From birth, we’re pressured to plan, project, and plot out our lives. And while I heartily advocate envisioning your future, ancient wisdom reminds us that our best possible future begins now — and, more specifically, in being able to live in the now.
What does this mean? Think back to your last captivating conversation, walk in nature, or some enchanting street. Or think about the last time you created art, music, a craft, or a great meal. You were fully focused and engaged with what was inside and out. Life was rich, full of color and dimension. Do you remember what it felt like to be fully present in that moment?
Intentionally getting to this state can sometimes be difficult. Today, we battle not only our future-centric conditioning, but also the endless small-but-crucial details needed to manage modern life. We have fancy devices, carefully crafted advertising, and a bevy of indulgences constantly waving tasty distractions in front of our mind’s eye.
Like most great things, presence is achievable through steady effort over time. Think of it as building a set of habits–a few tiny, repeated actions. Over time, these and the habit of presence will become second nature.
Try these 5 habits to strengthen your connection to the now:
- Meditate. Not just a new-age fad, meditation is a technique used by many successful people. One of the most powerful things you can do each day to pull yourself into the now is to set aside time for meditation. Even just 10-15 minutes will increase your mental clarity and bring you back in touch with your inner wisdom, intuition, and capacity for living joyfully.
- [Actually] Eat Your Lunch. Another small habit to bring you into the powerful now is mindful eating. By bringing presence to the lunch–the meal we are most prone to rush–you can re-set your equilibrium to the present for the rest of your day. Use your break to step away from your desk, put your phone away, and fully enjoy the experience of eating. Taste it. Feel each bite. Think about where it came from. You might even let yourself give thanks for who and what helped make it. You’ll also be doing your body a favor, since we absorb more nutrients when we eat mindfully.
- [Don’t] Hold the Phone. Our newfound connection to smartphones has most of us constantly picking up our devices to “plug in.” These gadgets are here to stay, but you can create habits to demote them as rulers of your mind, focus, and life by intentionally putting your phone down at regular intervals in the day in order to be fully where you are. Look around. Smell the air. Listen to the sounds. Check in with your body. This is especially beneficial to do when interfacing with someone important to you.
- Check in with Nature. The natural world has an amazing knack for zooming us back to the moment. Spend just 5-10 minutes in nature every day, even if it’s stepping outside your office or taking lunch in a local park. Stop to fully admire the sunset on your way home. You’ll find your attention deepen and expand the rest of your day.
- Journal. Whether or not you consider yourself a “Writer,” journaling is a simple ritual that can unleash your own latent abilities to be intentional in your life and work. It is also incredibly good for your mental health. Before bed, give yourself 10-30 minutes to write freely, without self-monitoring or need for perfection, about what’s on your heart or mind. Getting ideas down on paper helps you to clear space in your mind, freeing your attention and allowing you to more fully embrace the present moment.
By bringing ourselves into the now, we can live our most joyful, intentional, and creative lives. Don’t wait to start trying these out, or experimenting with your own “now” habits.