It seems that many of us today are living our lives with the mindset, “what’s next?” During high school, we are focused on what college we want to go to. Once we get to college, we are focused on completing our degree(s), then finding success in a career, then finding the perfect partner, kids, house, etc. We tell ourselves – “When I get THERE, then I’ll be happy.”
It takes some people a lifetime to realize there is no “arriving” in life. Only when our energy is focused on the PRESENT moment may we experience true arriving, and living (many of our Boston Life Coaching clients are, before they start life coaching, trying to get there through educational or career achievement).
Here are 5 tips for increasing your ability to be “present in the moment”:
1.) Breathe into the moment.
It seems so simple, yet when people start to pay attention to their breathing, they are often startled to find they are holding their breath throughout the day, or taking only shallow breaths rather than deep breaths. Think of a newborn baby, sleeping. If you watch a sleeping baby’s belly, their breath fills them up like a balloon, and when they exhale, that balloon deflates. This is how we are intended to breathe in order for our blood to carry the appropriate amount of oxygen throughout our bodies. Try this: place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. Now breathe, and notice which hand moves. For most, it is the hand on the chest. For the next 5-8 minutes, focus on breathing into your belly, moving that hand up and down. Notice any differences in your mind/body? You’ll probably notice that you’re feeling more relaxed, and are maybe more aware of the present moment. This is the practice of “breathing into the moment”.
2.) Notice your senses.
We have five senses. How often are you aware of each of them? Whether you’re on the train, walking down the street, eating, or experiencing a seemingly mundane task – pay attention to what each of your senses are experiencing in the moment. What do you hear? Smell? See? Feel? Taste? Experiment with paying attention to what you are sensing around you in any given moment. When we take the time to note and explore our body’s experience in each moment we are living that moment to its fullest.
3.) Tweak your routine.
How easily we all seem to fall into the trap of just going through the motions of our day. Throughout your day, see if you can begin to notice how much of what you do is just habit or routine. It is very challenging to live in the moment when you are rushing through your day on autopilot. Try simple, seemingly small changes first. Change your route to the store or work, go to a different place to eat lunch, or a different grocery store, wear a color you don’t often wear, and sit in a different seat on the train or at work if you can. When we shake up our routines, no matter how subtly, we essentially force ourselves to be more present in the moment because what we are experiencing is in some way NEW.
4.) Check your thoughts.
Ask yourself periodically throughout the day, “How am I feeling in this moment?” Whatever the answer is, then ask yourself, “What am I thinking about?” Our thoughts lead to our feelings. Try it: Right now, do you feel happy, sad, irritated? What were you thinking about just now? It is impossible to feel these emotions without having a thought that led you to them. So, in your moment, check on your thoughts. Observe your thoughts as if they were little clouds all around you. Are you choosing the helpful/nourishing clouds, or spending time ruminating on some that are unhelpful? Examining your thought-life can be very telling and choosing better thoughts can be amazingly effective in changing what you are feeling in the moment.
5). Embrace discomfort/pain.
To be human is to feel pain. This is an inescapable truth. When we feel suffering or pain after a loss or heartache, our automatic response is to try to make ourselves feel better. Of course there are healthy as well as unhealthy ways to do this, but in the quest of living in each moment, the secret to feeling better is often just embracing the pain, and even loving it because the ability to feel pain reminds us that we are alive. During a moment of discomfort, try letting yourself accept it and be ok with it. Knowing that, like waves on the beach, your present feeling will wash up and over you – and then wash away. No emotion is permanent whether it’s good or bad, so trust that the pain will pass.
Thrive Boston Counseling help people with a variety of life issues through life coaching and counseling therapy. Brittany Hartman, MS is a life coach and counseling at Thrive Boston Counseling. For more information, join us on Facebook, or call us at 617-395-5806.