Written by: Kelly Hater, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Time is an intriguing concept. People are fascinated by time so much so that countless books, movies, and stories about time travel have been imagined. Almost universally, it is understood that our past can affect our present, and what we do in the present, whether learned from an experience or not, can affect our future.
Time is a precious entity, no matter how you slice it. It is arguably one of the greatest and most important gifts you can give yourself or your loved ones. Spending quality time with others is even considered an expression of love. I know that I appreciate when others want to spend their most precious resource and time with me. After all, time is limited. This is precisely why it is vital to engage in the here and now. Why spend the limited time you have dwelling on anything other than the present moment? Living fully in the present moment is the key to unlocking joy. I invite you to spend a few minutes here and read on about how you can better live in the moment and be present for those who need you.
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land, there is no other life but this.” — Henry David Thoreau.
What does it mean to live in the present moment?
Living in the present moment means that you are fully engaged, aware, and mindful of what is happening here and now. It sounds really easy. Frankly, it is easy. The present moment is all we truly need. What we need is most definitely different than what we want. For example, I am sure you can relate to this phrase, “I need a cookie.” We all know that no one truly needs a cookie. The phrase probably should go more like this, “I want a cookie.” You can, however, say that you need a glass of water. That is most certainly something that you need to live. See the difference? You want a cookie, and you need water. The same goes for expressions of time. We need the present. The past and the future indeed have a role in our lives, but the present moment is critical to our existence. Without acknowledging what lies before us in each moment, opportunities will escape. New memories can never be made. Everything that happens in the present moment.
Why is it important?
By deciding to be totally aligned with the present moment, you are deciding to be truly happy. Happiness is not tied to things that have happened to you in the past or the future. This is not to say that you cannot reflect on happy memories from your past nor look forward to something in the future. Finding yourself in those thoughts momentarily is healthy. Ruminating in these thoughts endlessly, though, is a recipe for disaster. Happiness comes from your mindset. Your attitude. The good news is that you are 100% in control of what you think all the time. You can choose happiness, and you can choose to live in the present moment.
What are the barriers to living in the moment?
The answer to why it is difficult to live in the present moment is simple: You cannot let go of the past, and you are always worrying about the future.
Accepting Your Past
Thoughts about past experiences can have a strong grip on your present self. We all go through things, hard things at times, and hopefully learn from them. We only truly know if we learn from our past by experiencing difficult situations in the present. Not accepting the possibility that you have changed from your former self can keep you from trying new things. Harboring negative thoughts about your past can shrink your comfort zone, and you and your friends and family suffer the consequences in present moments when you may be needed the most.
Learning to accept an imperfect version of yourself from the past is not always easy. Sometimes we know that we could have handled situations better, or you regret things you may or may not have done or said. The key is to pick out positive bits of your past, such as you made it through whatever it is you are holding on to, and you came out on the other side, and keep those pieces with you, as they will help you in the present.
Burdening yourself too much with the past can be very damaging to your psyche. It can cause you to be depressed, flat affected, and miss out on everything around you. Accepting where you come from and what you have done is key to a stable grounding in the present.
Be Present in the Mundane
Present thoughts can be less engaging from day to day as many of these thoughts are about getting through the day and meeting everyone's needs: your needs, your spouse’s needs, your kid’s needs, your boss’s needs, etc. Then there are the moments in which you are making meals, paying bills, transporting yourself and others safely and on time, taking care of personal hygiene, etc. Honestly, it is no secret that these are not the most fun or intriguing things to get hung up on, yet they are the present moment. These mundane tasks are important, which is why you do them in the first place. It is easy to want to drift away from these mundane tasks back into the past or looking longingly into the future. DON’T! It can be a facade for your current situation in the present.
Drifting thoughts are an escape from reality. You must present in the here and now. It is where the opportunity for pure deep joy can be found. If you are absent in the present, then you are not moving forward or backward. You are merely standing still. Just existing, not truly living.
Think about the future enough to plan for the present
Future thoughts are fun! Be careful, though, because when you spend too much time in this headspace, you more than likely have not done the appropriate amount of work in the present to bring it to fruition.
Looking forward to something such as a future goal can be a great motivator in your present moments. Looking too far into the future can cause you to move too fast through your present moments; thereby, causing your future to be emptier than you imagined. Also, not every future thought is exciting. The future can be scary. Spending too much time thinking about it can cause you more anxiety than you really need. Look to the future, but only to know what to plan for in the present.
6 Practical Ways to Live in the Moment
1. Ground yourself by savoring moments!
Being present is nothing more than having the skill to keep your thoughts in the present moment. When you catch yourself drifting into the past or worrying about the future, you need to have a way to stop and ground yourself in the moment. When you notice your thoughts have drifted out of the present moment, try using a countdown such as 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 to bring the drifting thoughts to a pause. Then once you have paused the thoughts, you need to find something to savor in the present moment. Savor is a term psychologists use to describe what happens when you find something in the present moment that anchors your thoughts. It does not have to be anything extravagant, just something the present in which you can focus on and appreciate.
2. Balance your past, present, and future thoughts.
Keeping everything in balance, not dwelling on the past, and not daydreaming about the future is a constant struggle. A good way to find balance in these three dimensions of time is through forgiveness.
3. Do nothing for 5 minutes every day.
If spending five minutes doing nothing is so good for you, then is it nothing? No. It is everything! Take some time to do nothing literally. You will be amazed at how your brain will figure some things out while you are doing nothing.
Writing down your thoughts can be a great way to accept the past and let go of things that are not worth holding onto. It is a great way to spend some of your present moment completing, and you can always refer to your journal entries in the future if you find yourself lost and forget how you got to where you are.
Meditation is a formal exercise for your brain. When you meditate, you spend intimate time with your thoughts, analyzing them and categorizing them. After meditation, you may feel clearer-minded and at peace with either the past or the future. The awareness provided by meditation allows us the space to better understand how and why we think or feel, ultimately rounding out our perspective, leaving us with a healthier existence alongside our thoughts. Meditation also fosters compassion. It offers time to reflect on our thoughts in a nonjudgmental scenario. Encouraging kindness towards ourselves and directing kindness to others.
6. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a great way to practice aligning yourself with the present moment. Instead of just going through the motions, you allow all your senses to be aware of your thoughts and emotions. When we engage in mindfulness, we pay more attention to what we do.
As we discussed the concept of time, a coach can save you time and guide you to self-actualization.
Kelly Hater, Executive Contributor, Brainz Magazine
Kelly Hater, owner of Mama Bear Domain, has over 15 years of coaching experience and a B.S. in Health Promotion specialized in Exercise Science. She specializes in helping clients overcome mom burnout, providing a clear, decisive plan that leads her clients on a path of success. Her clients no longer let mom guilt steal their identity and goals. Moms deserve to be happy and live a fulfilling life. She personally has overcome overwhelming struggles herself. Get the accountability needed to take action. As a mom of two, she gets it.