We all have heard to live in the moment. Stay focused on the present. Concentrate on today. We understand that these sayings all have the same meaning: be in the here and now. Easier said than done sometimes, right? You’re not alone in that feeling.
As humans we are conditioned to feel a variety of emotions at once. When we begin to think too far ahead or too far in the past, we lose sight of what is happening right in front of us in the moment of time we are in. It becomes increasingly prevalent when we are faced with life situations or circumstances that are beyond our own control. We want to hold on to something to ground us, so we look for something in our past or try to put our hopes into a future goal — one which may not be realistic. It is a human struggle.
Though, usually the fact remains that when we push so hard away from our present it generally propels us further into the present moment, forcing us to face whatever it is we are running from. This happens because we indirectly give the control we do have to the parts of our life that we cannot control. When we spend time and energy trying to avoid or deflect an uncomfortable feeling, we feed that uncomfortable feeling with our reserve of time and energy.
To suggest that we can simply turn off the thoughts we have regarding the past and the future is also irrational. Human cognition and the ways in which we think is not in the context of a single point in time. Humans are complex and thus the ways in which we think are complex. It’s common to consider other periods of time in our life with hopes of reaching a new type of comfort or normal, especially during hard times. The problem is when we begin to, in a sense, think too much away from the reality of here and now.
There are ways to conquer the troubles of today while staying in the present. We need to remember that as tough as today may be, there are also beautiful things we may miss out on by only focusing on the challenges. For every difficulty we encounter, we should recall a time when we overcame a difficulty.
Keeping a routine helps keep us in the present as well, as it gives us a structure and something to look forward to each day. Keeping that schedule is helpful when we can make time for ourselves to simply be, without a task, without electronics, without stimulation other than the pattern of our own breathing.
Spending time on a single task can also ground us in the here and now as it forces us to slow down in an age where multitasking is often the baseline. Reminding ourselves that we are not in a race and there is no requirement to rush through or into tasks, feelings or anything else, can keep our wandering thoughts about the past or future at bay.
Remember that every thought that enters our mind is an invitation to engage with that thought, but we are not obligated to entertain every thought we have. If we consider how many thoughts we have throughout the day, we already make choices to entertain only certain thoughts. Let’s take that idea a step further and allow ourselves to say no to the more troubling thoughts we do not want to engage in.
Living in the present is a practice. It requires us to challenge our thoughts and the way we handle things in life. The present empowers us more than we realize. The present gives us the opportunity to both build from the past and for the future. Humans often expect too much of themselves too quickly. We become frustrated and generally this seeps into the important things around us: family, work and relationships.
The present gives us time to reflect and time to put into action what we may want as we experience personal growth. It gives us time to reorganize and set realistic goals for ourselves. It enables us to remove the concept of set expectations and reframes that expectations of self can be fluid and reminds us that each day we will strive to be better than we were the day prior.
Recognizing the power of being in the present allows us to reclaim our thoughts from the past to the present. It allows us to be conscious of what we sense and time to really develop ourselves which in turn will transcend into a brighter future. Living in the moment and using each day as an opportunity, regardless of what is going on in life, will remove us from the past and set us up for a wonderful future. We just need to let go and allow ourselves to get there.