The 1 tool you need to be more present & live in the NOW
When I first heard about the concept of “living in the moment” many years ago, I understood what it meant on a theoretic level. I recognized the value of being totally present right now instead of worrying constantly about the future or the past.
But I didn’t really get it, and I certainly didn’t have any idea how to actually apply it to my life.
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, 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. Never was this more prominent than during the seven years that my husband and I dealt with fertility challenges and miscarriages. Will we ever be able to have a baby? Will we be good parents?
Then after we had our daughter, 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 happen?
I was “what iffing” my life away.
It was during this time that living in the now became a sanity saver for me. Focusing on the present is one of the best steps I’ve 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 had to pay attention to what was going on right before me.
In my head, I say "Right now I ..." and then I complete the sentence based on what’s literally occurring that very moment.
So 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.
It's such a simple practice that can be done anytime, anywhere. You could be in a meeting at work or at the gym or at 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. But if you put the effort in, you will be rewarded with a greater sense of calm and peace in your life.
So 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.
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