Hey guys, today I have a guest post from a new writer to the site. Trevor McDonald joins us with some tips on how to get started living in the present. Being present has a whole host of psychological benefits, including decreased depression and anxiety. If you’re prone to trauma flashbacks, getting yourself grounded and present is a huge help. This isn’t a trauma-based approach, but I think some of these tips can still be applied. Enjoy!
Trevor McDonald is a freelance content writer and a recovering addict & alcoholic who’s been clean and sober for over 5 years. Since his recovery began, he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources, addiction awareness, and general health knowledge. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable. Find him on linkedin or twitter.
Five Tips To Help You Live In The Present
How much of your time is spent worrying about the future or dwelling in the past? If you’re like most of us, it’s almost always.
It’s human nature to dwell on past hurts and worry about the future. If we don’t make a conscious effort to live in the moment, our thoughts take over. And our thoughts love to wander.
When our thoughts take flight, they have a tendency to snowball. Before long, we’re engrossed in another place and time. We’re not being mindful.
What is mindfulness?
To put it simply, mindfulness is the art of living in the present moment. Mindfulness is a simple concept to grasp, but it’s far from easy.
Have you ever lived completely in the moment?
When you’re mindful, you are fully aware of everything that’s happening in the here and now. You’re not thinking about someone who hurt you in the past or what you’re going to have for lunch. You’re feeling and experiencing everything in the present.
Many people use meditation to achieve mindfulness because it helps to control those wandering thoughts that get in the way of being mindful.
Mindfulness has roots in Buddhist meditation, but this is actually a secular concept. You don’t have to convert to Buddhism to become more mindful. You don’t even really have to mediate, but it does help.
To become more mindful, you must break some old habits. Here are five tips to help you start living in the present.
Recognize unhealthy patterns
Are there particular times when you’re more likely to dwell on the past? Maybe it’s after dinner when everyone is doing their own thing and you finally have time to yourself. Maybe it’s whenever you encounter someone who has hurt you. What’s the typical result of your thoughts? Do you become angry and/or lash out at people around you? Do you eventually use substances to numb your mind?
Imagine what would happen if you could just stop. Stop thinking about the past and live in the present. Is anyone hurting you right now? If not, then you can be happy.
When you can identify unhealthy thoughts and their resulting actions, it’s easier to see that you’re in control. Reframe the narrative that tells you a past hurt is ruining your life. Instead, take responsibility for your role. Someone may have wronged you, and pain and hurt in response to abuse are natural and normal, but you can make a choice to no longer allow it to hold you back. You can choose to be the one in control of your life now.
Practice clearing your mind
Want the cold, hard truth? You probably have a lot less control over your thoughts than you realize. What’s worse is that those reckless thoughts are the ones pulling your strings.
If you don’t believe that your thoughts are in control, try to change the narrative. Tell yourself that you’re a positive person from this point forward and you’ll only think about positive things.
And when you realize that doesn’t work, it’s time to get back to mindfulness. Practice sitting in a quiet room and actively focusing on your surroundings. It’s okay to think about the object, but try not to think too much. Next, shift your focus to your own body. Try to clear your mind and just feel. You can focus on your breath or relaxing your muscles, if you need something to do. Other ways to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine are practicing eating mindfully, writing down your thoughts and feelings without judgement, going for a walk and observing your thoughts, and trying a new activity that allows you to experience new sights, sounds, and smells. Keep practicing this daily. Eventually, you will get better and mindfulness will become more of a habit.
When you’re out having a good time, remind yourself to focus on the present moment instead of thinking about the future. Mindfulness is a journey that we should attempt to follow in all areas of our lives.
Become more of a minimalist
Material possessions are nothing more than a distraction. Do you ever have enough stuff? Is there a time when you feel fulfilled enough to turn down the latest smartphone or fashion trend?
The thing about stuff is that it never ends. The more you have, the more you want. But if what you really want is true peace, all that stuff is just a distraction.
Step away from technology
How often do you look at your smartphone? You may even be reading this article from it right now. But while you’re reading, you’re not present in the moment. You’re swept away into a world of someone else’s choosing. I’ve written these words to take you on a journey.
It’s okay to read and communicate with people online, but be careful about overdoing it. The relationship between digital use and mental health is a complex one with many pros and cons. Keep your screen time to a minimum if you want to live in the present moment.
Strengthen your mind-body connection
Most of us spend a good portion of our days in auto-pilot. Have you ever zoned out while driving to work? Your body was still working, but your mind was elsewhere. You have recollection of the drive. You just know you did it.
We do this with a lot of things, and it’s not very productive. In order to live in the present moment, we must strengthen the mind-body connection. This means becoming more aware of what your body is doing.
Exercise is a great way to strengthen this connection because you can easily focus on the muscles that are working. You can also go for a walk and focus on the act of walking. Oftentimes, we’re lost in our thoughts instead of acknowledging how amazing our bodies truly are.
If exercise isn’t your thing, you can strengthen the mind-body connection by doing virtually anything. If your hand is moving, focus on your fingers. Notice the movement and acknowledge it. Recognize that your mind is moving your body, and that’s pretty amazing.
With practice, you’ll spend less time on autopilot and more time being aware of yourself and your surroundings.
There are immediate benefits you’ll notice when you start living in the present moment. For one, you’ll be much more content. You’ll realize that you have everything you truly need right in front of you. And you’ll feel much more at ease. A 2014 Harvard study found that mindfulness was effective at relieving psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain.
Without anxiety, you’re free to live your best life. It’s time to shed the shackles of the past and the allure of what’s to come. It’s time to enjoy life in the present moment.