Two Little Words That Make A Big Difference


Right_Now

 

As someone who spends a lot of time writing (and thinking about) words, it's not unusual for me to stumble upon new revelations about them, but recently I had a realization about two words that make a really big impact: right now

I frequently find myself making sweeping statements -- things like "I'm so stressed!" or "I'm obsessed with [insert current obsession]!" or "I can't live without [thing I didn't even know about a year ago]!" or "I'm so upset with [irritant-of-the-moment] -- and, while those are partially due to my flair for making dramatic proclamations, I don't think I'm the only one who makes broad statements like these. 

The thing is, sentences like the ones above (and, to be honest, most sentences) are only true right now. Sure, they might be true in the future, but that's not a given. And, yes, they might have been true in the past, but so was the statement "I can only drink from a bottle," and (hopefully...) that's no longer true. The only time we can be absolutely certain of is right now. The only statements that are 100% true are the ones that occurring in this moment, which is something most of us frequently forget. 

I spend a lot of time trying to stay present, but the truth is: the only thing we ever are is present, like it or not, and using these two magical little words -- "right now" -- can transform how we perceive the present. It might seem minor, but I actually feel differently when I say, "I'm so stressed," instead of, "I'm so stressed right now."

Tacking those two words on the end of a sentence might seem silly, but semantics matter. Adding the "right now" to most sentences can have one (or more!) of the following impacts...

 

  • Adding "right now" can reassure you that a bad situation you're in isn't forever
  • Adding "right now" can prompt you to appreciate a good situation you're enjoying
  • Adding "right now" can bring you back to the moment (countering anxious thoughts!)
  • Adding "right now" can inspire you to begin again or do things differently
  • Adding "right now" can remind you that just because it's not now doesn't mean it's never
  • Adding "right now" can inspire you to focus on the task that's right in front of you
  • Adding "right now" can make huge projects or tasks seem less daunting
  • Adding "right now" can boost your enjoyment of a moment that won't last forever
  • Adding "right now" can allow you to mentally step back from pointless worrying
  • Adding "right now" can give your full attention when engaging with others
  • Adding "right now" can help you relax when you're feeling very overwhelmed
  • Adding "right now" can invigorate self-compassion and cut down on guilt 
  • Adding "right now" can maintain self-control and more easily overcome cravings
  • Adding "right now" can mitigate feelings of physical pain by easing mental suffering

 

To be fair, most of these things are benefits of simply being fully present in the moment, but knowing we should be present and actually being present are two very different things. For some reason, adding "right now" seems to work really well for me when it comes to triggering me to be in the moment. Here are just a few ways I've used it this week (and how it's helped). These examples are all kind of frivolous, but it worked for much more intense thoughts as well! 

 

What I Initially Thought   How I Felt When I Added
"Right Now"
How I Felt
"I'm spending way too much time on Instagram." Annoyed that I'm wasting my time on social media; frustrated that I can't stop scrolling; distressed that I can't find a way to make a living from my art that others seem to love "I'm spending way too much time on Instagram right now."

 

Still annoyed, but hopeful I won't always spend so much time on it; inspired to stop scrolling because I realized I can change; stopped identifying my current action as a guaranteed future state

 

"I'm so happy to be here in my room with a new book, cozy on a rainy day!"

 

Comfortable and relaxed, but distracted by the to-do list I wasn't tackling; worried I should be out with friends on a Saturday night instead

 

"I'm so happy to be here right now in my room with a new book, cozy on a rainy day!"

 

Grateful for the alone time I so desperately craved after socializing all day; engrossed in my book and assured that I'd tackle to-do's tomorrow; reminded that I often long to be in bed with a book when I'm out and about 

 

"I'm so overwhelmed by all of the things I have to get done this week!" 

Overwhelmed (obviously); stressed and anxious about the lengthy to-do list that seems to be never-ending; tempted to lie down and do none of it

"I'm so overwhelmed right now by all of the things I have to get done this week!" 

 

Still a bit frazzled by the to-do list, but reminded that I'll soon have the tasks done (it's always more stressful to think of them than do them!); grateful for projects that bring in money and for the personal to-do's that, while annoying at the time, will bring my future self (and others!) joy

 

 

"I can't stop eating these delicious but terrible-for-me snacks!"

Frustrated with my lack of self-control; angry with myself for buying the snacks in the first place; envisioned myself unable to ever stop eating said snacks, stuck in and endless snack-and-shame spiral "I can't stop eating these delicious but terrible-for-me snacks right now!"

 

Reminded that guilt is a waste of time and I should either enjoy the snacks or put them away (which I did!); felt lucky to have snacks (affording groceries isn't a given for me!); made aware that my future self could be someone who doesn't eat such unhealthy snacks (unlikely, but possible!)

 

 

Hopefully these little examples inspire you to give "right now" a try and see if those two little words motivate you to return to the present the way they have for me! It might seem small, but staying present is hard and you never know what little thing will help make it easier for you. It's cliche to say, but there's truth in the idea that every second is a chance to turn your life around. Your whole existence is just a bunch of choices you make, and you can change at any moment. It's not often easy to do, but the first step is paying attention to what you're doing now, how it's making you feeling, and deciding if it's what you want to be doing in the future. Your "right now" is always up to you! 

 

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Plant Positive Seeds: 3 Stress-Reducing Habits

 

Positively Present - Little Deeds

 

Feeling stressed? Yeah, you're not alone. Most of us experience stress, particularly at this time of year when we're reflecting on the months that have passed and looking forward to the typically-busy months to come. If you're stressed, you're probably thinking of in-the-moment things you can do to quell the chaotic feelings (deep breathing, taking breaks, spa-like activities, etc.), but one of the best ways to combat stress is to develop regular habits that keep you calm. Planting positive seeds in the form of stress-reducing habits can greatly reduce your stress level, in part because you don't have to think about things to help you reduce your stress -- they'll already be habits! 

There are tons of ideas for habits that reduce stress -- eating well, exercising, spending time with loved ones, etc. -- but here are three of my favorite stress-reducing habits that you might want to consider adopting. Even if you're not currently stressed, putting habits like this in place can help you when you're facing stress in the future! 

 

START A GRATITUDE JOURNAL

I'm sure this isn't the first time you've heard "gratitude journal" in connection with stress reduction, but there's a reason that it's a popular topic in the self-help community. Spending time reflecting on what you're thankful for really does help cut down on stress. Studies have shown that gratitude is good for your health and, on a personal level, I've found that tracking things I'm thankful for on a daily basis really does help me feel less stressed. 

 

PICK UP A BUNCH OF FLOWERS

Surrounding yourself with beauty and nature is another great habit to embrace if you want to stress less. New research shows that people who lived with flowers in their homes for just a few days reported a significant decrease in their levels of stress and improvements in their moods. The simple act of making it a habit to have flowers around can help you stress less! This is a great example of how a small habit -- putting some pretty flowers in your home -- can have a meaningful impact on your stress level. 

 

OFFER TO HELP SOMEONE ELSE

Another great habit to consider adopting is regularly helping out others. Whether it's volunteering for a local charity, assisting a coworker, or helping those you love, helping other people is a habit that will cut down on your stress. It might sound counterintuitive -- adding another thing to your to-do list to reduce stress? -- but studies have shown that volunteering is good for your mental health, and the more stable your mental health, the better you'll be able to cope with stress! 

 

Nobody likes being stressed, but hopefully the three habits detailed above will inspire you to consider incorporating a stress-reducing, positive habit into your life on a regular basis. While deep breaths and mindfulness techniques can help combat stress in the moment, it's a good idea to create regular positive habits that will counteract stress without you having to even think about it. So consider adding gratitude journaling into your nightly routine, picking up some flowers on the way home from work, signing up to volunteer (or any other positive habit that cuts down on stress!) and see how simple, small things can have a big impact on your stress level! 

 

 

On StreetThank you to the Society of American Florists (SAF) for kindly sponsoring today's post! Whether it’s paying for a fellow commuter’s toll, or leaving a generous restaurant tip, “paying it forward” and “random acts of kindness” give people hope and inspire kindness towards others. SAF and the whole floral industry is taking part in this movement. It started with a small idea, that grew into everyone wanting to take part. Floral industry members know the power of flowers — they see it every day in their work. Whether to give or receive, flowers make people happy. For more information on the scientifically proven benefits of flowers including new university research on how living with flowers decreases stress, visit www.aboutflowers.com/research.


7 Things I Hope Autumn Will Bring


Autumn_Wishes

 

HOORAY! It's officially the best time of year -- AUTUMN! Per usual, I'm pretty pumped at the arrival of my favorite season. Typically the season brings to mind one of two things: (1) the concept of letting go (à la, the leaves) or (2) the notion of fresh starts (that new-school-year vibe). This week I'm going to focus on the latter, specifically on the hope that comes with a new (school or calendar) year.

With a fresh start of any kind (a new season, job, location, etc.), we're often motivated to think about what we'd like the newness to bring. This kind of resolution-style thinking is frequently reserved for the start of a new year, but I see no reason why we can't do a little reflecting at the start of each season. (In fact, it's probably a good idea to do it every few months rather than wait for January 1 to roll around!) 

While I drew this illustration last year, the desires in it remain the same. I'm not sure if that's a good thing -- look how persistent I am! -- or a bad one -- look how much I didn't achieve in a year! -- but, regardless, these are still things I'd like more of this autumn...

 

MORE SELF-LOVE

Ah, self-love. It's something I'm on an endless quest for, and something I don't know if I'll ever fully possess. After all, we're all living in a world that's pretty much designed to make us question and doubt ourselves (typically so we'll buy things or buy into ideas) so it's a constant battle to remain self-loving. But, in my opinion, autumn is a great time for doing some self-reflection to increase self-awareness (which is, after all, the beginning of self-love). If you're looking to do some soul-searching this season, check out Finding Yourself and Loving Yourself

 

NEW POSSIBILITIES

New season, new possibilities, I always say! Okay, I've never said that, but that doesn't mean it isn't true! Every season can be a fresh start with all sorts of untapped possibilities within it. The trick is knowing how to spot them and making an effort to take advantage of them when you do notice them. Opportunities don't always come out of nowhere. You have to go out and get them! This season, I'm going to do my best to follow my own advice (see: Hide and Seek: How to Find Opportunities) and actively seek out the possibilities I want to see brought to life in my own world. 

 

HOPE

Hope has always been a bit of a tricky word for me. It can seem so passive and future-focused that my positively present mind tends to struggle with it. But, after having had quite a few months (or is it years...) of feeling a bit hopeless, I'm making hope a priority this season. The key, I think, is going to be about finding a balance between having hope and living in the now. Too much focus on the future can be dangerous, but believing things will improve is worth the risk. 

 

A SENSE OF CALM

Calm is one of those feelings that's always been a bit elusive for me. Excited, anxious -- those two come easily. Calm? Not so much. However, I do find the autumn a relaxing, introspective time of year (in a way, the calm before the end-of-year storm) and it's my hope that, channeling the vibes of the season, I can learn to chill out a bit. For someone like me, calm takes effort, but I'm pretty sure it's worth the work. (Perhaps I'll download the Calm app to get started!)

 

LESS PHONE TIME

As you probably read over the summer in the series of posts I did about my phone addiction, putting my phone down is something I struggle with a lot. I've gotten better at coping with it, but I'm still a long way off from being "normal" when it comes to phone usage, which is why I'm hoping that I can continue to work on this throughout the rest of the year. I'm guessing it's going to be an ongoing struggle for me, but I'm hopeful that the insights now available via iOS 12 will help me increase my awareness (and decrease the amount) of phone time. 

 

GOOD IDEAS

Ideas are something I rarely struggle with (in fact, having too many of them might be one of my downfalls!), but good ideas, well, that's a different story. As the year comes to a close, I'm going to do my best to really pay attention to the value of my ideas and assess them thoughtfully before excitedly pursuing them. Typically it goes like this: idea → excited pursuit → overwhelm→ abandonment. Instead of following that path, I'm going to work on thoughtfulness, patience, and careful assessment before rushing after my own thoughts. 

 

DOGS

And, finally, I hope that autumn -- and all seasons -- bring lots of cute dogs into my life. While I'm dedicated to my little pup, Barkley, I really love dogs (anyone who knows me in real life can attest to my borderline-unhealthy obsession with them!) and I'm always hoping to see them. Whether it's online or in-person, I'm hopeful that my life will be filled with pup-fueled cuteness and joy because, honestly, almost every situation (and season!) is made better if dogs are involved. 

 

The start of a new season is a great time to reflect on what you'd like more of in your life. Whether it's the start of autumn or spring where you life, take a moment to think about what you hope the next few months will bring. If you'd like, let me know what you're hoping for in the comments below!