How to Live in the Moment

It’s easy to get distracted by the chatter in your head.

For Laura Gladden, “Feelings of guilt, sadness, anger, grieving, and incompetence flooded her mind” after she placed her daughter for adoption. “Did I make the best decision? Will I regret this later? Will [the birth father] ever understand why I placed her?” Sometimes, says Laura, those questions and fears still strike her. “A lot of times,” she says, “I felt the urge to sink back to my old ways…I think this is pretty common with birth moms. We are so full of so many emotions that we sometimes don’t feel capable of becoming bigger and better.”

We all spend time replaying moments of our lives, and we all have regrets or fears about the future. This is normal, but it can also be harmful, because when we spend all of our time listening to our anxieties, we miss out on what’s going on right now. We stop being aware of our lives as they are happening – and it’s difficult to be happy when we’re not even paying attention.

Here are a few ways to slow down and savor each moment when you’re feeling haunted by old feelings or anxieties.

  • Breathe deeply. When we feel stress, our breathing automatically becomes more shallow, which works us up into even more of a crisis state. In other words, science shows that “just breathing” really can help you calm down!
  • Concentrate on small moments. For example, when you’re eating, focus on each individual taste. Don’t let your mind wander and start thinking about other things.
  • Spend a few minutes just sitting and relaxing. Leave your phone in another room and turn off the TV. Close your eyes and concentrate on relaxing your body. When your mind starts to wander, bring it back to the present moment, even if you have to actually repeat the word “Now” over and over to yourself.
  • Keep a journal AND read through it regularly so that you’re really thinking about what’s happening in your life right now.
  • Notice something new about everyday routines. Our whole day is composed of very small moments and tasks – how long has it been since you really thought about them individually? What do you love about getting your kids ready in the morning? What is relaxing about your get-ready-for-bed routine? As you go through the motions of your day, take a second to pay attention to exactly what you are doing and appreciate the little things.

If you practice these techniques and learn to “live in the moment” in your daily life, you may find that when life does get difficult again (and whose life doesn’t?), you’ll already be in the habit of reacting in ways that help you stay happy and healthy.

How do you keep yourself in the present moment when old anxieties threaten to resurface?

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