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10 Simple Ways to Be Fully Present in Your Life

by
author image Natasha Burton
Journalist Natasha Burton has written for Cosmopolitan for Latinas, Maxim, Cosmopolitan.com, and WomansDay.com, among others. The author of "101 Quizzes for Couples" and "The Little Black Book of Big Red Flags," she is regularly called on as a relationship expert by various media outlets around the world.

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10 Simple Ways to Be Fully Present in Your Life
Woman in yoga clothes meditating outside

You’ve heard the advice time and time again: Staying present in each moment of your life allows you to cherish your existence more fully. But often, being in the “now” is much easier said than done. We all have obligations, to-do lists, worries and annoyances that transport us from the immediate world around us and into the labyrinths of our minds. However, by learning a few simple techniques you can shake yourself out of your head and back into your life. Here, the experts share the easy changes you can make today to fully live in the present.

1. Start Noticing Your Breath.
Essential oils with lavender

1 START NOTICING YOUR BREATH.

Structured breathing is a great way to guide yourself back into the current moment, according to licensed professional counselor Julianne Schroeder. She suggests adopting what’s called “4 x 4 breathing” — a technique used by the Navy SEALS — anytime you notice that you are lost in thought, anxious or just feeling emotionally out of sorts. “Take a deep inhale — as if you were going to blow a balloon — for four seconds followed by a deep exhale through your nose or mouth for four seconds,” she explains. “Continue this cycle for one minute.” Afterward, you should feel a sense of calm as well as experience physical changes like looser muscles and decreased heart rate. With a clearer head, you can more easily focus on what’s right in front of you.

2. Incorporate Mini Meditations Into Your Day.
Woman meditating on bed

2 INCORPORATE MINI MEDITATIONS INTO YOUR DAY.

While we often associate meditation with quiet rooms, being alone and maybe some chanting, you can actually meditate anywhere and at anytime as a way to feel present. “My favorite presence exercise is simply concentrating on your breath and the rise and fall of your chest,” says stress expert Kathy Gruver, author of “Conquer Your Stress.” “On the inhale you think, ‘I am.’ On the exhale you think, ‘at peace.’ If other thoughts intrude, which they often do at first, just dismiss them and return to the mantra.” You can use this technique at work, at home, on your commute — anytime you feel yourself floating away from right now.

3. Stash Your Technology.
Woman sitting on bed with book and hot drink

3 STASH YOUR TECHNOLOGY.

One of the benefits of being present lies in how you can deepen your connections with the people around you. But, as you’ve likely noticed, most of us are not very good at splitting our attention between the people in our lives and the so-called communication devices on which we’ve become so dependent. In fact, according to marriage and family therapist Shadeen Francis, neuroscience research shows that we are not actually able to multitask effectively, but can instead only switch our attention from one task to another.

“Every time you check your phone, you are missing moments of connection to those around you,” Francis says. “Make a rule for no phones at dinner, or turn off your ringer as you enter a party.” The virtual world can wait. Being present requires your full attention.

4. Diffuse Your Thoughts.
Cozy bed setup in a city apartment

4 DIFFUSE YOUR THOUGHTS.

The anxiety and stress of what might happen in the future can overcome the present moment, which really gets us trapped in our heads. To combat this, Julianne Schroeder, a licensed counselor, suggests trying a technique she calls “thought diffusion,” in which you train your mind to stop judging negative thoughts. “For example, as you are preparing to give an important presentation and find yourself nearly in panic mode, you might say to yourself, ‘Thank you, Anxious Mind. I appreciate you caring about how well I do, but freaking out just isn’t helpful,’” she says. “As you turn your focus back to the present, you may have to repeat this sentiment until your attention is rooted in the now.” Keep practicing, and soon enough you’ll be able to have more control over those intrusive thoughts.

5. Strike a Yoga Pose.
Woman practicing yoga at home

5 STRIKE A YOGA POSE.

Yoga is an incredibly mindful practice that helps you get out of your head and into your body. “In addition to cultivating present-moment awareness, continued practice helps to reprogram your body and brain’s physical and emotional response to stress,” Schroeder says. “It focuses our attention on the way our body feels, the content of our mind and the quality of our breath as well as help us to enter into what is the ‘now.’”

But you don’t need to commit to an hour-long class to reap the benefits of yoga. Schroeder suggests trying two key grounding poses when you feel the present slipping away: Lie down with your legs positioned up a wall, or do a basic sun salutation sequence to instantly change your focus.

6. Make Time for Mini Time-Outs.
Woman drawing in an adult coloring book

6 MAKE TIME FOR MINI TIME-OUTS.

Taking solo time to recharge your batteries is a great way to ground yourself. But not everyone has enough hours in the week to make this happen. However, you can still find peace in the present by pausing before beginning any new task or part of your day, suggests wellness chiropractor Dr. Michelle Robin.

“If you’re rushing to a meeting, pause outside the door and take a breath or two before going in,” she advises. “Before you start hustling to get dinner on the table after a long day, pause to take a breath and let go of the time before now and be present while you lovingly prepare food for your family.” She explains that this practice will bring you to the present so that you can give that time, activity or person your full attention.

7. Set Reminders.
Woman typing in phone at work

7 SET REMINDERS.

It’s easy to forget to stay present, despite our best efforts. So instead of trying to outsmart your wandering mind, find a way to remind yourself, suggests certified yoga instructor and integrated life coach Madeleine Culbertson.

“Set reminders on your phone. Every hour or so, have a soft chime go off with a personalized reminder to bring you back to the moment,” she says. Some questions she uses are: “What is the quality of your breath?” “What makes you smile right now?” “What do you appreciate right now?” Use these or create your own to keep on the path toward living more in the moment.

8. Begin to Practice Gratitude
Hand holding flowers against bright wall

8 BEGIN TO PRACTICE GRATITUDE

Incorporating time to give thanks each day helps you remember what’s meaningful and important to you right now. Licensed professional counselor Julianne Schroeder considers gratitude practice to be a form of emotional reset that can even train your brain to be more sensitive to what really matters. “Find three things every day that you can be grateful for,” she says. “It can be as simple as having a good cup of coffee or having noticed less traffic on the way to work. The act of being grateful not only can shift your awareness to the present, with continued commitment to practicing gratitude it could contribute to improved mental health over time.” Soon enough, you’ll be seeking out moments, people and things to be thankful for, encouraging you to soak up every experience.

9. Ground Yourself Outside.
Hiking gear, shoes and clothes

9 GROUND YOURSELF OUTSIDE.

Being in nature can both invigorate you and make you feel more focused, Schroeder says. If you don’t make time to get outside often, start incorporating short walking meditations into your day. “Stand solidly on the ground and spend several moments noticing how your body feels. Start with the soles of the feet and work upward, relaxing each body part as you become aware of it,” she advises. “Begin to walk slowly, focusing on your surroundings and what you see, hear, smell and feel.” As thoughts come up, acknowledge them and then get right back into the present moment. End your walks by sitting on a patch of grass to further ground yourself, Schroeder suggests. Pay close attention to the sensations of the sun, wind and grass on your feet and skin.

10. Write It Down.
Woman writing in a blank journal

10 WRITE IT DOWN.

A classic therapeutic tool, the act of writing out your thoughts helps empty your mind, steering you closer toward being in the present. “You can find journals with prompts or free write,” Schroeder says. “Allowing yourself to identify thoughts and feelings as they are in the present can help you clearly see if there are action-based steps you can take to help yourself.”

Even if you’re not a writer, giving yourself the freedom to put pen to paper, without judgment, can be a helpful emotional release as well, freeing up your mind to focus on what’s happening in the current moment.

What Do YOU Think?
Woman on beach practicing yoga

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

How do you stay present in your life? Can staying present make you happier? What are the biggest challenges to staying in the moment? Let us know in the comments!

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