Does anyone else have a problem with projecting into the future or over-thinking the past? I have a bad habit of doing both, and personally, the recent life changes and challenges have made them so much worse.
I find myself spending too much time thinking about what was and what could have been, or projecting into the future and wondering about what may happen.
These ways of thinking are indeed a great way to make much of my life a lot more miserable and limited than necessary.
The key to solving this problem is of course to live as much as I can in the only moment that I ever really live in and control.
This moment right now.
Now, how do I step away from the thought loops that whirl back and forth through your memories and fantasies?
How do I actually return to the present moment?
I have 6 tips to help build on mindfulness skills. But I want to emphasize that these are learned skills, and they take practice. I do slip back into involuntarily thinking about the future/past. But the more time and effort I spend connecting with the moment the easier it gets reconnecting with it and remaining in it.
- Focus on what’s right in front of you.
Or around you. Or on you. Use your senses.
Just look at what’s right in front of you right now (besides your laptop/phone). Listen to the sounds around you. Feel the fabric of your clothes and focus on how they feel.
Summer has arrived; I have been using the extended daylight and warmth of the sunshine on my skin to reconnect with the moment.
- Focus on your breathing.
Take a couple of dozen belly breaths, with your hand placed on your stomach and focus on inhaling and exhaling. Maybe close your eyes. Use this moment to feel your breath slow your heart rate and clear your mind. When you open your eyes notice exactly where your feet are. Now stay there.
- Focus on your inner body.
This is a bit similar to focusing on your breathing. In both examples you focus on what’s inside you rather than the outside.
What is the inner body?
Well, I guess you could say it is energy inside of your body. How your body feels from the inside.
A practical way to do this just to focus on your shoulders. To just put your focus there and feel how they feel to you and how the energy is flowing through them.
Yeah, this suggestion may sound a bit weird to the mind. But if you actually try it a few times you’ll probably find that inner energy. I have learned to significantly reduce the stress I carry in my shoulders through this practice.
- Pick up the vibe from present people.
If you know someone that is more present than most then you can pick his/her vibe of presence (just like you can pick up positivity or enthusiasm from people).
If you don’t know someone like that I recommend listening to/watching Eckhart Tolle. I find it easy to take on his vibe due to his communication style: voice tonality and body language.
- Surrender to the emotion that is already there.
It’s easy to get stuck in a loop of old memories. You may want to move away from them but there is a feeling there that brings them back over and over.
So, you need to decrease the power that feeling has over you. And you don’t do it by fighting it. You do it by surrendering to it.
The feeling is a loop within your mind that you are feeding with more energy by resisting it. When you accept the feeling then you stop feeding it and it vanishes.
Here’s how I do it:
Say yes to the feeling.
Surrender and let it in. Observe the feeling in your mind and body without labelling or judging it. If you let it in – for me the feeling then often seems to physically locate itself to the middle of my chest – and just observe it for maybe a minute or two the feeling just vanishes.
- See things as for the first time.
This one pretty similar to the first way. But it can be useful when you have a hard time just observing your surroundings.
That’s when you can look at things as for the first time. Imagine it like that, it’s like role play.
Like someone who has never experienced this before. Like a child or someone who has never been here before.
There are more advantages to being in the moment besides being able to decrease mind-made suffering. Some of those advantages are:
- When I am in the moment, I have a much better focus and things flow more naturally. This is very useful in conversations, at work, while writing, or just doing the activities I enjoy.
- I feel centred, relaxed and whatever I do, I do with more ease. Since I am not projecting into a possible future or reflecting on previous experiences there is very little fear holding me back or worry stopping me.
- Since there is little fear, there are fewer negative emotions when I am present. Instead I move more freely on the positive part of the emotional scale.
Now, that sounds nice and useful.
I hope these tips can help someone ground themselves when they find themselves falling down the rabbit hole like I do.