Often times when I’m emotional or depresso, I catch myself reminiscing and thinking, “Man, I had it too good. Just too much of the good life.” The funny thing is at the time, I didn’t really realize it. I definitely didn’t truly enjoy or savor it. Even back then- before the stress that is living in NYC, searching for the right career, having to pay bills or figuring out how to set up a doctor app for myself- I still found ways to trip myself out or feel anxiety about my future and wanting to be grown already. Looking back, that anxiety- though totally normal and understandable- was a bunch of dumb crap. I wish someone- someone I actually would have listened to, if that person even exists- would have slapped me and told me straight up to just stop worrying and stay in the moment!!!
I’m definitely happiest when I’m fully engaged in the present. Unfortunately for me, staying in the moment is tough. At any given point I’m probably in 2 or 3 different trains of thought- that is either regretting something that’s been done and can’t be changed, freaking out about something in the future, fixating on something random and totally unrelated to what I’m currently doing or anywhere in between. I’m hoping that changes one day… until then, here’s a few things that help me stay in the present and enjoy being in the moment:
1) Remember that you’re stealing the enjoyment you could be experiencing currently and replacing them either with the thoughts and feelings of moments from your past or anxiety about the future. A.k.a.- emotions that you’ve already been through or emotions over some completely unpredictable future. Whether good or bad, the past is the past and the future is a mystery. If you’re trying to enjoy the present moment, nothing is going to be gained by not being in the NOW. Time to stop taking away from yourself and take control of your own mind!
2) Take inventory of your thoughts. Are these wandering thoughts you’re having hindering, hurting or helping your ability to be in the moment? If they aren’t helping you engage with the people you’re spending time with or what you’re currently doing, then refocus. If you can’t let go of what you’re stuck on, take note of what triggered a freak out and all of your thoughts on the matter, and save them for later. Sometimes ignoring your wandering mind isn’t a good thing- so jot down your feelings and analyze them during a more appropriate time. Maybe during meditation or your personal alone time. Give yourself a set period of time to reflect on it and make a promise to yourself to let it go and not get stuck.
3) It’s literally impossible to change the past or predict the future. So unless you have super powers, just stop trying. Know that you made the best decisions you could based on the facts and knowledge you had at that time. Moreover, know that if you make the habit of staying in the moment, the more likely your decisions in the future will also be better thought out.
If you’re stuck reminiscing about the past and wish you could time travel back to a more enjoyable time in your life- as I often do if I’m commuting on a stinky subway train or trudging through the snow in NYC… if I’m just generally home sick… sometimes even when I see little kids with their parents or waking up on Sunday morning not in San Francisco at home- remember that there are always opportunities to make new happy memories! Be joyful you have great times to look back on, and make sure you’re not letting the fact that those particular good times are in the past, get you down.
Also, if there’s something you’re expecting or worried about in the future- prepare for it, but don’t go crazy trying to predict details. Random things always pop up- you will never be able to 100% be prepared for 100% of any possible scenario.
4) Be accountable to yourself. Staying in the moment sometimes feels impossible. Millions of different thoughts, based on tons of different emotions and states of mind, are constantly vying for our attention. Make the promise to yourself that if you’ve let something go, you’ve truly dropped it. Moreover, if you know what you’re feeling is not necessary, just stop. What are you really gaining out of living in the past or in the future? Nothing. Only you have the power to shut it down- but it takes intention and will power.
5) Remember- it’s a waste of your precious time and energy to not be fully engaged in the moment. Moreover, consistently not being the moment can hurt not only yourself, but also your relationships and life goals. We all want to be our happiest. We all want to feel totally good and calm with ourselves and where we’re at. Most importantly, we owe it to ourselves to make the absolute best out of the current situation we may be in. But we will never have the most fun, be the most productive, be the most engaged or the most anything- if we aren’t present and 100% in the moment. So, let’s take some deep breaths and show up!