Studio 5 Clinical Psychologist Dr Liz Hale helps us do just that.
Living in and for the moment is the basis of a whole philosophical movement…and it’s difficult because we’re usually somewhere else. Too often we live our lives with one eye looking ahead, way down the road, and one eye staring into the review mirror on what coulda/woulda/shoulda been. It’s easier to future-ize or past-urize. We literally get lost in our thoughts. The thought patterns of wishing, hoping, planning, missing, regretting, and begrudging prevent us from engaging in the right-now of our lives. The here-and-now is rather intimate and perhaps that’s why we most often avoid it.
It’s important to remember what occupies your mind, occupies the time. This very moment is the only one that’s guaranteed ~ there are no other promises. Time is the one measurement we can’t ever get back. Too often we obsess over or rehearse a past offense or disappointment. Is that really how we want to spend this rich commodity? What occupies your mind will occupy your time. If you don’t like what’s happening in your life today, then ask yourself, “Where’s my mind?” Where did I last leave it? What’s it brewing or mulling over?” What I think about, where I expend my focus and energy, is where and how I spend my time. My thoughts determine whether I am here, up there, or back there. Only one of those locations allows me to be the most accessible to myself and others.
We often comment about how fast time seems to be going by; as women, especially, everyone else seems to come first and we leave ourselves last on the list, and often resent it. Time is the one area with the most excuses about how fast it runs away from us. It doesn’t run away from us – we make conscious decisions to close our eyes, turn our backs, and ignore how we use it. Have an honest chat with yourself. “Where do I waste time? On what do I spend the most time and is that in line with my life goals?” Structure your day in a way that works for you, benefits you and your family the most, maximizes your potential, and draws you closer to creating opportunities you most value. You will always have time for you, when you make it! It’s up to you. Rethink your day’s beginnings and endings: there are profound benefits for establishing morning and evening routines. Perhaps you wake-up one hour earlier or spend time before bed reviewing your day, writing in a gratitude journal, or in mindfulness meditation.
It seems that we are constantly looking ahead to a “better day”, where we’ll have more time, more money, more education, more experience, more freedom. We spend a large part of our lives fantasizing about future, when things will be “better.” I can be so consumed with adding more days to my life that I forget to add more life to my days. It’s imperative to ask yourself the question, “What if this is as good as it gets?” When we let go of the future needing to be a certain way, we become more content with what is right now. When we always assume a “better” future, it implies that there is something wrong with today! To realize that right now is pretty darn good is incredibly freeing. Perhaps this is as good as it gets – when you embrace that acceptance you experience more gratitude, and a renewed sense of energy and vitality, for the present.
There is one specific group of people who will always help us enjoy the moment – children. There’s no one better at being present than a child. I have a favorite 1 ½ year old little boy in my life, and I love to watch him play. He’s not thinking about what happened to him yesterday, or what’s going to happen tomorrow, he’s busy being a puppy or playing with a ball, and nothing else exists. When he gets mad at something, he’s very angry and nothing else in the world matters to him except what has upset him. And then it’s over. He’s happy, again, and the situation and any grudge is behind him. It’s on the moment at hand!
Route & Routine Change
What it comes down to, is finding the pleasure in the ordinary experiences of every day. How often do we eat a meal and never really taste it, or complete a chore or drive to work without really thinking about it? Let’s get rid of automatic pilot! The next time you drive to work or the grocery store, pay attention to landmarks that surround you, or the sunset or the moon. Take a new route home today – see what you’ve been missing! Look at people, plants, gadgets, and buildings and take a moment to appreciate what makes them so perfect. When you walk the dog, do so with intention and purpose. Next time you eat a delicious meal, taste every bite, savor every morsel of dessert! There is power and presence in living in the now.
Website Resources and Additional Reads:
“Don’t’ Sweat the Small Stuff…and It’s All Small Stuff,” by Richard Carlson.
“Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness,” by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
“Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life,” by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Dr. Liz Hale is a licensed clinical psychologist and a regular contributor on Studio 5. Your comments and questions are welcomed! Please visit www.drlizhale.com to add your thoughts to today’s discussion or learn more about her private practice.