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February 2013

be here now: 5 ways to stay present + worry free



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. 

positively present picks: january 25, 2013



"The more you strive and search for happiness,
the more you overlook the possibility that it is here already."

 Robert Holden





5 Feel-Good Videos : these will brighten up your day for sure!

Life in the Alphabet : these alphabet drawings are amazing

How to Stop Gossiping : much needed advice for positive living

A Wash Bag : love everything on this happy site (especially this and this)

Creating Your Brand Words : not just for businesses; pick words for you

Ann-Marie Loves Paper : and I love Ann-Marie's adorable stamp shop

Make Me Joyful : a wonderful new blog find (I especially love this

Just My Type : Nubby's post had me swooning over typography goodness

Pop Chart Lab : such amazingly cool infographic-themed prints 

Choice : such a great, powerful (+ scary!) quote on the subject of choice 

Make Someone Happy Letter : a great idea + a free template to get you started

Wildfox Clueless Shoot : this used to be my fav movie so I love this

Awesome. Vegan. Blog. : love these delish-looking vegan dishes

Daydream Printable : because we all need a little more dreaming in our lives...

DIY Instax Wallpaper : would love this on one of my walls


Check out this week's Positively Present playlist on YouTube

"Now I'm All Messed Up" – Tegan & Sara
"To Be With You" – The Honey Trees
"Ships Pass" – Paul Cook & the Chronicles
"Believer" – American Authors
"Uphill" – George Maple
"Anywayican" – Walk the Moon
"Go Your Own Way" (cover) – Lissie
"Say Anything" – Tristan Prettyman
"Lost in My Bedroom" – Sky Ferreira
"Daylight (Playing for Change)" – Maroon 5

The Feast of Love
Charles Baxter

Ha Jin 

trending positive: the power of the plus sign

VH1 +  / Betsy and Iya earrings / Topshop Crosses Jumper / E! Entertainment / Golden Child Watch / She Inside Pink Sweater / H&M Patterned Pants / F21 Boxy Cross Print Top /
Ed Sheeran / Denim Dress / Pia Wallen Blanket

It's been popping up everywhere lately: the positive sign. (Some call it a plus, some a cross, but, to me, it's all about positivity.) It's in the updated branding found on E! Entertainment, VH1, and Fuse. I've spotted it in stores on clothing, jewelry, and even blankets. It's even popping up on magazine covers including Wired, Entrepreneur, Outside, Vogue, just to name a few. (In the case of the magazines, I think it's being used to replace the now-tired ampersand, but still! It's there!) 

The trend of these positive signs is running wild -- and I, for one, love it. (I received that gorgeous Pia Wallen blanket as a gift for Christmas and I've even made and strung this positive-sign bunting across my apartment wall. And I have those pants. And a desire for everything else in the photo. Ha!) And back in the fall, when I published Stay Positive: A Book of Daily Reminders from Positively Present, I used the positive sign as a design for the book's cover. 

I've been inspired by the plus / positive sign ever since I started reading NubbyTwiglet, back in 2009 or so. She's kind of my graphic design idol and she has a penchant for the swiss cross (and anything cross-shaped). I, too, have fallen in love with the simple yet purposeful look of the positive symbol, two overlapping rectangles or a square with it's corners carved out. But you're not here to listen to me sing the praises of good graphic design. 

You're here for some positivity and that's what I think this new trend is all about. Whenever I see one of those little positive signs (or positive sign patterns), quite a few thoughts rush to my mind. I've found that, what used to be a simple, math-class symbol, has now become somewhat of a emblem of positivity for me. I can't say exactly why it's become a mainstream trend (perhaps designers simply grew tired of the ever-popular polka dot...), but I can tell you what it inspires in me every time I spot one: 


+ offers up hope. 

Whenever I see the positive sign, I feel hopeful. It reminds me that there is always a reason to be positive, to seek out the good in any situation. Most things positive are like that. Positive thoughts, positive affirmations, positive people. They might not make everything better, but they remind us that things can get better. They give us (just like the positive symbol can) a sense of hope, a reason to believe in the positive. 


+ means more, not less. 

The basic use of the symbol is in math (my least favorite subject, by the way) and it's obviously used to add things, not take them away. When I see the positive sign (especially a pattern of them), I'm reminded of all the good things I have added (and still have yet to add!) to my life. We often focus on what we need to take away, but let positive signs serve as reminder of all the good you've already added. 


+ is enthusiastic.

To me, the positive sign seems very enthusiastic. It screams, "Yes!" and "More!" (If you're not sure you agree with this, check out VH1's video about their new look.) Silly as it might sound, the positive sign is life-affirming. It's a reminder that there is more to come and that positive things are bound to happen. It's emblematic of a zest for life, a belief that joie de vivre is a wonderful, true thing. 


+ doesn't simplify.

We're all a bit more than what people think we are, aren't we? We are so many things rolled up into one. Take me for example: girl + writer + daughter + sister + friend + girlfriend + dog-lover + book-reader + music-infatuate + typography-nerd + ... the list could go on and on. When I see the positive symbol, I'm reminded of all the things that go into each and every one of us, making us beautifully and fascinatingly complex. 


It might seem silly to analyze a fashion or design trend, but when it comes to symbols of positivity, I just couldn't resist. Every time I see a positive sign, I smile and hope that others are seeing the positivity in it. Symbols, as we well know, can have a major impact on our thoughts, which is why I believe it's important to think about them and understand what they mean to us. You might not have the same reaction I do every time I see the positive sign, but hopefully it brightens your spirit in some way and serves as a reminder to stay positive.

See any positive symbols recently? 
In the comments section, let me know where you spot them!