8 Little Ways to Become More Present (and Love Your Life More)
Do you ever pull into the driveway after a long day of work and wonder where the day went? Ever find yourself living for the weekend only to marvel on Sunday night how quickly it passed? Sometimes life demands not only that we multitask, but "hypertask." And in the process we're skimming above the moments of our lives, exhausted. (See also: Balancing Living in the Now With Planning for the Future)
It's time to take a step back, be present, and be happier. Here are eight ways to get started:
Did you know that according to a 2014 National Sleep Foundation poll, 72% of kids aged 6-17 sleep with at least one electronic device in their bedroom? That's some pretty effective training on how to blur the lines between wake and rest. Who hasn't fallen asleep in front of their smartphone or tablet lately? And even when we're not trying to sleep, electronics compete for our attention. At work, at play — even while we're driving — mobile technology beeps, buzzes, and flickers into our consciousness. Live in the moment by learning to go dark when the occasion calls for it. Unplug, unwind, and be present.
2. Sleep Deep
The CDC recently issued a report stating that lack of sleep is nothing short of a public health epidemic. Once you're thoroughly unplugged, get some shut-eye. Sleep helps us manage stress and avoid negative coping behaviors like overeating or over-medicating. Reserve seven to nine hours for quality sleep each night and defend it vigorously. You'll be more present during your waking hours and better able to bend to the demands of the day without breaking. If your schedule makes seven to nine hours of shut-eye impossible, learn how to sleep better in fewer hours.
3. Tap Into All Five Senses
Be more present by experiencing the world using all five senses. Go for a walk and tune into the sights of nature, the sounds all around you, the way the air smells and tastes, and the way the earth feels under your feet. Make mundane moments more interesting by living them through as many senses as possible.
4. Revel in the Small Things
Nothing can get us out of our own heads quite as efficiently as tuning into nature. Take time to watch the clouds change shape, observe the activity of birds, or feel the wind on your cheek. These moments not only reconnect us to the wider world, they help to center us and put our troubles and worries in perspective.
5. Immerse Yourself in a Hobby
Don't let the busy-ness of life steal away your natural curiosity. Cultivate a hobby that you can immerse yourself in. Pursuing a relaxing passion is a form of meditation and restoration. Maybe you've felt it: You get absolutely lost in an activity you love and before you know it, hours have passed. A pleasant exhaustion lulls you into a satisfied sleep because you've been entirely present, focused, and happy. There are few better feelings; find your passion or reclaim a long lost passion today.
6. Move Toward Your Worries, Instead of Away From Them
Desiderata is one of my favorite poems. Composed by Max Ehrmann in 1927, it contains some profound yet simple truths about living in the moment. Here's one of the best: "Do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness." How true.
Many of our worries amass such power simply because we turn away from them — or turn away from real solutions. Live in the moment by learning how to stop worrying, or at least stop worrying about what you can't control. Shine a light on all the other "dark imaginings" until you can see there's really little left to fear or until solutions become clear.
7. Find Power in Releasing Control
We live in a culture that idolizes control. We're encouraged to be tireless masters of all areas of our lives; to control our emotions, our career, our kids, and our eating. And while there's certainly nothing wrong with a healthy level of control, there are moments when we're simply not at the wheel. Usually the situations involve family, work, health, or even weather-related dynamics. Find power and peace in understanding what you can reasonably control and what you can't. It can help you stop feeling so impatient and improve your quality of life.
8. Accept the Nature of Things
Much of our stress can be laid squarely at the feet of being unable to accept the true nature of things. We try to change the person we love, we constantly bump heads with "challenging" personalities at work, or we get caught up in family drama. But beyond a certain point, people are guided by their natures and any campaign to change that fact is a fruitless (and stressful!) pursuit. Accepting people as they are and moving on to those areas of our life where can exert real and constructive influence is liberating.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all live authentically in the moment? If you know someone who achieves this each and every day, share my email address; I'd love to learn his or her secret. As for the rest of us, we can try to keep the competing expectancies at bay and begin to appreciate the quiet subtleties of our lives. So often that's where the beauty and joys are hidden. Unplug and give it a try — but first, get some good sleep.
What helps you live in the moment? Was there ever a situation where not being present led to comical or frightening consequences? Please share in comments.