How often are we actually experiencing life in the present moment? Seems like a funny question, right? Well, consider your last vacation. Probably, the week before it you were flying high, so happy and excited about your pending vacation- all while you were actually sitting at work living your normal life. Then, two weeks later, there you are on the beach in Bora Bora feeling sad because it’s the last day of your vacation and you’ll be heading back to reality the next day. If you were able to truly live in the moment, you could have enjoyed every last second of that vacation.
The other day I was in the shower in the midst of holiday hustle. I was rushing to get done so that I could get going with my long to-do list and my mind was wandering to a bunch of other random stressors. Then, for just a second, I felt the amazing sensation of the warm water running through my hair. I realized that at that moment there was nothing I needed to do other than enjoy my shower. What would be the point of stressing out and ruining that lovely experience when I obviously couldn’t multi-task? I was soaking wet, after all.
We all experience this on some level. Sometimes it may be short term past and future events that are affecting us and sometimes it’s something from a very long time ago or worries about things that are so far in the future that they may or may not even ever happen. It can be challenging to let go of past hurts and future worries and simply live in the present. But the present can be a gift. It can be calm and peaceful and wonderful even when our recent past and pending future may not seem so great.
Here are some things that might help:
My first time diving deep into this topic was Eckhart Tolle’s book: The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. He explains this concept in such a lovely and interesting way.
Meditation. I am fairly new to meditation, and one thing that I love as a beginner is a series that Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra teamed up to create. Most of them are 21 day guided mediations where Oprah talks a bit and then Deepak teaches and then guides you in a lovely, relaxing mediation where you repeat a mantra (that he provides) while listening to beautiful music. They show up sporadically as free events, or you can purchase them here. You will find that your mind will wander away from the mantra as you go through the mediation and that’s okay. It’s all part of the experience. Sometimes now, when I’m having trouble sleeping, I go back to Deepak’s instruction to take deep breaths and repeat a mantra to settle my mind.
If you like animals, spend time with them. Petting an animal has been shown to lower blood pressure and relieve stress. Plus, if you have a pup, he or she will encourage you to get outside and walk- 3 stress busters in one! (I have one of my pups snoring on my lap as I write this.)
When you are feeling stressed, sad, or overwhelmed, take a moment to breathe. Think about what is really happening at the very moment you are living in. Look around. Do you see anything pretty? Do you see anything funny? Consider keeping some things around your desk or work area that make you happy (pictures of loved ones or a beautiful vase) so that you can focus on them and take some deep breaths when you need to center yourself. Remind yourself that everything is what it is and that you can only do what you can do. It will all be okay.
One final thing that has been shown to help relieve stress is nature. If you are able, get outside. Smell the fresh air. Watch the leaves on the trees. Can you see a bird? What’s the bird doing? Even if it’s just a peak out the window, taking a moment to be one with nature can have a big impact on your stress levels. We could all benefit from taking some time to stop and smell the roses.
PS. You also might like my video on handling stress. Check it out here.