I first heard about the concept of “living in the moment” many years ago, but I didn’t really get it.
Sure, I understood what it meant on a general, abstract level and I recognized the value of being totally present instead of worrying constantly about the future or the past.
But how to actually apply that concept to my everyday life? I had absolutely no idea.
I was struggling at that point to live in the present moment. Mostly, I was focused on the future as I anxiously considered (read: over analyzed to the point of analysis paralysis) what might happen in any given situation.
I was living my life on autopilot and not paying attention to the scenery as I drove by it, because I was imagining all the possible landscapes that could appear later on.
For years, I wasted a lot of my mental energy on anxious “what if” thoughts. You know the kind:
What if I can’t do it?
What if no one likes me?
What if I look stupid?
Never was this more prominent than during the seven years that my husband and I dealt with fertility challenges and miscarriages. We were always thinking:
Will we ever be able to have a baby?
Will we be good parents?
Then after we had our daughter, my thoughts turned to whether we would be able to have another child:
Could we be so lucky?
What would it be like to have two kids?
Would that ever even happen?
Essentially, I was “what-iffing” my life away.
It was during this time that I really started to understand the sanity-saving practice of living in the now. As an extra bonus, I figured out how to actually implement it on a daily basis.
In fact, focusing on the present is one of the best steps I’ve ever taken to overcome most of my anxiety, worries and fears.
So how did I go from constantly trying to analyze every “what if” scenario to finding peace in the present moment?
I changed my thought patterns so that I literally had to pay attention to what was going on right before me.
In my head, I say “Right now I …” and then complete the sentence based on what’s occurring at that very moment.
It could go something like this:
Right now I feel the warmth of the sun as I sit outside in my backyard.
Right now I am watching my daughter play with her stuffed animals.
Right now I hear the birds chirping and the tree leaves rustling.
Right now I am petting my dog as I sit next to her.
Right now I am driving in the car as I watch the road.
Right now I am drinking a delicious, healthy smoothie.
The best part about this practice is that it’s so simple, you can do it anywhere, anytime. You could be in a work meeting, at the gym, or a family dinner and whip out a few “Right nows” to center yourself and bring your awareness to the present moment instead of yesterday or tomorrow.
Of course, like any new habit, you have to repeat this exercise several times before it becomes second nature. If you put in the effort, however, you will be rewarded with a greater sense of calm and peace in your life.
While I still occasionally find myself ruminating on various thoughts that are far away from whatever I’m doing in the moment (I do have an ego, after all), I know that’s okay. I just run through my “Right nows” and instantly pull myself back to the present.
Author: Dina Overland
Apprentice Editor: Mercedes Trujillo / Editor: Travis May
Photo: Flickr/Panos Asrpoulis