Do you wish you could stop obsessing over the future and ruminating on the past, and just be? People who are able to live in the moment tend to be more joyful, secure, and empathetic, and they have higher self esteem. Being in the moment may sound simple, but in truth it takes a lot of practice. Read on to learn changes you can make to the way you think, spend your time, and interact with the world to be in the moment more often.
Method 1 of 3: Changing Thought Patterns
Realize you’re already there. Guess where you are right now? In the moment. You’re not in yesterday’s moments, and you’re not in tomorrow’s. You’re in the moment that is happening as you read. Take comfort in the fact that it is physically impossible for you to be anywhere else. It’s never to late to be in the moment; all you have to do is realize you’re already there. The challenge is to turn your thoughts toward what is actually happening, to become more mindful.
- Mindfulness happens when you notice and acknowledge the present. When you feel your thoughts swirling toward something that has already happened or something that may be yet to happen, try looking down at your hand. Become aware of how your hand feels right now. Are you a little chilly, or are you warm? Notice what’s anchoring you to the here and now. 
- It also helps to acknowledge something outside your own sphere. Look out the window and notice leaves blowing in the wind, or birds sitting on a wire. In another moment they make blow down from the tree or take flight to another telephone pole. When you notice the world around you, you become more mindful of the present.
Don’t think so hard. You are not the thoughts in your head. Your worries, anxieties, guilt, and other negative thoughts are not you, and getting lost in them poses a huge impediment to being in the moment. Stopping yourself from thinking so hard is an important step toward mindfulness. As you probably know, it’s also very difficult to do. Here are some ways you can stop letting your thoughts rule your existence:
- Stop thinking too much about the future. A certain amount of planning is good, but there are many, many things that are out of your control. You cannot control what will happen in 5 or 10 years. When it comes down to it, you don’t even know what might happen tomorrow. Make a conscious decision to stop worrying so much. When you find yourself obsessing, do something to bring about greater mindfulness, like stepping outside and breathing fresh air for a few moments.
- Don’t ruminate on the past. This is even less useful than worrying about the future, because it has already happened and there’s nothing you can do to change it.
Be unselfconscious. When your inner critic comments on your behavior, you’re creating a separation between your mind and body, making it more difficult to live in the present. As an example, let’s say you’re in the middle of talking to a friend, you start laughing at something funny he said, and then you immediately criticize yourself for laughing to loud, or you start worrying about what your face looks like when you laugh. Now your thoughts are ruling the experience, and you’re no longer living in the moment with your friend – you’re worried about the impression you’re making. You’re not present anymore. The next time something like this happens, banish the negative thoughts immediately.
- If you experience self consciousness frequently, try doing something you’re good at, something you can focus on without worrying about how you look or how well you’re doing. Plant a row of flowers, paint your wall a new color, or practice your instrument. Give yourself a bit of a challenge, but not one that’s insurmountable.
- When you experience a moment of unselfconsciousness, remember how it feels. Your mind and body are operating as one, instead of warring with one another. Practice getting back to that feeling as often as possible.
Be a better listener. Focus wholly on the person you’re talking with instead of letting your thoughts wander to your own problems and worries. Look closely at the person’s face and be grateful for the conversation. Look at each exchange as a gift of sorts, during which you get the opportunity to both teach and learn. Getting lost in thought or waiting for a lull in the conversation so you can end it are signs that you aren’t fully in the moment.
- Make eye contact and squarely face the person to whom you are talking. Notice details about the person’s face. Think about your relationship to this person.
- Even unpleasant conversations, or conversations with people you hardly know or with whom you don’t have much in common, can have extraordinary value. Everyone has a history, a dream, desires. Being in the moment during conversations can help you experience greater empathy and feel more in tune with the world. As Buddha taught, we are all interconnected.
Take people at face value. Do you spend a lot of time worrying about other people’s intentions, judgements and desires? This is yet another distraction from the present moment. You can’t control anyone but yourself, so why spend so much time thinking about someone else’s thoughts? The best way to stop this pattern is to start taking people at face value. Believe other people’s words, then move on to the next experience instead of dwelling.
- It’s true that some people mean “no” when they say “yes,” and vice versa. Everyone says things they don’t mean sometimes. However, it is not your job to attempt to read people’s minds. If there’s a miscommunication because you acted on a “yes” as a “yes,” that person will learn to be more direct next time.
- Take compliments at face value. Do people the kindness of believing what they say instead of thinking they’re saying it just to be nice.
- This is not to say you should be naive and have complete trust in everyone. A person’s body language, history, and personality should tell you whether or not a person can be trusted.
Accept pain. When life brings tragedy, being in the moment means experiencing pain instead of trying to ignore it or make it go away as fast as possible. Allowing yourself to feel negative emotions – fear, guilt, anxiety, sadness, and anger – is an important part of living in the present.
- Try not to let your emotions get wrapped up in past occurrences or worries about the future. If you’re sad about a breakup, let the sadness be part of your current moment. Don’t dwell on memories or think about what might have been; just bask in the feeling of sadness. Looking at a picture of the person’s face, or writing down your thoughts, can help you connect your emotions to the present.
- Don’t berate yourself for having negative feelings. Telling yourself you should get over something more quickly is a way of disconnecting yourself from the present, because the emotions are part of the present. Ride out your feelings and experience them to the fullest, the way you would experience joy or contentment. These, too, will pass.
- By WikiHow