Do you remember exactly how your coffee tasted this morning or what the water felt like when you showered? In our hectic everyday lives, we sometimes forget that it is really important to live in the moment now and again. We are usually one step ahead of life: When drinking our coffee, we are already thinking about our first meeting, or during lunch, we remember that we still have to arrange some repairs at home, etc. It is unfortunate because focusing on the here and now has many advantages. That includes making us more efficient and content.
After this introduction, you may be thinking: Yes, of course. It would be nice to lie around lazily all day and watch the birds – but I don’t have time for that! But I am not urging you to be lazy. Living in the moment means something different: It is about switching from being on ‘autopilot’ in terms of your thoughts to consciously perceiving the things around you. What am I doing right now? How am I doing it? And how do I feel about it? And importantly: It is about simply sensing those things without judging them.
There is no point in dwelling on the past and having regrets: “If I had only…” or “Why didn’t I…?”. It is too late to change those things anyway. However, it is equally pointless placing yourself in the future and worrying about what could still happen if… The fact is that these worst-case scenarios do not usually materialize. In his brief and therefore all the more brilliant video ‘Why worry?’, the Indian monk Gaur Gopal shows us why worrying doesn’t help us at all: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8neMEh72fgY. Do you still have questions???
Happier and more efficient
We often don’t even appreciate what we have (more about this topic: https://www.stressandbalance.ch/en/2019/07/02/is-the-glass-half-full-or-half-empty/) and ‘postpone’ feelings of happiness until later: “If I get promoted, then…” or “If I find my dream partner, then…” But that is an illusion because “life only happens here and now. In the future, there is also only one ‘now’” (www.dubistgenug.de). Having a goal is meaningful but if our entire attention is focused on reaching that goal and then immediately embarking on a new initiative, we do not see the beauty of the path we take as we work towards our objectives – and we do not enjoy our success. Live your life today – tomorrow may be too late.
So how do we benefit if we manage to live in the moment now and again?
- Research has shown that we are more effective, creative and efficient in the present. Explanation: It is proven that our minds wander for 50% of our waking time and lead us everywhere – but not where we currently are (Buddhism calls this ‘monkey spirit’). However, if we manage to direct our thoughts to the here and now, we can concentrate better, and we become more efficient and productive.
- If we can stop getting caught up in regrets about the past or worries about the future, we are more relaxed and stress resistant. We can let go more easily and deal better with difficult situations.
- If we worry less, it has a very concrete effect on our body, e.g. our blood pressure is lower.
- Science has also shown that people who can enjoy the moment are particularly content with their lives. It’s logical, isn’t it?
- If we live in the moment – i.e. do not allow our thoughts to wander – we have a better understanding of how others feel and are therefore more sensitive and have greater empathy towards them.
Here are some tips on how you can learn to live more in the here and now:
- First, here is what not to do: Avoid multitasking. Since the brain cannot think two thoughts at the same time, multitasking actually means switching from one to the other and back again very quickly. Apart from the fact that this makes you slower and more prone to mistakes, multitasking leads to a sensory overload and stress and makes you tired. Focus on one task until you have finished it. Read more about this topic here: https://www.stressandbalance.ch/en/2019/01/29/focus-is-the-new-intelligence-quotient/
- Don’t spend time focusing on the past and brooding over it or regretting it. And don’t focus on the future, thinking up worst-case scenarios or dreaming that your situation will improve. Don’t blame others for your situation and complain about it. Take control of your life today and actively shape it.
- Very simply: Breathe consciously. Observe your breathing without forcing it. It will automatically become deeper and slower.
- Practice breathing exercises (more about this topic: https://www.stressandbalance.ch/en/2017/05/02/how-the-way-you-breathe-can-improve-your-health/) or meditate.
- Sit in the garden, on the balcony or on the sofa and do nothing but be aware of your surroundings, using all your senses. Find out more:https://www.stressandbalance.ch/en/2019/06/12/in-praise-of-boredom/
- If you are sitting on a chair, try to consciously feel the backrest and seat. Or: Are your fingers warm or cold? Walk barefoot again and feel the different materials (parquet, stone floor, concrete, grass, etc.) on the soles of your feet.
- Do a ‘body scan’. Consciously sense how your body feels. Start with your head and work from the top to your toes – one part of the body after the other. How does your body feel? Do you sense any tension?
- Do everyday things consciously, e.g. washing your hands, brushing your teeth, etc. When showering, pay attention to how the water sounds when it comes out of the shower – how the droplets form on your skin – the temperature of the water – how the soap smells, etc.
- Enjoy a dessert using all your senses (so don’t gulp it down): How does it smell? How does it taste? Let it really melt on your tongue.
- Enjoy little things, like hearing a child laugh. Small children are, in any case, a good example of how to play very happily and immerse yourself in your own world. Or simply take a look around you are: Is there anything that gives you pleasure, e.g. an everyday object on the table, beautiful cloud formations, flowers, etc.?
- Do things that reawaken your inner child: Paint, sing, dance, mess around, etc. This helps you to forget any sense of time and live in the moment. And don’t let your inner critic (“that’s childish!”) stop you.
- Do something for once without having a specific goal, e.g. just stroll along or listen to music.
- If your mind won’t stop racing, hold a big red stop sign in front of your inner eye. You may not believe it, but it works!
- Don’t start the morning in a rush. Take five minutes to ask yourself how you want to feel today and what you need to do to achieve that.
- Never save things for a special moment. Delete ‘sometime’ and ‘one day’ from your vocabulary. Don’t delay your dreams (until it’s too late…). Do it now, whatever it is!
Clearly no one lives constantly in the moment – I can’t do it either. It is a question of learning to do it more often and for longer. This is because attention is like a muscle: You have to train it. As a final point, I would like to quote Albert Einstein, who once said: “Enjoy your time because you only live now and today. You can’t make up for yesterday tomorrow and later comes sooner than you think.”
© Claudia Kraaz