A lot of the time, we, as humans, worry about the past and fantasize about the future.
It is this perpetual cycle that keeps us from recognizing what’s going on around us.
In other words, it’s looking at what's behind us and ahead of us instead of what’s right in front of us.
If you’ve ever taken an improvisational comedy class, you’ll know that being in the moment and reacting to what’s happening RIGHT NOW is all that matters.
That’s one of the key lessons in improv, and the same goes for life.
In life, the only time that should ever matter is right now. Except, in this day and age, sometimes we get caught up in our own mental time machine that only has two settings (past and future).
We can change how we live and how we interact with the world around us right now.
Here are five ways to start being "here" instead of traveling to the past or future:
Listen With Your Eyes, Not Your Ears
Listening is one of the most important aspects of being in the moment.
This means when you’re interacting with someone, you’re not in your head thinking about what you’ll say next or how you can interject into the conversation.
If you’re talking with a friend, listen to what he or she says by actually looking at him or her.
We all know the one-uppers out there who just talk so they can tell you how great their lives are.
In reality, they’re only one-upping you because they have a myriad of self-esteem issues.
Don’t be one of those people, and if you are one of those people, change it up. Don’t be someone who’s just waiting for a chance to talk. Really think about how you interact with people now.
Do you look at your phone when you’re talking or are you looking in someone's eyes?
There is huge difference in how you listen when you’re looking at someone.
There’s no distraction; it’s just you and him or her. By actively taking note of how you listen and communicate, you can make a significant change in how present you really are.
Disconnect From Social Media
We spend way too much time online.
We spend countless hours on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. New and upcoming app? Boom. Installed. Account created.
In this day and age, we are in need of constant reassurance. Is this funny? Is this worthwhile?
Will anyone like this? We ask ourselves these questions constantly, which leads us to invest more time in social media to find the answers.
With each photo, tweet or status, we look for validation.
We take photos of every waking moment so they can sit in the cloud somewhere untouched, never to be viewed again.
We try to capture the moment in a photo when in reality, being there and feeling every other stimulus, like sight, sound, taste and smell, is what’s really important.
It’s an evil cycle and we’re all guilty of it.
However, by taking time off, you allow yourself to reset. Taking a break allows you to start appreciating the real world that’s around you rather than the digital façade that you’ve created for yourself.
Take a break for a week by either deactivating your account or uninstalling the apps on your phone to spend more time looking up than down at your crotch.
Another way to be in the moment is to turn off your phone.
The next time you’re on a train or a plane, turn it off for a few hours and come back later. The world won't end because you can’t check your phone.
Turn it off before you go to bed, and if you use the phone as your alarm clock, put it on airplane mode.
Go On A Retreat Or A Vacation
There is no better way to be in the moment than by going on a vacation and admiring the world around you.
Also, it’s your way to connect with someone else, whether it be friends or family.
Vacations allow you to escape from the stresses of the world or of the grind you’re currently in. They allow you to once again stop and smell the roses.
The main objective, though, is to focus on the trip rather than trying to capture the trip in a photograph or status.
Schedule a getaway for the weekend with your husband, wife or family members and go sit by the beach with your toes in the sand.
Write Down Your Appreciations
Another way to really be present is to write down the things for which you’re appreciative.
Each day, stop to write down something about which you’re happy happened that day.
It is this task that allows you to acknowledge the now and appreciate it for all it’s worth.
Sometimes, you’ll have good days and sometimes, you’ll have bad days, but there’s always something to be grateful for — whether it be your health, relationships or just the fact you are able to read, write, walk or talk. Some people don’t have those luxuries.
So, right now, take out a paper and pen or open up a word document and write, “I’m happy for…,” at the top.
Then, finish that sentence at the end of the day, before you go to bed. In addition, make sure you keep track of this list.
While the point of this whole thing is to be in the present and not worry about the past, it can be a great motivator to look back at all the things you’re happy for and all that you’ve accomplished.
Right Your Wrongs
One of the main reasons we worry about the past is because of some event or experience that we regret.
It's important to first note what’s bothering you and then actively pursue making it right.
If you’ve hurt someone and you constantly think about it, give him or her a call and apologize. It is this regret that stops us from progressing and moving forward in our lives.
We can’t advance because we just keep reliving the event in our heads in a loop. Make the decision to rectify it so it never happens again and you can sleep peacefully.
For example, in Alcoholics Anonymous, compiling a list of the people you’ve hurt and then making direct amends with them are two of the 12 steps on the journey to sobriety.
With that, you can see that the proof is in the pudding.
Making amends allows you to rebuild relationships and reconnect with those who you’ve hurt or who have hurt you so that you can move forward mentally, spiritually and physically.
Saying “I’m sorry” also helps you rebuild your character and it says a lot about the kind of person you strive to be.
Ultimately, we all need to start being more present.
It’s ironic how the advent of technology has allowed us to be more connected with people all over the world, yet so disconnected.
By doing some or all of the above, you’re allowing yourself to take hold of your life.
You can’t change the past and you can’t predict the future, but you can live in the now.
Now, go start living.