Updated: Dec 5, 2020
Find out how you can keep your mind focused on the present and positive during a pandemic.
“Do not ruin today with mourning tomorrow.” ― Catherynne M. Valente
Do you feel like you are unconsciously drifting from one day to the next? Can you recall the details of what you did this day last week, or even yesterday?
Our days being blurred into one another has probably never been truer than it has been during lockdown this year, as we count down the days for the pandemic to be over so things can go back to normal.
But surely we do not want to look back at this period of our lives, knowing that we wasted our time anxiously waiting for better days to come? Shouldn't we at least try to enjoy the present moment, as it is?
Being mindful and living in the present moment does not only allow us to appreciate the little things in life, but also helps us to let go of our worries of tomorrow and gain a new perspective on life.
If you've already read my first article 'Why You Should Be Meditating' - you would've already seen me preach about the benefits of mindfulness meditation, since practising meditation had really helped me overcome my struggles with being present. I was that annoying friend who you could tell was pretending to listen to you speak, whilst nodding my head and saying 'yeah', but damn right did not hear a single thing you said because I was too busy thinking about what to eat for lunch... But after picking up new mindfulness habits, voila - along came a more focused Kay!
Though I'm a big advocate for meditation and believe it is the key to training your mind to be more present - there are also other ways that can help remind you to live in the moment right now. Check out seven different ideas below :)
1. Practice daily gratitude.
A friend had bought me a 'One Line A Day' journal as a Christmas present in 2017, which is essentially a 5 year journal, where I can write whatever I want each day in 4 incredibly short lines. Because it only requires one or two sentences each day, it has been very easy and effortless for me to commit to writing on a daily basis. Each day I journal, I land back at the same page as previous years, which means I get the chance to re-read what I had written in past entries, and it is so interesting to see how much has changed year on year! Hands down the best present I have ever received.
Initially, I used this diary to log any interesting events that happened during the day, but as time went on I realised that not everyday of my life was particularly exciting, especially this year where most days pretty much felt like Groundhog Day. As a result, I decided to turn this diary into a gratitude diary instead. I now jot down any interesting thoughts that have occurred during the day, or about something that made me laugh or smile, even if it was something as silly as 'Omg mum did a loud ass fart during my work call today haha!' (soz for the exposure mum). As cheesy as it sounds, it helped me realise that there is always something brilliant that happens in everyday life - including farts.
Practicing gratitude will help you learn to shift your mind to celebrate the tiny joys in life, and in turn, the negatives will slowly fade away and you become more present.
If you don't already own a gratitude diary, treat yourself to one for Christmas this year! Each day, you can write down a few things you are grateful for to remind yourself how lucky you are. Feel free to write whatever you like - e.g. 'I appreciate my family who are always there for me', 'I am glad I have a job that pays me', 'Damn, I have a nice butt'. It's your own personal diary, so don't feel ashamed and write whatever lights up your day!
2. Let go of the past.
This one might be obvious but it is definitely the most important.
One of the quickest ways to become more present in your life is to let go of the past. Only then you can see things as they really are - not through the previous version of you, who is attached to these potentially painful or romanticised memories. These old worn-out lenses no longer serve the new you.
Whilst it is fine to reminisce about happy times, if you do it more than you should be, you may be holding onto the good ol' days a bit too tight and forgetting to live in the now, missing out on something great right in front of you.
On the other hand, if you are living with regrets from the past, either about things you did or didn't do, this is also letting the past rob you of your present. That classic line in Dark (Netflix series - a must watch FYI) 'Everything that has happened in your life has lead you up to this moment' could not be more true. What happened has already happened, so why dwell on it? You are who you are today because of the events that took place in your life. People can judge all they want, but if they lived through the exact same life you did, I bet they would've made the same decisions you did too. We can't change the past, but we can definitely learn from it to ensure we live more blissfully in the future - mistakes don't exist, lessons do.
Don't waste any more of your time wondering if your past actions were right or wrong. Spend the rest of the valuable time you have left on this planet living in the now - by forgiving yourself, loving yourself and giving yourself the best life you can.
3. Embrace the unknown.
As well as letting go of the past, we also need to understand that we will never have full control of the future.
Before the pandemic, a lot of us may have had solid plans for 2020, but bloody rona went ahead and f*cked them all up. Though we can't help but be annoyed, what better time to let go of the stress that came with making these plans, than now? Our futures are now more unpredictable than ever, so why lose sleep over something that is out of our hands?
The truth is, if you're panicking about losing your job, failing your exam or never finding love - unless you're doing something to proactively change the situation, worrying about it will not change the outcome. In fact, according to the Law of Attraction, the more you focus on these negative thoughts, the more likely your dreaded fears will come true - as you manifest whatever you channel your energy towards, whether it be positive or negative. If you want the universe to work in your favour, you need to trust with a genuine belief that it has your back.
In order to have peace of mind, you must embody mindfulness. Don’t wait for something outside of yourself to bring you comfort in the future, instead, be happy with what you already have. Focus on the 'reverse gap' - stop stressing over how far you have left to become the person you desire to be, instead, you should reflect on how far you have come to be the person you are today. Find a balance between planning and flowing, whilst embracing the unknown and being present in your body.
4. Take in the moment. Literally.
As you're reading this article, you might have scrolled down the page to see how much longer you have left to read, or you might be wondering if you sent that report to Deborah this morning, and whether Deborah is going to yell at you tomorrow... (Oh, f*ck off Deborah). As much as you are trying to focus on what's now, your mind may have already drifted elsewhere.
Well, fear not, it is a common tendency among us mere plebs - it's part of being human. We struggle to sit still and keep our attention on one thing at a time.
However, there is a trick to snap your attention back to the immediate present, which is to notice the details of your surroundings and your current state. Ask yourself - what do you see? Hear? Feel? Smell? Taste?
Relying on my senses is one of the main techniques I use to bring me back to the present. Whenever I notice my mind has drifted, instead of allowing myself to be overwhelmed by my thoughts, I take control of my thinking. I look at what is around me, taking in the colours and textures, whilst feeling the seat I am sitting on or touching what is near me, and listening with curiosity. Doing this reminds me that what matters most is what's happening right in this moment.
5. Create a reminder.
Whether it be sticky notes, desktop backgrounds or writing with lipstick on your bathroom mirror, visual reminders are a great way to give you a little nudge to stay in the moment. I personally store my reminders in my to-do list, since I go into this list often, and place my mindfulness reminders at the top of my list so it is always the first thing I see.
Your reminders can include positive affirmations, which can help you feel empowered and get your mind back on track to whatever you are doing. Below are some examples you might like to use:
"I am here right now. All that exists is now. "
"I am in the perfect place at the perfect time."
"It's okay to feel frustrated. I allow myself to feel my feelings no matter what they are. "
"I do the best I can, with the resources that I have, I am grateful."
"I am enough."
"My body is a good place to be because it's the only place I'll ever be."
These powerful messages intend to rewire your brain to make the most of each and every moment. Whenever you feel your mind wandering into the a space of selective hearing or unconscious habits, you can recite these affirmations to manifest presence.
6. Listen to your body.
One of the most effective ways to be present in your life is to listen to what your body tells you. Are you craving carbs? Eat it. Fancy going for a jog? Do it. Want to have a power nap? Take it. Your body is good at letting you know when it needs energy and when it needs rest.
If your body is exhausted and you want nothing more than to get into bed and ditch the gym today, you can either power through and exercise, or go home. But the worst thing you can do is choose one option, then still be thinking about the other. If you've decided to rest, don't let the feeling of guilt ruin your comfortable experience of being in your pyjamas, eating snacks and watching Friends for the billionth time. Holding onto that guilt serves no purpose, so you may as well enjoy the moment. You've made your bed, now lie in it (literally).
Whatever you've decided to spend your time doing, spend it doing just that. Don’t half-ass two things - whole-ass one thing!
7. Take a break from digital distractions.
Hands up if you're guilty of over-indulging in technology, especially social media... *raises hand*
Social apps from Instagram, Twitter and TikTok are great thieves at stealing our attention from the present. Which is no surprise as this is exactly what they are designed to do - to hold our gaze for as long as possible. We can be so absorbed in social media to the point that it becomes mindless scrolling, where we forget to pay attention to how we feel and what’s going on around us - ironically making us feel less connected to the world.
There is nothing more time wasting than staring at your phone, wondering why someone has read your message and not replied yet... and there is nothing more annoying than someone who can't stop looking at their phone when you're in the middle of a conversation with them! If you want to be more present, it is important that you limit the time spent on digital devices. The less distractions there are - the more you are able to fully enjoy what you are doing there and then.
When you're eating, try avoid watching TV or looking at your phone, and simply just eat instead - you might realise you enjoy your meal a lot better as you have more capacity to indulge in the flavours in your mouth. When it's your work break, ditch digital and go for a walk instead, or sit in the park and read - you might find that you enjoy the feeling of the fresh air a lot more. Dedicate time in your day to savour the moment, without your phone constantly demanding your attention.
I've started to keep my phone at a distance across my room at night - faraway from my bed. This way, even if I did want to use my phone whilst I'm in bed, I cannot be bothered to move my lazy arse to go and get it. And guess what? Without a bright light shining in my face, I have managed to fall asleep way quicker since! #Winning
Are there any other mindfulness techniques you are currently practicing and find useful? Please do share!
You can find me on Instagram @mindfulmonkay :)