Life takes place in the present. But so often, we let the present slip away, unobserved and unseized. Our mind is cluttered with thoughts: while we are at work, we think about vacation, we dwell on the past or worry about the future.Most of us don’t undertake our thoughts in awareness, meaning our thoughts control us, not the other way around. We need to live more in the moment. Called mindfulness, living in the moment is a state of active, open, intentional attention on the present. When you become mindful, you realize that you are not your thoughts; you are just with your thoughts, observing them.
Mindfulness has some great benefits. It reduces stress, helps lower blood pressure and boosts immune function. Mindful people tend to be happier, more exuberant, more empathic and more secure. They also accept their own weaknesses more easily. They can hear negative feedback without feeling threatened and fight less with their partners.
The problem with living in the moment is that it’s paradoxical. You can’t pursue it for its benefits because that’s a future- oriented mindset. Instead you have to just trust the rewards will come.
There are many paths to mindfulness – each of which has a paradox at the core. Letting go of what you want is the only way to get it. Here are some tricks to help you along the way.
- To improve performance stop thinking about it. How’s that for a paradox? Thinking too hard about what you are doing actually makes it worse. By reducing self-consciousness, mindfulness allows you to witness what is going on around you without judgement. Focusing on the present forces you to stop overthinking.
- To avoid worrying about the future, focus on the present. Relish what you are doing at the present moment. Take the time to savor a piece of chocolate or a beautiful sunrise.
- If you want a future with your significant other, inhabit the present. Mindfulness actually inoculates people against aggressive impulses. Mindfulness decreases ego involvement and boosts your awareness of how you interpret and react to what’s happening in your mind, so you don’t react in anger or frustration.
- To make the most of time, lose track of it. The most complete way of living in the moment is the state of total absorption in a task referred to as flow. In a state of flow, you are so focused that distractions can’t penetrate. You can accomplish “flow” by working on a challenging project or reading a good book.
- If something is bothering you, accept it. Focusing on a problem to fight or overcome it often makes it worse. Let the emotion or problem be there. Label the issue, look at it, accept it and direct your attention to something else.
- Know that you don’t know. Have you ever had “autopilot” moments driving down the highway? Scary, aren’t they? Acquire the habit of noticing new things every day so you recognize that the world is constantly changing.
Living a consistently mindful life takes effort. Be mindful for this moment and realize where you are and pay attention to the experience. You’re already “there”. Wasn’t that easy?