Why we need to live in the present
Do you ever regret something that happened in the past? Do you ever think about the future and then your imagination runs wild? Do these thoughts evoke unpleasant feelings that you want to get rid of?
If you have experienced this before, then congratulations, you are a human being. None of us know where our thoughts come from nor are we able to fully control our thoughts. But our thoughts result in our feelings and our emotional states.
The level of maturity of a person is how well he can respond to his own thoughts.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” - Viktor Frankl
As we live on this earth, there are many things that we are not able to control and change. Things that happened in the past are not able to be changed anymore. Things in the future cannot be affected.
Find out what you pay attention to
Humans tend to feel what they pay attention to. As human beings, our consciousness is limited, and it explains why we are not able to do 100 things at one point in time. As a result, how we allocate our consciousness, what we pay attention to and what we focus on leads to the quality of our life experience. We have to pay attention to the present.
Circle of Influence vs Circle of Concern
We often notice that people who are depressed are focusing on the past. For example, having being bullied or having a loved one pass away is not within your control. When stuck in a cycle of paying attention to what is not within one’s control, it leads to a feeling of helplessness and ineffectiveness.
With the world becoming increasingly interconnected and fast-paced, the number of things that we are exposed to that are not within our control has increased tremendously. This might explain why more and more people feel like they are “losing control”.
People generally want to be in control, thus it leads to despair, pain and anxiety.
Start off by writing a list of things in your circle of influence. There are many things we can influence, be it how we respond to people, our exam grades, the quality of our work, our diet, the health of our children and the list goes on. It all starts by focusing on the present moment.
Once one starts being proactive, the circle of influence expands, leaving less room for the circle of concerns. We start to worry less, become less anxious and concerned and we achieve desirable outcomes with our own efforts.
How to stay present in the moment
The only thing we can influence is what happens in the “now”, the present moment. Thus, to become more grounded emotionally, one must learn to practice being present. With many things going on in our lives, such as upcoming exams, interviews, competitions and more, it can be a challenge to stay present.
Journaling what happens in your life can help you to reflect on life events, and it can help to bring a new perspective to your life. It allows you to be conscious about what is happening in your day-to-day life.
Having been practised for thousands of years, meditation teaches you to not react to your thoughts and practice returning back to the present over and over again. It has been proven to bring inner peace and stress relief.
3. Engage in an activity
Engage in an activity that takes up all of your attention, such as a sport you enjoy, playing an instrument or learning something new. This helps to break the pattern of unhealthy thinking and helps you focus on the present.
“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” - Lao Tzu
Always remember to be kind to yourself and have the courage to accept unpleasant situations. Many things will not go our way in life and acceptance is key to letting go and moving on.