Are you living in the Past, Present or Future? Silly question? Maybe not . . .
How much of your time today have you spent thinking or worrying about something you said or did yesterday or any day in the past? Did you spend time feeling sad or anxious about something that happened to you recently or maybe even years ago? Or maybe it is not the past you worry about, maybe it is the future? Have you spent time wondering about something that may happen (good or bad), or spend time making plans for a future event? We all have spent a portion of our day, doing just that. And so we should, to a certain degree.
It is wonderful to spend some time reflecting on the past and the future, and it can be very important. We should learn from our past and we hopefully have wonderful memories that we would like to reminisce about. It is important that we plan our futures, have a budget, save, and to schedule our time otherwise we have no direction and we may or may not meet our goals. The problem arises when we spend the majority or maybe all of our time in the past and/or future, then we lose sight of the here and now.
If, we are so caught up in worrying about yesterday, or dreaming about tomorrow, what do we lose? We lose today!! We are no longer present in the moment, and we lose those moments forever. we have no memories to learn from or experiences to appreciate, they are just lost. And as the saying goes “Tomorrow never comes” and if not careful we could spend all of our time planning for a tomorrow that we never get to experience.
So how do you stay present?
There are many ways to stay present:
Be Mindful! It is the buzzword, you hear it every where you go, but what does it mean? According to Wikipedia: Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences happening in the present. It is the very essence of being in the Here and Now. But how do you do it?
One of the best ways is to disconnect from technology! Technology is all about the past and future and most of us have been guilty in getting lost for hours reading blogs, browsing through shopping, travel or social media. When is the last time you were glad you wasted 30 minutes or an hour on the internet? Have you been accused of not listening to your friends, children or significant other because you are caught up in something on your phone? Shut it down! Be with the people in your life, notice the weather, the fresh new leaves on the trees, the buds on the flowers or the music playing.
Breathe! Ever find yourself feeling tense and worked up over something that happened yesterday or maybe something that may happen or you have to do tomorrow? When this happens do you find that sometimes you are breathing shallow if at all? Stress will do that, controlling your breathing can not only help you relax and ease your stress it can bring you back into the present. Take a deep breath in, allow it to fill your whole chest and your belly. Notice how the air feels coming in, how your chest feels when it is full, now hold that breath. For a few seconds what do you feel, what do you see, what do you hear? Now slowly allow that breath to escape, again noticing how it feels as you release it from your lungs, and how your chest feels just before you inhale once again. Now your back, you are in the moment in the here and now!
Look! What do you see around you? What didn’t you notice before? Take a moment to appreciate the existence, the beauty, the complexity in whatever you see. A rose is nothing special if looked at with a distant eye. But a rose examined and appreciated for it’s beauty can become an entirely different experience. Drink it in, see the world around you, it is an amazing place we live in.
Listen! What do you hear? Life can often become the humming of the fan, the background noise we pay no attention to. Listen, to the intricacies of someone’s voice as they speak or sing. How familiar is that sound? How amazing is it that the human brain can recognize another human by a sound they make (a clearing of the throat, a cough even a sigh). What sounds are you aware of now in the room you were not aware of before?
Feel! How does your body feel? Have you been tensing your shoulders for hours and didn’t even notice? Relax them and other muscles in your body, feel the seat around you, allow your surroundings to envelope your body as you relax into a comfortable position. How does it feel to allow you body to release and just be?
Smell! What a wonderful sense of smell most of us have. What familiar smells do you pick up on? Is there a new smell or unfamiliar one? Where might that have come from? Do the smells remind you of something?
Now you have found it! You are back in the present moment, you are aware of your body, your breath and how it feels in your current environment. You have taken back over not just your body by relaxing, but your mind by directing it to what to think about. Did you see, hear, feel, smell something familiar, important, special? Regardless, you are here now, now what?
Whatever you want, whatever is most important to you or whatever you need. Enjoy that conversation with your kids, holding the hand of your significant other, the warmth of the sun, the coziness of your bed. Let yourself appreciate life in the moment and not just worrying or reflecting on the past or dreaming and planning of the future. Don’t lose your today thinking of yesterday and worrying about tomorrow!
If you find you are spending an excessive amount of time in worry, anxiety or depression over things that have already happened or may happen in the future mindfulness can help but it may not be the total answer. Please talk with your therapist or give us a call at Northstar Counseling we would love to talk to you more about Mindfulness and other ways we can help!