With our ever-quickening world, it’s hard to slow down and live in the moment. But it is also becoming more and more important that we take a breath and learn to be more present. Being mindful and present not only helps life slow down, it can also improve our relationships, stop us from keeping up with the Joneses, and giving us a greater life satisfaction.
These 15 ways to be more present, mindful, and in the moment will help you get out of that busy, hustle world and start enjoying your life just a little more!
You’ve probably heard it called a lot of different things: mindfulness, being present, living in the moment, intentional living. All of these mean the same thing, and it has to do with where we focus our attention. So let me ask you a few questions.
What percentage of your day do you spend on “autopilot”, just doing the things you know you’re supposed to do?
How many times a day do you have intrusive thoughts reminding you of items on your to-do list?
How many times does someone else (your partner or spouse) have to ask you a question before you “snap out of it” to respond?
These are only a few examples of what it may look like when you’re NOT focused on the present moment. We spend SO much time inside our heads or just “going through the motions” of life.
People spend approximately 47% of their waking hours thinking about something else than what they are doing! And this is hugely detrimental to our happiness and wellbeing in life.
So how exactly do we learn how to be focused on where we are at the present moment? Here are 15 ways to live mindfully in the moment:
15 Ways to Be More Present and Live Mindfully
Did you know how much we can control our involuntary body systems just by breathing? The act of deep breathing has so many benefits, including things like:
- reducing stress
- stimulating the lymphatic system
- lowering blood pressure
- improving digestion
Putting your body into a state of rest and relaxation, also known as the parasympathetic nervous system, is great for returning your mind to the present moment. Because often, what we think, our body’s reaction will follow. As in, if we think a stressful thought, our body reacts with adrenaline and stress hormones.
But it also works the other way. When we calm our bodies down, our mind can relax and focus more on things in the present moment!
2. Learn how to listen
Listening has become a dying art form. Unless you are trained as a counselor or Taoist nun (or maybe an actor or dominatrix), you may not have a lot of experience with active listening.
Active listening is a special skill. Verywell Mind defines active listening in this way:
Active listening refers to a pattern of listening that keeps you engaged with your conversation partner in a positive way. It is the process of listening attentively while someone else speaks, paraphrasing and reflecting back what is said, and withholding judgment and advice.
Participating in active listening can help you be more present, especially when your attention and focus is important to another person.
READ MORE: How to Meet Someone Where They Are
3. Put down the phone to be more present
This one is an easy one. We all have access to other people, social media, the news, and any other information we want to look up 24 hours a day. But that doesn’t mean that we should use it.
Our phones are a huge distraction to us, and they prevent us from living in the moment, even when the moments are little. Not surprisingly, ComputerWorld tells us that our phones are a huge drain on productivity, and yes, internet and social media addictions have a correlation with lower life satisfaction.
So unplug, disconnect, and even turn off your phone when you want to be mindful of your attention and focus!
4. Limit work hours (or don’t take work home)
In our hustle world, we are always working. I admit to hopping over to the computer to write a few lines of text or throw in a photo to a blog post when I could be hanging out with my kids.
But this means that I’m distracted by work and I’m not executing time management very well. When you are on the clock, be 100% focused on your work. And when your work day ends, put the work away, put it out of your mind, and focus your attention on something else.
Because although we’re working more doesn’t mean we’re earning any more money or deriving more satisfaction from life. So limit your work hours, and after you’re done, forget about it until the next time you “clock in”.
5. Recognize the simple pleasures in life
Simple pleasures are those little things that lift our spirits. It could be a few moments of silence in the morning before the kids wake up. It could be crunching over leaves in the fall on a walk outside.
When we “stop to smell the roses” (as they say), we’re slowing down time. Appreciating the little moments that life throws at us is a great way to bring us back to the present moment. These little things help get us out of our heads, where we’re doing mental work, and back into the real world, where there are all sorts of things that can bring us pleasure and joy.
READ MORE: 50 Simple Joys in Life
6. Practice Non-Judgment
Judgment is a thief of joy. When we practice non-judgment, we allow ourselves to experience something without placing value on that experience.
Oftentimes, when something happens to us, we have a stress-reaction to it without even thinking about it! Maybe it’s that your child wants every toy he sees a commercial for and it stimulates your stress response because you start thinking about money. Maybe trying on dresses for a friend’s wedding makes you stress, because, even though her wedding will be a happy event, realizing that you’ve put on a few pounds or look older threatens your ability to compete in your career.
Non-judgment allows us to have an experience without having that stress-response, which can steal our joy away from us.
READ MORE: How to Practice Non-Judgmental Mindfulness
7. Focus on your senses to be more present
One technique for dealing with anxiety works here in the very same way. When we focus on our 5 senses, we are able to feel more grounded in the present moment.
Thriveworks describes the 5 senses and some different ways that you can use them to ground yourself. They call it the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. Find 5 things to see and observe their color, shape, or pattern. Find 4 things to hear, and describe how loud or quiet they are, different timbres or musical sounds you might hear. Touch 3 things with texture, smooth or rough, patterns, or soft or hard. Smell 2 things, perhaps a candle, flower, or some coffee. And last taste 1 thing like a piece of chocolate or a crunchy chip.
Focusing on our senses brings us out of our heads and back to our bodies, calming our stress response and stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system.
8. Stop criticising yourself
As you practice non-judgment, be sure this technique extends to yourself.
Self-criticism can lead to anxiety, depression, and feelings of worthlessness. These are all mental health issues that keep us inside our heads and can impact how we interact with the real world.
They say that depression is living in the past, and anxiety is living in the future. When we are able to stop our self-criticism, we help ourselves to worry less and live in the present. It’s easier said than done, of course, but the first action is to be aware. Whenever you catch yourself saying something bad to yourself, acknowledge it, then give yourself a compliment or express gratitude.
Ugh, I need to stop eating sweets, I’m going to get fat.
*Recognize your self-criticism*
Thank you body, for all the wonderful things you can do. I’m going to nourish you as best I can!
9. Listen to your body
Speaking of our bodies, they have highly tuned systems that help us to be aware of when something is wrong, either in our bodies or in the world around us.
Pause for a moment, close your eyes and do a body scan. How do you feel? Start at your toes. Are they sore? Tired? Are you experiencing any pain? Do your socks feel soft? Are your feet warm or cold? Observe each body part, working your way up from your feet to the top of your head.
So often, we go through the motions of our lives without really feeling our bodies. When we live in the present, we are aware of our bodies, as well as any pain, discomfort, or tension we may be experiencing. And simply recognizing that tension may help us relax and experience our bodies in a more positive way.
10. Connect with a higher power
Whether you believe in a god or gods, the energy of the Universe, Mother Earth and nature, connecting to a higher power allows us to find trust in ourselves and our circumstances and helps relieve us of worry.
Believing in a higher power allows us to let go. It can get us out of the nitty-gritty details of our lives and allow us to be more present for each moment in our life. When we trust that someone or something else is guiding us and will be there to deliver us to happiness allows us to give up controlling everything.
Not only that, but finding a connection to something spiritual will help us realize that we are not alone in our struggles. There are so many others out there going through the same thing as us. We can connect to them, learn from them, and even offer our own advice when we’ve already seen the other side.
11. Don’t over-plan
As discussed earlier, when we live too much in the future, we’re not living in the present!
Extensive planning can feel good because it helps us control our lives or environments, but it also robs us of spontaneity and seeing the bigger picture. Spending time planning means we’re thinking about the future, but when the future gets here, will we enjoy it? We’ll probably be doing exactly the same thing we were before: planning for another new future.
Plan enough to keep your mind uncluttered and let the rest go.
12. Get out into nature to be more present
Nature is a wonderful way to experience the present moment. When we’re out hiking, eating a picnic, or enjoying ourselves outside (with our phones or devices safely stored away), there is literally nothing else for us to be thinking or doing.
Being present is easy when you’re in nature because that is the whole objective: to just be!
Not only this, but nature serves as a wonderful role model. Trees and plants change with the seasons and recognize the cyclical nature of life, but they are never in a hurry to get to the next phase. As Lao Tzu, author of the Tao Te Ching wrote:
Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.
13. Write in your journal
Like doing a body scan, writing in a journal can help us increase our awareness of our present lives. Awareness is a tool that can help us lead to freedom from worry, freedom from judgment, and freedom from stress.
It can also help us “unclutter” our brains. When we do a braindump, we are able to get things out of our heads and onto paper. As Shelby says in that article, writing in our journals in this manner can help us “untangle” all the swirling thoughts in our brains and moves them from abstract thoughts to corporeal.
14. Tap into flow
Flow is a state of being in which we are so engrossed in our present task that we lose track of time.
Flow can happen when we’re doing something creative, like playing the piano, painting, writing, or something with our bodies, like sports or running. There is a huge list of benefits for tapping into the state of flow, including increased:
- emotional regulation
- enjoyment and fulfillment
- intrinsic motivation
When we’re in flow, we are in the perfect state of mind to only focus our attention on the present moment.
15. Get creative to be more present
As mentioned above, creative pursuits are a great way to focus our attention on the present moment. Doing something creative works all kinds of different parts of our brains that don’t allow us to be on autopilot. Creativity means working our critical thinking skills, our imaginations, and problem solving all at once.
This applies especially when we’re learning a new skill. So if you’ve never taken Latin dance classes, now might be the time to try! Or learn an instrument (or a new one from a different instrument family!). Or maybe learn to sketch, or ski, or write poetry, or sing. The sky’s the limit.
There are so many different ways we can teach ourselves to be more present in our lives. Start by putting down your phone, getting out of autopilot and trying something new! You won’t regret it!
Do you struggle with living in the present moment?
How do you find yourself being present in your daily life?