You’ve heard it said before—probably many times—that it’s important to live in the present moment. You also might have heard similar pieces of advice like:
- “Don’t get caught up in thinking about the past or the future—live in the now!”
- “Be present in your own life.”
- “All you have is this moment. Don’t let it slip away.”
All of these (possibly overused) sayings boil down to the same basic message: it’s vital to live in the present moment. In our current twenty-first century lives, it’s not easy. There’s always something coming up that we need to prepare for or anticipate, and our lives are so well-documented that it’s never been easier to get lost in the past.
As author Myrko Thum tells it, the present moment is all there truly is: “The present moment is the only thing where there is no time. It is the point between past and future. It is always there and it is the only point we can access in time. Everything that happens, happens in the present moment. Everything that ever happened and will ever happen can only happen in the present moment. It is impossible for anything to exist outside of it.”Living in the now is so difficult because we are always encouraged to think about the future or dwell on our past. Advertisements, reminders, notifications, messages, and alerts are all so often geared towards the past or the future.
To get to a healthy balance, try to keep these guidelines in mind:
- Think about the past in small doses, and make sure you are focusing on the past for a reason (e.g., to relive a pleasant experience, identify where you went wrong, or figure out the key to a past success).
- Think about the future in small doses, and make sure you are focusing on the future in a healthy, low-anxiety way (e.g., don’t spend time worrying about the future, think about the future just long enough to prepare for it and then move on).
- Stay in the present moment for the vast majority of your time.
Another good exercise that can help you set the right mindful tone for the day is to write in your journal. Simply putting words on a page will probably not get you all the benefits of journaling, but effective journaling can result in many positive outcomes and improvements to your quality of life. Visualizing your goals is an excellent method for not only making it more likely that you will follow through on your goals, it can also help you become more mindful on a regular basis. Lots of us have dreams. We know what makes us happy, what we’d love to try out, and we may have a vague idea of how we’d go about it. But setting clear goals can be beneficial in several ways, above and beyond wishful thinking.
It doesn’t matter where you came from. All that matters is where you are going.
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