The Art of Living In The Moment (Plus Exercises For Being Present)
When was the last time you looked back on your nearly-spent day and thought, “How did it get to be night, already?”
You got up before the sun did, and you got things done. You checked off everything (or most things) on your to-do list.
But now you’re thinking that if this disappearing day were your last, you could have made it more memorable — and more meaningful — if you’d focused on living in the moment and being present for at least five minutes of it.
As it happens, you vaguely remember eating something while trying to get all your work done. And after calling your children’s names in a panic, you realize you did remember to pick everyone up from school, work, etc. and get them home.
But the day was a blur, much like the one before it. One blurry day follows another because this has become your normal.
You have distant memories of savoring delicious food, one mouthful at a time and taking long, slow walks to enjoy and be restored by nature. You want to get back to that. You want to enjoy life and to stop worrying about the future and ruminating on the past.
The solution: live in the moment. But what does that even mean?
What does it mean to live in the moment?
You can’t help being stuck — physically — in the present. But that doesn’t mean you’re aware of it. While our bodies take up space in the present, our minds constantly seek the past for memories and look to the future for things to plan or worry about.
We could be sitting in the middle of the most beautiful place we’ve ever seen, and we’d probably reach for our cameras first thing, looking forward to enjoying those pictures and showing them off sometime in the future.
It takes an effort to stop ourselves from seeing the present through the lens of the past or the future and to allow ourselves to just sit and savor the beauty right there in the present moment. It takes a conscious effort because we’ve gotten used to ping-ponging from worry to regret and back again.
It’s good to learn from our past mistakes and to plan for the future, but while we keep our present self on auto-pilot, we’re missing out on the benefits of living in the now.
Benefits of living in the moment
Practicing mindfulness is about living in the present moment and allowing yourself to experience it as fully as possible.
You can’t savor in the present the food you ate yesterday or the food you plan to eat tomorrow. And if your conscious mind is stuck in the past or future, you won’t savor the food you’re eating now.
But by bringing your mind back to the present — by doing something as simple as paying attention to your own breathing (which you can only do in the present) — you enable yourself to do the following:
- Savor life now — in the present moment — rather than “someday” or later.
- Empathize more with others and stop assigning your own meaning to their words and actions.
- Feel a stronger connectedness to others.
- Become more self-aware (not the same as self-conscious).
- Respond thoughtfully rather than automatically.
- Stop worrying about the future and ruminating on the past.
- Practice nonjudgmental acceptance of yourself and others.
7 Steps On How To Live In The Moment
The following seven steps are in no particular order, though it makes sense to put “Breathe” at the top of the list. Try it and see if it doesn’t help you focus more calmly and dispassionately on what you’re going through right now.
Step 1. Living in the moment with deep breathing.
Deep breathing is something you can only do in the present, and as long as you’re alive and conscious, you can pay attention to the way your abdomen and chest swell with every inhalation and the stream of warm air through your mouth or nose as you exhale, as well as the pace at which you’re breathing.
Just paying attention to your breath brings your conscious mind to the present moment. From there, you can notice other things about your situation and surroundings. And from there, you can also calmly take stock of your own thoughts and emotions, as well as any information from your five senses.
Step 2. Living in the moment by letting go of self-consciousness.
Self-consciousness isn’t the same thing as self-awareness.
- With the former, you’re worried about what other people will think of you and how that will affect you.
- With the latter, you’re aware of yourself, your beliefs and emotions, your actions and your stillness in the present moment.
There is no worry, and there are no regrets. And there is no judgment. There’s no room for any of these things, and holding onto them no longer makes sense.
Self-consciousness traps your mind in the future, which is not yours. Bring your consciousness back to the present with your breath, and allow yourself to be more aware of the present and of your place in it.
Once self-consciousness gives way to a fully present moment awareness, you can more accurately take stock of where you are and what deserves your attention.
Step 3. Living in the now by savoring the moment.
You can’t savor what you’re experiencing now if your conscious mind is fixated on the past or in the future.
You can only savor the taste, texture, and warmth of the food you’re eating when you’re consciously giving your attention to it.
There’s a reason people are encouraged to focus on something else — go to a “happy place” — to distract them from the pain they may be experiencing in the present moment.
We encourage mothers in labor to focus on the joy of holding their babies in their arms rather than on the pain of childbirth.
We distract children by asking them to look at the faces of their mothers or to think of the treat they’ll enjoy afterward before inserting the needle to vaccinate them.
But when we’re experiencing something wonderful, are we finally focusing on that, or are we more likely to be thinking of how we’ll want to experience that again someday or thinking of something from the past that makes it harder to savor the joy of the present?
Whether you’re eating, sitting quietly and sipping a favorite beverage, or looking out your window, take the time to consciously savor the sensory details.
Step 4. Living in the moment by accepting yourself.
Chances are, you’ve been through things you find hard to forget. But you don’t want the pain of those experiences robbing you of your enjoyment of the present.
Maybe you tell yourself, whenever something triggers a memory that you should be “over that” by now.
Or maybe you get angry with yourself for still feeling resentment toward the one who hurt you.
You punish yourself for not being stronger than your emotions, but in doing so, you make it impossible to process it so you can move on.
Stop doing that to yourself. You deserve better. Even those who’ve hurt you in the past don’t crucify you nonstop in the present.
When you practice living in the moment, you can allow yourself to acknowledge what you’re feeling right now — without judging those emotions or the thoughts connected to them.
You simply allow yourself to see what you’re thinking and feeling at face value and to accept it all as a human experience that doesn’t define you or hold you back.
When you’re practicing mindfulness, it’s easier to see that what you’re going through is something others have gone through, too.
You’re able to see how your human experiences connect you to other sentient beings, and it makes it easier to move on and to forgive those who’ve hurt you — because they’ve been hurt, too. And they may be hurting still.
Step 5. Living in the moment getting in the flow state
You can’t enter a state of creative flow if your mind is stuck in the past or the future.
If you want to experience the freedom that comes with flow, you need to give yourself permission both to focus on the present moment and on all that it’s telling you and to lose track of the passage of time.
It’s the paradox of flow that we become more conscious of the present by losing our awareness of the passing minutes (or hours).
If you’ve ever been in a state of creative flow, you know how it becomes easier to access the deeper meanings of your experiences and to see the connections between those and other things – including those that seem unrelated on the surface.
Being in a flow state makes it easier for you to enter more deeply into the present moment by leaving behind all sense of time.
Step 6. Living in the moment by being present.
Once you decide you already know everything about your present situation and surroundings, you tune them out.
It’s too easy to distract ourselves by dwelling on regrets, on our wounds, or on things that could happen than to keep our minds focused on the present.
One way to become present is to remind yourself that there’s always something new, even in familiar situations.
Look for something new and allow yourself to experience it as fully as possible — whether it’s . . .
- The way the last rays of sunlight hit the leaves on the tree outside your window.
- The sound of the raindrops hitting the roof of your car.
- Or the way every sip of your favorite hot drink fills your mouth, then soothes your throat, and then warms its way down to your stomach.
Engage with those sensations. They may not be new, but they’re new to you in this moment. Be present for them.
Step 7. Living in the moment with mindful meditation.
When you meditate on the present moment, essentially what you’re doing is filling your conscious mind with the present or with a specific part of it, leaving no room for the past and future.
This is something you have to do in the now; you can’t make it your goal or your New Year’s resolution to “be more mindful” of the present. Mindfulness isn’t something you can do in the future. You can only be mindful right now.
Start with meditating on something you’re doing, thinking, or feeling in this moment. I don’t mean that if you’re angry, you should focus on being angrier and on the justification for that emotion.
For this moment, just allow yourself to be aware of what you’re feeling, acknowledge the reason for it, and see it as part of the whole picture. You’re not judging yourself for being angry, but you’re also not condemning those whose words or actions are behind that anger.
Meditating on what you’re thinking and feeling in the present moment — giving yourself permission to feel the hurt or betrayal without judging yourself or anyone else — makes it possible to accept yourself and your thought processes in the moment and to move on from them.
Loving in the Moment
Present moment awareness can and will transform your relationships because it changes the way you relate to others as well as to yourself. When you learn how to be present for the good in your life, you also become more present for the people who share it with you.
Mindfulness makes it easier to forgive because it allows you to see yourself and others without automatically associating their words and actions with meanings that are external to them and damaging to your self-worth.
When you listen mindfully to others, it’s easier to be compassionate toward them and toward yourself. When you accept yourself, it becomes easier to accept others as they are.
Living in the present moment also makes it easier to communicate clearly and effectively — as much with strangers as with those close to us.
Only when you’re fully present can you hear what others are saying to you and consider their words both in context and independent of it, without judging. Only when you’re practicing mindful listening can you be the listener your friends need you to be.7 Steps On How To Live In The Moment. Click To Tweet
And only when you’re living in the moment can you love the way you’re meant to love and be loved.
Journaling in the Moment
Journaling is another way to enjoy and reflect on the present moment. You may never re-read those journal entries, but that’s not the point.
The point is what writing down your observations and reflections in the moment can do to help you live that moment more mindfully.
The benefits of journaling and of gratitude are very real side-benefits, but you’re doing this to be more present — not because of what journaling will do for you in the future.
Make Mindfulness a Daily Habit
While you can’t make it a goal to be more mindful in the future, you can take steps to help yourself practice mindfulness every day, starting with your morning routine.
Consider the following tips for living in the moment throughout the day.
1. Set daily reminders.
You can set multiple reminders in a variety of ways to help yourself recapture your awareness of the present moment several times a day.
- Gratitude reminder apps for your phone or tablet
- Visible written reminders (whiteboard, posters, sticky notes, etc.)
- Accountability partners (by text, email, phone call, etc.)
- Music playlists with tunes that remind you to slow down and pay attention
2. Create an evening routine for living in the moment.
Start a new evening routine that incorporates a mindfulness meditation, whether you’re just taking a minute to pay attention to your breathing or savoring the moment when you’re in the presence of someone you love.
3. Set the stage for the next conscious moment.
Before going to sleep, take a moment to remind yourself of what you want to be your focus when you wake up.
Apps That Can Help You Live in the Moment
There are a variety of helpful apps for both Apple and Android phones. Try one or a few today to see how they can help you honor your commitment to living in the present.
- Gratitude Reminders app (daily reminders to be grateful)
- Headspace app (meditation)
- Mindfulness Daily app (with reminders and a timer)
- The Mindfulness App (meditation)
- 3-Minute Mindfulness app (meditation and breathing)
- 10% Happier: Meditation app
- Reflectly: Journal/Diary app (mindfulness journaling and self-care)
Was this article helpful for you? Please spread the love.
If you’ve found value in this article, I hope you’ll share it to remind others to spend at least five minutes today living in the present moment.
We all need frequent reminders to live in the present because the world keeps telling us to punish ourselves (and others) for our mistakes and to worry about all the bad things that could possibly happen.
But the world doesn’t get to decide how you live each moment. Being present is your gift to yourself and to those you love. And this article is our gift to you.
We hope you enjoy it enough to pass it on by sharing it on your preferred social media platform.
And may your mindful presence and gratitude influence everything else you do today.