Where do you live?
No, I don’t mean where do you physically live?
I mean are you living in the past, the present, or the future?
There is an ancient Chinese Philosopher by the name of Lao Tzu who famously said:
If you are depressed, then you are living in the past; if you are anxious, you are living in the future; if you are at peace, then you are living in the present.
Are you consciously taking steps to live your best life in the present?
Many of us are carrying unnecessary anxiety and depression and sometimes we’re not even aware of it. Are your thoughts mainly related to the past, the future, or are you fully immersed in the present?
Most negative thoughts involve either the past or the future and the energy we expend in either of these areas is counterproductive to our minds, bodies, and spirits, not to mention time-consuming.
Here are 3 practical tips that have helped me to overcome living in the past and the future to create the life I love here in the present:
- I deal with negativity in my past by allowing myself only 5 minutes to experience my emotions (anger, irritation, sadness, fear), then I draw a line under my thoughts, refuse to indulge further, and instead find something more positive to think about in the present moment.
By recognizing that I have only 5 minutes, it forces me to experience those emotions within this timeframe rather than allowing them to fester and slowly eat away at my self-esteem, optimism, and hope.
- I practice mindfulness which is all about bringing our attention into the present moment, and noticing what is happening around us at the time.
As I am typing this, I can look out of the window and observe the shadows the sunshine creates on various objects, the billowy clouds moving slowly across the sky, a bird on a nearby step preening its wings. This exercise steers my thoughts away from what has already happened that I cannot change and the “what-ifs” that may never occur and forces me to honor what is before me here and now.
- I focus on the present.
When I find myself feeling anxious, I try to do something else which demands all my attention. I have an adult coloring book which I like to use, as it takes just enough concentration that I can’t easily think about anything else. Other times, I will ride my bike, go for a walk, dance or practice some yoga – anything to increase the positive endorphins and sense of flow which come from a rhythmic gentle movement.
That act of bringing energy into the body is often enough to cause a change of mental state and allow me to shift into a more positive mindset.
Some people play with their kids or pets, listen to a favorite piece of music, meditate, bake, watch a comedy, or participate in an activity or hobby which brings pleasure.
It’s all about choosing to live in the present. That is a key step toward achieving a peaceful mindset in order to live your best life. I challenge you to stay positive and stay in the present.
- How do I balance living in the present with reasonable planning for tomorrow?
- How do I ensure a peaceful state of mind?
- Which activities inspire me to be creative or bring me joy?