Hands up if your mind is always wandering one, two or even six months ahead of time. You spend so many precious hours obsessing over the future—or the past—that the present slips away. It’s a common feeling, if Pinterest’s latest statistics are anything to go by. The social media site reports that saves for “living in the moment” are up 464%. Throw in the fact that we’re constantly being ambushed by digital distractions and it’s easy to see why so many of us feel like we’re missing out on the here and now.
Alexandra Frey, co-founder and director of The Mindfulness Project, agrees. “Nowadays, in our fast-paced, plugged-in world, the present moment has become a scarcity,” she explains. “Whatever is scarce, people value. The present moment has become a luxury.” So how do we enjoy this luxury? Keep scrolling to discover everything you need to know about living in the moment. Here’s to a more mindful 2018.
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TRY THESE FOUR TRICKS EVERY DAY
Living in the moment will require a little bit of self-discipline at first. Follow meditation teacher and Mindsail expert Leah Santa Cruz’s tricks to ensure you’re present and focused.
1. Meditate: “Meditation is the best way to train your brain to be present. Research has shown that meditating on a daily basis increases focus and performance, improves physical and heart health, reduces stress and even slows down the ageing process.”
2. Focus on your breath: “Mindful breathing is a great way to focus your energy and calm your mind. This practice may be especially helpful when you’re feeling stressed. When you’re feeling relaxed and empowered, your breathing is naturally deep and steady, providing you with the oxygen you need to function at a high level.”
3. Stop overthinking things: “Thinking too hard about what you’re doing actually makes you do worse. Often, we’re so trapped in thoughts that we forget to experience what is right in front of us. Next time you’re doing something, try to focus on the sights, tastes or smells that are all around you.”
4. Practice gratitude: “Being grateful for the things we have is an effective way to ground ourselves. When we take time to actively thank somebody for a good deed or reflect on the things we are grateful for, we bring ourselves further into the present moment. Try creating a gratitude journal and log three things you are grateful for each day.”
BALANCE BEING PRESENT AND PLANNING
Planning ahead while living in the moment may sound oxymoronic, but Leah assures us that the two can work in tandem. “Life generally requires a balance of being present and planning ahead,” she says. “Planning for the future and mindfulness can go hand in hand, as long as you don’t let your thoughts about the future become negative.
“For example, you can be present in the planning process by enjoying the act of planning, but when you start to stress out about the future or become overwhelmed by the act of planning, then you are not fully living in the present. Try not to stress about things that are out of your control or that haven’t even happened.”
So while obsessively going over future plans can take you off the path to mindfulness, constructive planning can actually enhance your experience of the here and now. “If we’ve planned ahead, it’s easier to drop into the present moment,” adds Alexandra. “Only when you’ve set the kitchen alarm for that oven turkey can you lean back and enjoy the conversations with your loved ones. Good planning and preparation opens the door to the present moment.”
TAKE TECHNOLOGY BREAKS
Your phone is one of the key culprits taking you out of the present moment, but living a tech-free life is nearly (okay, entirely) impossible. Any time spent scrolling through your Facebook feed is removing you from reality, so Leah recommends taking technology breaks in order to maintain a more mindful lifestyle. Try giving yourself a social media time limit or, as Alexandra suggests, ask yourself if the hours spent browsing are serving you. If not, use the time to engage with your surroundings.
“We should make conscious choices when we wish to check social media, instead of just running on autopilot,” she says. “Does it really nourish me to check social media first thing in the morning and last thing before bed? Do I use it to compare myself to others, or to connect with others? When we are fully present to how social media makes us feel, we can learn to use it more mindfully.”