could have meant life or death, but in today’s world, we experience the same level of worry for something as minor as a future business meeting, or even for situations that will probably never occur.

The Positive Side of a Wandering Mind

However, this tendency for our minds to wander and worry isn’t always a negative thing, especially when paired with present moment awareness.

The Power of Creativity and Imagination

  • Our ability to imagine and think creatively is what sets us apart as humans and made us the most dominant species on the planet.
  • Creative thinking, art, music, and problem-solving are all linked to wandering minds.
  • Our ability to imagine something that doesn’t exist is what allowed us to invent new technologies, create art, and push the boundaries of what’s possible.

Reflecting on the Past: A Tool for Learning

  • Reflecting on the past can also have its benefits. Examining what has happened has given us the ability to learn from our successes and mistakes.
  • This allows us to improve our decision-making skills and avoid repeating the same mistakes.

Embrace Life

So the next time you find yourself lost in thought or absorbed in a task, don’t be too hard on yourself. Instead, embrace life as it is and see where it takes you. This practice is all about living in the present moment wisely.

Our ability to wander and imagine is what makes us human, and it’s what has allowed us to achieve incredible things throughout history.

11 Steps to Live in the Moment

living in the moment V2 - elderly couple in a convertible car at sunset

Now we have a better understanding of what living in the moment is, the benefits of staying present, and understand why we do it – let’s look at how to be more present.

1. Practice Mindfulness Meditation

The ability to focus on the present is something that we need to train for. Mindfulness meditation is “…paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.” ( Jon Kabat-Zinn, 2003).

There are a number of different meditations but mindfulness focuses purely on the present. Practicing mindfulness is easy to add to your daily routine – you only need five to ten minutes each day to connect with the very moment you’re living in.

“Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn

The exercise of mindfulness meditation is achieved by focusing on an anchor in the present moment. This could be the breath, the sounds in the room, or anything that helps us spend time in the present.

Why not try this meditation: Five Senses Guided meditation?

2. Try Something New

If you’ve learned how to drive a car or practiced learning a musical instrument, you’ll know how focusing on a new skill can help us forget about the past or the future. 

When I first started practicing guitar, I was completely focused on the present moment, not worrying about the future or the past. My mum would call me repeatedly to tell me my food was ready, but I was lost in the present moment.

Learning a new skill is also a form of mindfulness as we completely pay attention to the task in hand.

3. Be Mindful of Everyday Activities

I have a morning routine where I practice mindfulness whilst I make my coffee.

board of coffee

Try this: Mindful coffee making

When you next make coffee, try this exercise to help become more present in the moment.

  • When you are taking the cup out of the cupboard, give your full awareness to the motion of your hands
  • As you hold the cup try to remain in the present by noticing how the cup feels, noticing the texture of the cup
  • As you prepare the ingredients, put your awareness on the sounds of tea or coffee falling into the cup
  • If your mind begins to wander, just notice that it’s happened, and without judgment, bring your awareness back to the present moment
  • Continue to focus on the moment as you listen to the sound of the water boil, and try to hear the sounds as it’s the first time you’ve heard it – what does it sound like?
  • Before you take the first sip, continue to be in the present moment, and notice how the cup feels in your hand, notice how the coffee smells
  • When you take your first sit try to remain completely in the moment and try to explore how the coffee tastes and feels in your mouth

Simple mindful practices like this done daily can be done daily to train your mind to spend less time in the past and future.

This can be done anytime and anywhere by focusing on your senses in the present. A common exercise I enjoy is walking meditation which can be done anywhere from in a nice park, to walking from the office to the shop to get lunch.

Other daily activities that can be done mindfully are:

  • mindful eating
  • mindfully washing dishes
  • mindfully showering

As you can see pretty much anything can be done mindfully.

4. Uses Timers Not Clocks

A common tip to live in the present is to hide clocks during times when you want to focus on the task at hand.

When we are working, we constantly look at the time. But the less we focus on the present moment and clock-watch, the slower time seems to go, and the less we are able to concentrate on what we’re doing. 

We either worry about how much time we have left or worrying about how long it will be before we leave work.

By using a timer you can focus more on the present moment instead of worrying about the future.

5. Use Yoga and Other Exercises to Connect With the Present Moment

Woman in downward dog yoga pose

The dynamic cousin of meditation – yoga – is a great way of connecting with the present moment. I know when I do yoga my full attention is on how bad my balance is, and how I need to do more yoga.

What yoga and other exercises have in common is the concentration on the sensations of the body and your breathing. 

The breath is something we commonly use as an anchor to remain in the present moment, and together with the challenging yoga poses, we are kept focused on the present.

6. Have Fun

An easy way to not only stop thinking about the past or future but also enjoy life to its fullest is to have fun.

Pleasurable experiences engage us and keep our minds from wandering. For anyone who has been to a live concert of a musician you love, you know that it is probably one of the best moments of your life. You let go of any worries and just focus on the amazing music.

7. Read Fiction

Woman reading a book and holding a cup of coffee

Reading a fiction book is a great way to live in the moment and be carried away by the life of the protagonist, relishing in each lovely moment of the story.

With non-fiction, it can often inspire you to act in some way or start living differently, and whilst this is great when you need a little motivation, it makes us think about your present life and worry about the future.

8. Be Grateful for What You Have in the Present

One of the great exercises to live in the moment is to be grateful for what you have in the present. If you are spending time worrying about what you don’t have, aren’t taking the time to appreciate what you have right now at this moment.

Try building this into your daily routine, by either writing or saying out loud three things you are grateful for.

9. Take Things as They Are

If you want to live in the present moment then you need to let go of how things should be and accept how things are. Practicing acceptance has been linked to reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.

By letting go of what you can’t control, you can start living a happier life in the present.

10. Take up Photography

I’ve always said that photography is a form of meditation. No need for expensive equipment, the camera on your phone will do. Nothing comes easier than living in the moment than stopping and taking the time to notice your environment. 

Just as you focus your lens on your subject, so do you focus your attention on the current moment.

11. Keep a Journal

You might think that journaling isn’t living in the present moment, but is recalling the past. To some extent this is true, but the mind has a nasty habit of multiplying the things we are worrying about and forgetting the positive things that have happened in our day.

The regular exercise of journaling helps us to list those negative thoughts and realize that there aren’t as many as we thought.

After all, there is neither a past nor a future in the present moment. It also brings our awareness of the positive moments which can make you feel better about your day.

The Takeaway

Living in the present moment is something we often struggle to do. We spend half of our time either in the past or the future. Exercises such as mindfulness meditation can help to reduce how often our mind wanders to the past or future. Take time to try living in the moment and not in the past and future.

Did you enjoy this post on living in the moment? Let me know in the comments.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be construed as professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms of any mental health condition, we strongly advise consulting with a qualified healthcare professional.

FAQs

Living in the moment, also known as mindfulness, refers to the practice of consciously focusing your mind on the present moment. Instead of letting your mind drift to past events or potential future scenarios, you keep it centered on what’s happening right now. This involves being fully engaged in your current actions, paying attention to your surroundings, and being attentive to your thoughts and emotions without judgment.

Yes, living in the moment is considered healthy for both mental and physical well-being. It allows individuals to reduce anxiety, since they are not worrying about future uncertainties or dwelling on past mistakes. This mindfulness practice can also lead to improved focus and productivity, as well as increased emotional intelligence, as you become more in tune with your own feelings and reactions. Numerous studies have suggested that consistent mindfulness practices can even improve sleep quality, reduce blood pressure, and bolster the immune system.

Several factors can encourage living in the moment. Developing mindfulness practices, like meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga, can help train your mind to focus on the present. Being aware of your senses – what you see, hear, taste, smell, and touch – can also anchor you in the present moment. Choosing to slow down and consciously engage with your current activities, rather than multitasking or rushing through tasks, promotes this mindfulness. Finally, consciously letting go of regrets about the past and worries about the future can allow you to truly live in the moment.

Absolutely! While it may seem challenging in our fast-paced, multitasking world, it is possible to live in the moment. It involves practicing mindfulness and making a conscious effort to focus your attention on the present. It’s important to remember that living in the moment doesn’t mean ignoring the past or not planning for the future. Instead, it means not letting past or future concerns dominate your thoughts to the point where they detract from your ability to enjoy and fully experience the present. With practice and patience, anyone can learn to live more fully in the present moment.

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