‘Live in the moment’ has become a bit of a buzz-term.
We’re told that living in the past is a path to regrets, and worrying about the future is a waste of time.
That’s all well and good, but how do we actually stay in the present moment?
How do we avoid thinking too much about what’s to come, or what’s happened?
Owen O’Kane, a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience in physical and mental health, thinks we need to simplify things.
‘I think mindfulness has become a little more complicated of late than it needs to be,’ he tells Metro.co.uk. ‘For me, the premise is simple. It is learning to become more present in your life, here and now.
‘Whatever you decide to bring a deeper awareness to, and truly notice, is okay, and can be accepted without judgement.’
So there’s something we can aim for: just be more aware of something, anything, in the present moment.
‘How you bring attention to the here and now is entirely up to you,’ Owen says. ‘It could be paying attention to drinking a cup of tea, tasting, smelling, savouring the moment. That’s meditating, that’s mindfulness.
‘It’s a single point of focus on one thing at a given time.
‘It could be a walk in which you stay focussed on your walk as you absorb everything you see, hear, feel, and touch.
‘It could be staring at the sky, watching your breath rise and fall, or listening to the sound of the sea.’
This might sound a bit silly to you. What good can come from just focusing on a cup of tea?
Well, quite a bit, actually.
Benefits of living in the present moment
Owen explains: ‘It helps quieten some of the more chaotic activity going on in the mind.
‘And the neuroscientists remind us that it reduces anxiety, increases plasticity of the brain, and improves mood.
‘It’s not just a fluffy technique.
‘On a broader level mindfulness is about showing up – mentally as well as physically – in your everyday life. Instead of focussing on the future, it’s about becoming more engaged in the “now’” That involved experiencing more, listening more, looking more, feeling more, and being more engaged in the life you have now.
‘As simplistic as it sounds, this is where your power will be found – in the now. Much of the energy spent focussing on the future is wasted time. Most of what you need is right in front of you at this moment in time.
‘The challenge is giving yourself permission to come out of the future (and the past) and step into what you have in this very moment. It’s no more complicated than that.
‘Living this way will bring you more peace and happiness than you can imagine.
‘I know this, not just as a therapist, but also as someone who wasted many years living in the future; nothing I sought was there.
‘Letting go of future-based living will have significant positive impact on your life. These are the improvements, based on my experience that you will discover:
- A sense of having fewer burdens as you focus on managing what is happening in the here and now, rather than trying to manage events in both the present and the future.
- Reduced anxiety – future-based worries lead to overthinking, thus reducing this will in turn reduce worry.
- Improvements in your mood – taking your focus of the future will allow you to experience more of the here and now, which, studies show, has a positive impact on mood.
- Improvements in concentration, creativity, productivity, and memory from freeing up space in your brain.
Sounds good. So, how do we do it?
Top tips for living in the present moment
Take regular time out in your day
You don’t need to spend ages dedicated to mindfulness and being in the present – just a few moments can make all the difference.
But make sure to actually carve out that time. Schedule in some time to quit rushing around, slow down, and do something that allows you to be present – whether that’s going for a walk, reading a book, having a nice cold lemonade, whatever.
Remember you don’t have to go out of your way to be mindful
‘Mindfulness can become part of your day, no matter what you are doing,’ Owen notes. ‘Cooking, cleaning, going for a run or walking the dog.
‘You are simply bringing focus to the present moment.’
Stop judging yourself
‘We often think that we need to be perfect or “together” all the time,’ says Owen.’ It’s ok to fail, mess up or get it wrong sometimes.
‘In my experience mindfulness meditation is pointless unless it comes with non-judgement. Go easy on yourself.’
Let go of the past
Owen says: ‘Remember the past is over, it can’t be rewritten. The future isn’t in your control.
‘All you have in now, so it makes sense to keep that the point of focus.
‘The power genuinely is in the now.’
How To Be Your Own Therapist by Owen O’Kane is out now in hardback, ebook and audio download.
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