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How To Live In The Present Moment 4 Simple Exercises

How To Live In The Present Moment – 4 Simple Exercises

by Maria Kwiatkowska

How many times have you heard to “just live in the present moment”, let go and seize the day, carpe diem, or YOLO. All these phrases focus on the importance of enjoying or making use of the present moment – not letting ourselves be a hostage of yesterday or worry pointlessly about tomorrow. All we have is this very moment right here, right now. We all know that. What we struggle with, however, is the execution. We should live in the present moment? Great! Now can someone be so kind as to tell us how exactly we are supposed to slow down, quiet the mind and enjoy it? 

People are so eager to lecture one another on the value of a mindful lifestyle yet have little to no idea how to move from theory to practice. Now, I’m no specialist here, but I believe in providing others with the know-how that can lead to tangible results rather than blurting out a bunch of empty words that only leave you dazed and confused. 

If you tend to struggle with staying connected to the present moment, just know it’s absolutely normal. In this article, I want to share with you:

  • Our issue with staying in the moment

  • What does it mean to live in the present moment?

  • Different types of savoring 

  • Exercises that will help you stay grounded 

What Is Up With Everyone? 

Newsflash! You’re not the only one whose attention and thoughts run amok. I feel like we all are too familiar with the sensation of stressing out about work-related things on a Sunday evening instead of savoring the last moments of the weekend. I also don’t know a single person who didn’t replay a nasty fight they had with a friend, or a loved one, coming up with a better clapback that they could have used. 

We don’t spend much time or effort to stay connected to what’s actually happening right in front of us. Feeling discomfort instead of pleasure when you have nothing to do is very common. We often feel the urge to fill any time window with our endless to-do lists or mindless distractions such as scrolling through social media. The concept of just being, just witnessing life unfold before our eyes, is foreign, is bizarre. Yet, it wasn’t always like that. In our last article, I discuss the cult of productivity, a mind of a 24/7 hustler, a go-getter addicted to working, bringing results, constantly optimizing and maximizing their life, not resting for a moment to appreciate and take pleasure in simply existing. Go ahead and check it out!

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“Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

– Dolly Parton

What Does It Actually Mean “To Live In The Present Moment”? 

It’s always been the norm to either dwell on our past or prepare for the future. How often do we hear about the importance of planning ahead, studying hard, and securing a good job position? How rarely are we being taught ways to connect with the present moment? Rewiring our brains to suddenly stop everything we were trained to focus on can be an unsettling process. 

Why shouldn’t I think about my future, goals, and plans? 

How can I not remember all the pain I experienced in the past?

What about ‘good old days’? Should I never revisit these memories too? 

I found that racing thoughts often stand in our way to fully experiencing the present moment. I can’t even tell you how many times I have sat down to meditate, and a random memory popped up in my head, or I started thinking about my to-do list for the day. And poof! 15 minutes may go by, and I’m still stuck on something that essentially doesn’t even matter at this very moment.

Balance Is Key

To live in the present moment is to embody a mindful posture. Mindfulness, to put it simply, is the art of observing and embracing the present moment in a non-judgmental manner – without dismissing, suppressing, or avoiding any thoughts and feelings about our future or past. Instead, they’re acknowledged and accepted. After all, if we forgot each milestone we achieved or each mistake we made, we would have never learned to improve our behavior. One can only wonder what would happen if, on the other hand, we’d never cared to think or plan for tomorrow.

Maintaining a balance between our focus on what was, what is and what will be is key. This way, we’re free from dwelling on the past or excessively worrying about the future. By contrast, we’re able to be at peace and in touch with reality. It gets even better! People who live in the present moment:

  • Tend to worry less and have lower levels of stress and anxiety which inevitably leads to better physical health and improved mental wellbeing

  • Know how to make themselves available to other people, connect with them and develop meaningful relationships

  • Build better self-control through the awareness of the sensations of their body, content of their minds, and the character of any arising emotional states

4 Types Of Savoring + Exercises

“Happiness isn’t only about having positive experiences;

it’s also about being able to notice them, to enjoy them, to prolong them.”

– Positive Psychlopedia

Mindfulness, as stated before, is the ability to focus deeply on what is currently happening around us. Savoring goes a step further. It’s the skill of noticing the beauty in the present moment as it is unfolding before our eyes. Savoring literally means slowly tasting and appreciating a moment in order to enjoy it to the fullest.

Here are 4 types of savoring that will help you take delight in the little things, amplify them, and prolong the experience as much as possible:

Luxuriating

This is probably the first thing that comes to mind when we hear the word “savoring”. It’s the act of experiencing pleasure and relishing in it. This can be anything from eating a delicious chocolate cake, receiving a relaxing massage to having a warm bath at the end of a stressful day. 

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Exercise Idea:

Dive deep into feeling the pleasure, relish in it through sharpening your senses:

  • Put on a song that you like and close your eyes. Really focus on the sound and the pleasant sensations it brings. Notice the different details of the music and appreciate them.

  • Cook or order your favorite meal. Try to eat it mindfully. Observe the smell, colors, and texture of the delicious food. Close your eyes. What is so good about this dish? How does it make you feel? Slow down. Take time to enjoy it fully.

Marveling

Have you ever noticed a piece of art in the museum that moved you and kept you hypnotized? Maybe you experienced profound admiration upon seeing a breathtaking view high in the mountains or watching a scenic sunset at the beach? Marveling is a particular type of savoring that makes us stop and pay attention to a beautiful object. It evokes a feeling of awe in us. 

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Exercise Idea:

Go for a walk to a nearby park and find a flower, tree, or landscape that is aesthetically pleasing to you. Observe the light, color, texture, size, and shape of your object of choice. Look at it from different perspectives. Which angle is your favorite? Find new aspects to enjoy your view. 

Basking

Do you know the feeling of pride that washes over you after accomplishing an achievement? As a subtype of savoring, basking aims to prolong that feeling by allowing yourself to enjoy the praise of others or intentionally recalling some of your past achievements. It doesn’t make us narcissistic or self-absorbed to give ourselves permission to look back on and delight in some of our significant accomplishments once in a while. 

Exercise Idea:

We often tend to brush over our accomplishments, minimizing their importance and throwing ourselves to the execution of the next big goal. Next time you’re done with a challenging task or a stressful situation (job interview, difficult exam, etc.), reward yourself with some time in solitude and a relaxing activity such as enjoying a good book or treating yourself to a massage. You can also celebrate yourself with your loved ones. Including others into the experience can bring you deeper into this type of savoring. Try having dinner with friends and see how they bring a smile to your face and make you notice more. 

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Thanksgiving

This last type of savoring can be encompassed in two words: expressing gratitude. So often, good things happen to us, but because we move from one activity to the other at light speed, we miss the many opportunities to notice, consciously feel, and express gratitude for the health, beauty, and people we are lucky enough to have in our lives. Of course, we can spontaneously thank others when receiving a lavish gift or when accepting a selfless act of kindness from a stranger. We can also intentionally evoke the feeling of thanksgiving when we count our blessings and look at the bright side.

Exercise Idea:

We can spark up our gratitude not only by chance but by setting an intention, by becoming mindful of the good things in our lives. Plus, practice makes perfect. For a week, observe your regular life with its mundane routines, and every evening, set some time aside to write down 5 things you’re grateful for that happened throughout that day. Create a note on your phone, or make an effort to note these things down physically. It can be anything from the gratitude you feel for your loved ones, your health, a delicious cup of coffee you had in the morning, a pleasant walk you took with your dog, or a beautiful flower you spotted outside your window. Feel free to express your gratitude to the people around you. It doesn’t have to be your partner. It can be a simple “thank you” to the barista who brewed your coffee. 

Celebrate Your Life

“Savor the moments in life that make your heart glow.

Chase after and find the moments that will take your breath away.

In the end, it is only those milestones on life’s journey that matter.”

― Michael Delaware

Living in the moment is not about living carelessly, not caring about anything, and being purely hedonistic. It’s about our connection with the world, right here, right now. We spend most of our waking hours worrying about tomorrow, stressing out about deadlines, piles of responsibilities, or being stuck in the yesterday, thinking: “If only I did this or that better”.

Living in the moment means taking your time to slow down, quiet the mental chatter and direct our focus on tasting the beauty of every single day, taking a perspective of a spectator of this magnificent play and a proactive posture in savoring its essence.

I invite you to set an intention for this new year to curate such special moments, to reach out and connect with this fantastic reality that’s right here, in front of your eyes. 

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