For many of us, life is a game of constant movement. We’re either busy at work, busy with our friends, or busy watching Netflix.
Often one task isn’t fully complete before we’re on to the next one. And I guess in some regards, it’s our way of trying to fit as much as life in as we can.
Over the last decade or so, social media platforms and wellness sites have been focusing on concepts such as burnout and work-life balance as a means to improve our quality of life.
It has all been part of the “more meaningful living movement” that highlights conscious eating and exercise and has at its core the “living in the moment” paradigm.
It might sound like a simple concept, but living in the moment has been significantly challenged by technological domination, impossible work demands, and the anxiety we face in manoeuvring life. No longer do we live in the age of information, but rather the age of distraction which prevents us from living full lives.
How would you like your life to look?
When we were kids, many of us thought of the jobs we wanted to do or the car we would love to own.
Yet even amid immense personal achievement, research shows that most people feel a deep void that they are constantly trying to fill.
In a nutshell, it appears most of us cannot practise mindfulness.
One writer spoke about a conversation with a friend about being present.
"How can I live more in the moment?" his friend questioned God as he traversed an unknown plain.
He felt that too often, the beautiful moments of his life were drowned out by a cacophony of self-consciousness and anxiety, and he needed a resolution.
In response, a soothing male voice replied, "breathe.”
The voice continued, repeating what sounded like a familiar new age mantra,” whenever you feel anxious about your future or your past, just breathe.”
It’s a simple concept: breathing. After all, it’s what we do to survive. But breathing in and out and focusing on the present can be challenging to execute.
Naturally, we’re always busy with something, allowing little time for rest and calm. Instead, we allow time to rush past unobserved and underutilised, and we inevitably squander precious seconds of our lives worrying about the future and ruminating about the past.
It’s amazing how adept humans are at being on the opposite ends of reality. We fixate on our vacation when at work, and on vacation we stress about work piling up at the office. Because our "monkey minds," as Buddhists call them, vault from thought to thought like monkeys swinging from tree to tree, we cannot live in the now.
When does it end? When do we learn to live more in the moment?
Living in the moment—also called mindfulness—is a state of active, open, intentional attention on the present. Experts believe that truly experiencing this involves realising that you are not your thoughts.
Instead, you become an observer of your thoughts from moment to moment without judging them.
You simply sit with them, neither grasping at them nor pushing them away. What mindfulness does is eradicate the unrealistic thinking that goes hand in hand with worrying, which invariably helps to eliminate the many ailments that accompany worrying.
Research has found a host of benefits associated with being present, but one of great importance is undoubtedly stress reduction.
Being present, even if the current state of affairs might be problematic, teaches us to focus on one thing at a time and compartmentalise. Mindfulness boosts immune functioning, reduces chronic pain, and lowers blood pressure.
Several experts also believe that alleviating stress and spending a few minutes a day actively focusing on living in the moment can also reduce the risk of heart disease.
How then do we become mindful?
One way of doing this is by realising that you are in control of the moment you’re in – not the future, not the past, but the here and now. You can either decide to enjoy the moment you are in or ignore it and watch it melt away. And don’t be fooled, control doesn’t mean planning the perfect party or winning over your in-laws.
It’s control over accepting the moment for what it is—all the emotions, all the ups, and the downs, and the good/messy parts in between.
Having control is accepting it and taking the lessons learned with you. Another way to be mindful is by being an expert observer, not of the people around you but of yourself and your thoughts and how they affect you.
One expert suggests observing when your mind begins to focus on the future instead of the present moment. Once this is done, ask yourself, is this thought process necessary? Can I control the outcome? Is it helping me live a better, more fulfilling life?
This process is known as simple awareness and recognition and, once practised, helps you become more mindful.
Another way to practise mindfulness is by calming your mind. This allows you to see things clearer and from a realistic perspective.
Research shows that the reason some problems seem so daunting is that our mind is racing so fast that we cannot see things as they truly are. We then inevitably create a number of possible scenarios, most of which are unlikely to come true.
Some of the best ways to calm your mind are often practised in everyday life.
Listening to music, doing something creative, or merely dropping your shoulder, sitting tall, and breathing are straightforward methods you could use to calm and centre your mind.
Present living is one of the most influential keys to well-being. Finding a balance between living in the moment, planning, and dealing with the harsh realities of life can be challenging, but with some effort, it can be achieved. After all, shouldn’t you live life as it happens? Now close your eyes and breathe deep.