We often hear, especially in recent times, that it is important to stay present.
I would go even further and say that it really is all we have.
The past and the future are in a way illusionary as the past doesn’t exist anymore and similarly, the future is out of our control.
However, we can make better choices in the present that will lead to a more prosperous future.
The past can be difficult to bring up for many people.
There may be hurt, trauma, loss, grief and pain. Or on the opposite end, there may be happiness, success, joy and fulfillment.
However, it is safe to say that if we are living in the past, then it may be for a few reasons.
Firstly, you may miss the “better times” that have gone before. This may be a relationship you have looked back on or simply a time in your life where things were “better”.
What precedes this is a chasing of sorts where we run to try and make life similar to this again. We have ourselves convinced that if we were to rekindle those parts of our lives, we would have joy again.
There is certainly a loss of the past and possibly even a trauma in losing our former selves.
Secondly, there may be acute loss and pain within your past which is difficult to overcome.
There must be a grieving process in loss and pain, however at what point do we pull ourselves to the present moment, re-evaluate our current life situation and begin to move forward.
For some people, living in the past offers a comfort blanket to the hard reality of the present with the possibility of being stuck in a victim mentality.
That, of course, is not to generalise and not for one second referring to people who are grieving to be victims. I am, however, alluding to the fact that grief and loss may throw us into a victim mentality and exist as a safe place to be rather than dealing with the sometimes bleak and boring reality of the present.
Then, of course there is the notion of the future. What will happen tomorrow? What if? And so on...future thinking questions may bring up anxiety for us as we seek a level of control that simply does not exist.
Of course, through better decision making, we increase the likelihood for better results however for the most part, we do not know what the future holds.
Therefore, living in the past or present really is a pointless exercise. The past may crop its ugly head from time to time and the possibilities of the future may sometimes dictate our emotions however living in the present moment is all we really have.
Mindfulness is the path to living in the present.
Practising gratitude and appreciation for both the good and bad things in life. Of course it is much more difficult to practise gratitude for our challenges however that is where growth occurs - in the midst of our darkest challenges.
Three strategies for staying more present:
1. Journalling - Buy yourself a nice notepad and start to take stock of how you feel about your journey in life. The heartbreak, the loss, the trauma, the joy, the success, the accomplishments and so on. How do they make you feel? By writing and documenting these things, it will bring you to being a more grounded, appreciative, connected and present person.
2. Mindful eating - Next time you go to eat try not to do it mindlessly and do it mindfully. Get the smells, textures and flavours of the food and really embrace them. This is especially effective when you are eating your favourite foods. Savour each bite!
3. Exercise - It doesn’t need to be a strenuous effort. However, through exercise we activate a lot of the good hormones like dopamine and decrease the bad hormones like cortisol.
If you can do exercise in nature, even better!
Try one of those strategies this week and see how it goes for you.
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