People often ask me how to I manage to stay present and "in the moment". The short answer is I never always am. I am just like everyone else - where my mind is always active, I'm thinking about the past, or contemplating the future (most often making assumptions that never actually happen). I do try to stay present as much as I can, but like everything else, it takes practice.
I think the most important thing when it comes to "living in the now" is awareness. If you realise that you are not present and constantly reflecting or projecting, then that in itself is a good start. You are becoming aware, and most likely open to bringing yourself back to the now. It is really important not to judge yourself about how non-present your mind is at that time. Instead, take comfort in the fact that you have realised this, and you now have an opportunity to address it.
Here are some other handy tips to get you started.
- A huge help for me is breathing. The act of sitting and feeling my breath flowing in and out really helps centre me and brings me back to the here and now. It really is simple and just takes a minute! If you notice you are not present, take time out and breathe for 60 seconds. Try to breathe in deeply for six seconds, hold for two seconds and release slowly for eight seconds. Repeat this five or six times.
- Set reminders in your phone 3 times per day to deliberately take a breather. Step away from where you are and perform the exercise above. You can do this as often as you'd like, but I would recommend at least 3 times per day for starters.
- Take a walk out in the open air. Don’t bring your phone or any other distractions. Observe what you see, feel, hear and smell. Try and notice things that are not obvious to you. Enjoy the time out. Swap screen time for green time.
- Limit your screen time. We are all generally in front of screens all day, so limit your exposure to screens when you're not working. Watching TV or being on your phone is one of the most mindless things you can do. If you watch specific shows on TV, try to record them and watch at a specific time.
- A good use of your phone is using a mindfulness app. There are several app options which provide full mindfulness (and other) programmes as well as short 5-10 minute sessions.
- Read a good book. Nothing better to bring you into the present that a good page-turner - although try not to read before bed, as the stimulus could affect your sleep.
- Take up a hobby/sport. This will keep you concentrating and in the now. Personally, I love DIY.
- Get good quality sleep. Try and increase the amount of sleep you are currently getting by 30 minutes every day. That equates to 3.5 extra hours per week! It will help your concentration levels and productivity.
- Try and break your normal habits. Try to mix things up by changing up your daily routine where you can - even if it's just sitting in a different chair, or taking a new route on your walk.
- Finally, for a bit of fun, try brushing your teeth with the hand you don’t normally use! This should really help you concentrate and stay present!
Apart from the tips above: be thankful for the good things in your life, take care of each other, and be kind.