Living in the now is so hard to do. The past feels familiar, the future is too uncertain, but the now is where action meets opportunity.
This is an ironic title for my post especially if you work in the psychology field or if you are a psychology student like me. You may get a chuckle when I tell you I just wrote a paper yesterday about the concept of “not yet” by Carol Dweck, but it did apply to developing motivation in children.
For adults, embracing the power of now is essential to our overall health and wellbeing. There is a place for planning, and there is a place for healing that comes from the past, but this moment doesn’t come again. Every day that you avoid living in the now, you are missing an opportunity to see yourself. Embracing today is better then the 2 days you can’t do anything about; yesterday and tomorrow.
The Plan for Living in the Now
The first step for living in the now is to let go of yesterday and tomorrow. This isn’t as simple to do as it is to say, but that’s why we will journal about it and look at the reasons this might matter.
Pull out your journal or open another blank text file on your computer.
- Write the date at the top
- Write the quote I am sharing below
- Write the plan for today
- Write one thing you hope to accomplish today
- Identify one strong feeling you feel right now (just one. For ex: I feel sadness.)
- Identify one thing that is worrying you right now
- Then write down what you can do now to make this worry stop affecting the present (For ex: if you are worried your relationship is failing, perhaps you can meditate about it or give it to God.)
- Draw the first thing that comes to mind. (Note: no judging yourself for your art skills, it can be as simple as a heart or a star.)
Quote for the Day
The quote for today about living in the now comes from Ram Dass.
“The Next Message you need is always right where you are.”Ram Dass
After writing the quote and all the pieces of the journal entry for today, write how you can use this quote to focus on living in the now.
An Extra Resource for Living in the Present
Achieving happiness is explained by the founder of the “Track Your Happiness” app, Dr. Matt Killingsworth. He discusses how mind wandering inhibits happiness and how this wandering gets you lost between the present and the past or future. Killingsworth’s research shows that those who are mind wandering, even when they are doing something they don’t want to do, are still less happy than those who are in the present. This is a huge testament to why living in the now is so important. In fact, the chart below shows happiness differences between mind wandering and those living in the present:
If you are an iPhone user, download the “Track Your Happiness” app to see if you are happy when your mind is wandering. Click here to download Dr. Killingsworth’s Track Your Happiness App.
What I Can Share From My Own Life About Living in the Present
For the last 20 years of my life, since I was 11 years old, I have dwelled in the past when I couldn’t figure out a situation in my current life. Rather than use my imagination and/or research my next best move, I would look at my past to find an answer for something I need to do right now.
Not only did this idea not work, but I have wondered to myself, how can something from the past when I was still learning and growing help the wiser woman I am today to solve my problems?
The answer came in clear, it simply doesn’t work.
Progress made me a happier, healthier person today, so going back to the past will only pull me back into the cycles I used to live in. For example, I have been fighting with someone I love for over a month. When I broke down the reason we are fighting, went back and read the text messages, and got quiet in my mind, I found that we were fighting because I wanted to be there for him, and I wanted him to be there for me. I asked for what I wanted from him, and he didn’t know how to provide it so he used unuseful words to make me feel bad for asking for it. The fighting continued when I set the boundary that I wanted the kind of relationship with him where we learn and grow as a team and I would not settle for the lone ranger options.
In my past, I would have avoided the fighting by simply brushing the conversation under the rug and looking for all the good stuff, but ignoring the needs I had deep inside. I choose living in the now, being present, and researching the topic. I asked for advice from professionals, not family and friends who are looking out for me and harmlessly making harmful suggestions, but the ones who know if my boundary is unreasonable.
What I found was that I wasn’t being unreasonable. I was asking for my partner to fulfill his commitment to me by giving me his undivided attention one night a week. Just one night where he focuses on me and him and us and our future. I love him and I want to give in and let him win, but my boundary will lose its power and I will lose myself in this relationship if I don’t honor my needs.
Living in the now has taught me to honor my deepest needs, and to not avoid conflict by not asking for a reasonable request. To truly love myself, I have to be willing to speak up when I am feeling unhappy with a person or situation. The right partner will eventually understand that your needs are just as important to them as they are to you, and they will be willing to ask for a compromise that makes you both feel satisfied, loved, valued, and appreciated.
If I would have allowed myself to go into the past, or to dwell on the possibility of the future, I would have lost myself and what I wanted and needed from a life partner and lover. Intimacy requires two people who show up for each other, who actively listen to each other, who are open to growing in challenges and don’t resort to catastrophic thinking when a conflict isn’t easy to resolve, and who value each other’s presence. This is why living in the present is intrinsic to your overall happiness, because it honors the person you are today, not the person you were or might be one day.
Quick Exercise to Unblock Yourself From Living in the Present
To achieve a goal of living in the moment, you must be open to the mind, body and spirit connection within yourself. Meditating is a great way to open this connection and explore your inner world, but meditating isn’t easy for everyone. I personally have trouble closing my eyes and staying focused during meditations, so I had to find creative meditation exercises that work for me. Here is what I do:
- I start by writing an intention for my meditation. What do I want to gain from the practice? In other words, how will this meditation help me today?
- I grab a card from my tarot deck, or my TruthBomb deck (or any other deck of cards you have that gives you something to focus on before you start) and I lay it in front of me.
- I read it’s meaning and I identify how it will fit into my life.
- I set a timer on my phone for 3 minutes and I put on some music that is calming
- I start the timer and close my eyes
- I remember my intention and the card that showed up for me and I repeat the meaning over and over again without thinking of anything else.
- When the timer goes off, I slowly open my eyes and I do a small stretch to awake my body.
- After I am back to full awareness of the present, I write my journal entry for the day using the me that is present and living in the now.
It’s a journey to calm your inner world and stay focused. It takes practice and patience; two things I never believed I was capable of. I remember all the people who uttered the words, “be kind and gentle with yourself.” I used to think, “they have no idea how hard it is to be kind and gentle when you don’t feel like doing this.”
Eventually, I realized that being kind and gentle with myself is how I connect to myself deeply. It’s how I learn to control my emotions and trust the presence of my emotions rather than being afraid of them or the havoc they might cause in my life.
Living in the now takes willpower, and willpower is a muscle that can only be strengthened when we take control of an opportunity to push past the discomfort and fill ourselves with wonder and connection and love for ourselves.
Some Recommendations for Tools to Set You Up to Live in the Present
Links in this section are affiliate links. That means at no additional cost to you, I could receive a commission if you decide to make a purchase on one of these products. I do not intend to elicit sales, just to share the tools I use, so you are more than welcome to use these tools are a guideline for purchasing your own personal toolkit.
Start with getting a journal that is only for you to create healing. Here are some awesome and affordable Journals to check out on Amazon:
8.5″ x 6.4″ College Ruled Journal/Notebook with 134 pages
$5.09 – $5.72
5.7″ x 8.1″ Victoria Journals with Retro-Gilded Edges with 256 pages
$20.99 – $21.99
5″ x 7.1″ Tree of Life Journal with 160 pages
$20.99 – $21.99
Tarot Decks and Positivity Cards
Here are some Tarot decks and positivity cards that I personally use and love so much.
The #Truthbomb App by Danielle LaPorte
Everyday Tarot Mini Tarot Deck
Beyond Lemuria Oracle Cards
- Day One: What to do When You Feel Bad About Yourself – by Niki Maria
- Reasons to Live in the Moment – Mindfully Evie
- 5 Reasons to Live in the Moment and Stop Planning Too Much – Life Hack
- The Importance of Living in the Present Moment – Exploring Your Mind
- 7 Awesome Reasons to Be Present, and How to Do It – The Positivity Blog
- 71 Mindfulness Exercises for Living in the Present Moment – Develop Good Habits
- Meditation is Easier Than you Think – An explanation by Mingyur Rinpoche