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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 

book review: the myths of happiness




I was thrilled to receive a copy of Sonja Lyubomirsky's The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy but Doesn't, What Shouldn't Make You Happy but Does since it had already climbed its way to the top of my to-read list. In the book, Lyubomirsky takes a closer look at the major turning points of adult life (such as marriage, children, professional satisfaction, wealth, singlehood, divorce, financial ruin, illness) and examines how our misconceptions about the impact of these events are perhaps the greatest threats to our long-term well-being. 

While walking the reader through the major life events that many of us have or will go through, Lyubomirsky argues that we've been trained to believe myths that assure us that lifelong happiness will be attained once we hit the culturally defined markers of "success." These myths, Lyubomirsky shows us, discourage us from recognizing the upside of any negative life turn (yep, there are upsides to the negative!) and prevent us from recognizing our own potential for growth. 

Myths of happinessMany of the myths Lyubomirsky writes about weren't necessarily new to me, but her insights (combined with some seriously awesome research) were enlightening. The book not only contained some interesting research, but I found Lyubomirsky's words to be very applicable to my life -- and I could easily see how almost anyone could glean insight from turning her well-written pages. While reading, I uncovered better ways to cope with loss (something I've been thinking about lately, with my little Bella being so sick). I discovered made-for-me advice about relationships. And, as Lyubomirsky intended, I finished the book knowing much more about many myths about happiness -- and, more importantly, knowing how to combat these myths on a daily basis.

What I loved most about this book is that it combines research, personal antidotes, and practical advice I'll actually use. Not only did I learn what the myths are but I learned how to combat them in real life, making this a wonderful how-to guide for anyone seeking happiness. The book was filled with so many great lessons and practical ideas that I felt as if I ended up underlining something on almost every single page. To get the most of Lyubomirsky's book, I'd highly recommend grabbing a copy for yourself, but here are a few of my favorite insights that you can enjoy instantly: 

"When we practice optimism, we become more confident, more motivated, and more energetically engaged with our goals, we take more proactive steps toward achieving them, and we are more committed, persistent, and task focused." 

"We have a degree of control over our story because we have control over which experiences we emphasize and which we minimize, which events we selectively remember and which we forget, which circumstances are vivid in our minds and which are faint or distorted." 

"If we enjoy the struggle along the way, we will derive pleasure and satisfaction by simply pursuing or working on our goal. We will ideally stretch our skills, discover novel opportunities, grow, strive, learn, and become more capable and expert." 

"Happiness is not just about feeling good -- it's also about not feeling bad. Because diminishing negative experiences...brings three- to fivefold greater return on happiness than creating positive experiences." 

"It turns out that the key to happiness and health (and to all their auspicious by-products) is not how intensely happy we feel, but how often we feel positive or happy." 


Want to learn more about The Myths of Happiness? You can pick up a copy of the book here. Want to learn more about Sonja Lyubomirsky and her work? Check her out here