One of the reasons I started this site was because I was struggling to stay present in my life. I found myself constantly worrying about the future or dwelling on the past. I particularly struggled with letting go of the past and really focusing on what was happening now. Lately, however, I've been spending a great deal of time wondering what the future will bring. I'm worried about how my life will be when I lose my beloved Bella. I'm worried about when my book will finally be finished and published. I'm worrying, worrying, worrying!
Needless to say, all this worrying is getting me nowhere by stressed out and frustrated. And yesterday I realized I needed to find a way to bring myself back to the present and away from the unknown future. Isn't it funny how we can do can do that, allow our minds to live life in a different time (past, present, future)? Physically, we're always in the now, but mentally... well, we can be just about anywhere. It's pretty cool how our minds work but, when it comes to worry, it can also be dangerous. It can lead to a lot of negative thinking.
Over the years one of the best ways I've found to eliminate a lot of negativity is to stay present. Lately I've been struggling to stay present, but I'm determined to change that. Here are some things I plan to do to stay in the moment:
5 Ways to Stay Present + Worry-Free
1. Pay attention to thoughts. More than I should, I let my my mind wander away from the present. Thoughts can become so clear and certain that they seem like fact -- even when they are about things that haven't happened yet. When I realize what I'm thinking, and how now present-minded it is, I can often direct my attention back to the now. The trick is to pay attention to my thoughts, to realize that they're just that: thoughts. They aren't necessarily facts and the more I am aware of them, the more likely I am to stay away from thoughts of the past or future and stay focused on the present.
2. Feed the five senses. I write often about focusing on the five senses because I've found them to be one of the best tools we have to bring us back to the now. When I find my mind wandering shamelessly into future or past territory (and I'm aware that it's happening!), I use my five senses to bring me back to the present. Instead of allowing myself to be governed by my thoughts, I take control of my thinking and ask myself: What do you hear? Taste? Feel? See? Smell? Doing this takes me away from any kind of rumination and reminds me that what matters most is what's happening right in this moment.
3. Step outside yourself. One of the reasons I find myself worrying a lot is because I'm often focused on me. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing, too much focus on one's self can lead to a lot of overthinking, worrying, and stress. A great way to avoid this is to find others to focus on. I've found that volunteering my time to help others (or even simply asking someone else how his or her day is going and really listening to the answer) helps to take my mind away from the past or future and brings me back into the moment. If you're not with other people, you can do this simply by thinking (positively) about someone else.
4. Write it (all of it!) down. Sometimes one of the best ways to get out of your own head is to put all of the stuff that's in there down on paper. It might seem counter-intuitive to spend time writing about the past or future when one's trying to stay present, but I've found that when I write things down, it's often like cleaning out the closet of my mind, getting rid of all the thoughts that don't fit in there anymore. In addition to putting thoughts down on paper, writing about the present moment (and what those five senses are showing me) can be a great get-back-to-the-now exercise.
5. Create a reminder. Being present can be really difficult and sometimes I need a little (or big) nudge to remind myself to stay in the moment. I've created all kinds of reminders -- sticky notes, desktop backgrounds, alarms on my phone, etc. -- and all of them have proved very useful when it comes to remembering to stay in the moment. I've given up the notion that I'll someday be one of those people that just stays present and given in to the idea that I might always need a little reminder. Creating these is simple enough and it's so helpful when it comes to staying on track.
Staying present has always been a struggle for me (it's one of the reasons I decided to create Positively Present!), but I know how important it is to living a positive life. When I experience those rare moments when I'm fully present, I feel more alive, more positive, and more creative. When I'm fully present, I feel less stressed, less unhappy, and less frustrated. As difficult as it can be sometimes, I truly believe that being in the moment is worth every ounce of effort because being more present really does lead to being more positive.