This article is written for Evolving Wellness by Meghashyam Chirravoori of Personal Development is Fun.
We all know that living in the present is important. We all know that thinking too much about the future, or the past will only lead to unhappiness. But did you know that it can directly influence your health as well?
It is all too easy to drift off into the past or the future. All you have to do is, well, nothing – and there you’ll be lost in some random thought about that guy who did not do his job well, or what Mr X will think of you, or how you are not going to finish some work on time, etc. It is not that easy to be here and now, is it?
Yet as research is showing more and more, living outside of the present moment can very negatively impact our health, and on many levels at that. Any form of worry or anxiety can lead your body into stress, and as we know stress is the number one underlying factor of most of our health problems today. When we live in the present moment, we eliminate a lot of the stress associated with any kind of worry or anxiety linked to the past or future. But how do we really do it?
Here are ten simple ways to get back to the present moment and let go of the past or future, especially when you are feeling worried and stressed.
For some moments, just focus on the sounds around you and observe them. What can you hear? Can you hear the sound of the fan? The hum of the air conditioner? A dog barking? The tone in which your colleague or friend is talking to you? Notice these commonplace sounds you seldom notice. Notice how alert you have to be in order to hear these sounds. If you feel irritated as you try to listen, that’s OK, let the irritation be…and keep listening. After a while, try switching off the source of one of the sounds – say the air conditioner. Do you now notice the silence? Try to feel this silence for a while.
If you do this for around 5 to 10 minutes, you will feel calmer and present right here, in this moment.
2. Feel the Air
Feel it as it ruffles your hair. Feel it on your hands. Feel it moving your clothes. Notice how alert you have to be to come back to this moment. Right here and now.
3. Become Aware of Your Body
Feel your body touching other objects. Are you sitting right now? Feel your back touching the chair. Feel your feet touching the ground. Feel your bottom pressed down against the chair. Feel your fingers resting against the table or the object they are resting against. You will come back to the Now.
4. Become Aware of Your Breath
This is very easy to do and with a little practice, you can use this technique to come back to the now whenever you want. Just observe your breath. Don’t take a deep breath. Don’t do anything – just be still and observe – as if it were someone else’s breath you were observing. After a few tries, you will come back to the moment.
5. Feel the Life in Your Body
At this moment, move your fingers a bit. Who moved them? It was the YOU in the fingers… Can you feel the LIFE in your fingers? Those fingers are part of you. Feel the You in your arms. Can you feel that You exist inside those arms? Similarly, move your toes a bit and note the life in your toes. In your feet. In your legs. In your abdomen. In your chest. In your neck. Even in your face. Feel yourself completely inhabiting your body for a while. You will come back to the present moment.
6. Observe Your Emotions
This technique involves lying down on the bed or relaxing first, because it takes a bit more awareness than the other techniques.
Ask yourself the question: how am I feeling right now?
Don’t answer the question immediately. Feel the answer. You don’t need to express the answer in words. Just feel it. Most people feel mildly uneasy and a bit agitated if they notice. Is that so with you? What is the emotion you can sense?
NOW – and this is important – NOW know yourself as the observer of this emotion. You are not this emotion. You are the one watching it. You are still and calm and the emotion exists within you – it is not you.
If you can do this, you will feel amazingly calm and relaxed. There will be peace with you, right here and now.
7. Observe Your Reactions
When you talk to anyone during your next conversation, try to talk less or even be silent if possible. Listen to what the other person is saying. Notice the urge to interrupt or react, but don’t. Notice how you try to speak out socially conditioned statements in response to the other person’s words. If the other person is telling you about a sad news story, notice how you feel an urge to say, “How sad!” If the other person is telling you about something nice that happened, notice the urge to say, “That’s great”.
The point is: during this conversation, give the other person – the space to be in the warmth of your presence without reacting. Be the observer of your reactions. You will enjoy coming back and staying in the present moment.
8. Face a Fear
A fantastic way to come back to the present moment is to do something that you are afraid of doing. This is not the instinctive fear of fire or physical harm – but psychological, social fear that I am talking about. What are you afraid of? Talking to a stranger? Saying no when someone asks you for help? Telling your wife a secret you’ve not told her? Telling your boss that you need a raise? Go ahead. Do that thing you’re afraid of. I know. It’s not that easy!
However, watch the fear. Let the fear be. And go ahead and do that thing you’re afraid of anyway. Feel the dread as you fear that the other person will judge you and think you are a fool. Observe as you may almost feel like you’re dying. Keep watching. Observe your actions and the other person’s reactions. You will come back to the present moment and feel deep peace.
9. Eat Mindfully
As you eat, bring all your attention to the eating. Feel the taste of the food. Feel the food spreading in your mouth and touching your tongue and teeth. Feel it go down your throat as you swallow it. Observe the texture of the food and how it changes as you proceed to eat it. If you can do this, you will find yourself completely in the present moment.
10. Categorize Your Thoughts
Try to categorize your thoughts into ‘past’ and ‘future’ categories. As soon as you find yourself thinking – find out whether what you are thinking about is about the psychological past or future. If so, label it as such, and return to the present moment. For example, you may be thinking of the dessert you ate yesterday. Then you become aware of the fact that you are thinking this thought. This is the past. You come back to the present moment and become mindful of your current surroundings.
About the Author
Meghashyam Chirravoori is a personal growth enthusiast and the editor of a “different” motivational quotes e-book called 500 Steve Pavlina Quotes. Meghashyam believes that life is a learning process and is always using words like “conscious”, “choice”, “heart”, “deep down”, and “honestly” in his daily conversations. He also writes about living a more inspired and meaningful life at Personal Development is Fun.