How to Be in the Moment

Three Methods:Changing Thought PatternsSpending Time DifferentlyGetting Physical

Do you wish you could stop obsessing over the future and ruminating on the past, and just be? People who are able to live in the moment tend to be more joyful, secure, and empathetic, and they have higher self esteem. Being in the moment may sound simple, but in truth it takes a lot of practice. Read on to learn changes you can make to the way you think, spend your time, and interact with the world to be in the moment more often.

Method 1
Changing Thought Patterns

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    Realize you're already there. Guess where you are right now? In the moment. You're not in yesterday's moments, and you're not in tomorrow's. You're in the moment that is happening as you read. Take comfort in the fact that it is physically impossible for you to be anywhere else. It's never to late to be in the moment; all you have to do is realize you're already there. The challenge is to turn your thoughts toward what is actually happening, to become more mindful.
    • Mindfulness happens when you notice and acknowledge the present. When you feel your thoughts swirling toward something that has already happened or something that may be yet to happen, try looking down at your hand. Become aware of how your hand feels right now. Are you a little chilly, or are you warm? Notice what's anchoring you to the here and now. [1]
    • It also helps to acknowledge something outside your own sphere. Look out the window and notice leaves blowing in the wind, or birds sitting on a wire. In another moment they make blow down from the tree or take flight to another telephone pole. When you notice the world around you, you become more mindful of the present.
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    Don't think so hard. You are not the thoughts in your head.[2] Your worries, anxieties, guilt, and other negative thoughts are not you, and getting lost in them poses a huge impediment to being in the moment. Stopping yourself from thinking so hard is an important step toward mindfulness. As you probably know, it's also very difficult to do. Here are some ways you can stop letting your thoughts rule your existence:
    • Stop thinking too much about the future. A certain amount of planning is good, but there are many, many things that are out of your control. You cannot control what will happen in 5 or 10 years. When it comes down to it, you don't even know what might happen tomorrow. Make a conscious decision to stop worrying so much. When you find yourself obsessing, do something to bring about greater mindfulness, like stepping outside and breathing fresh air for a few moments.
    • Don't ruminate on the past. This is even less useful than worrying about the future, because it has already happened and there's nothing you can do to change it.
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    Be unselfconscious. When your inner critic comments on your behavior, you're creating a separation between your mind and body, making it more difficult to live in the present. As an example, let's say you're in the middle of talking to a friend, you start laughing at something funny he said, and then you immediately criticize yourself for laughing to loud, or you start worrying about what your face looks like when you laugh. Now your thoughts are ruling the experience, and you're no longer living in the moment with your friend - you're worried about the impression you're making.[3] You're not present anymore. The next time something like this happens, banish the negative thoughts immediately.
    • If you experience self consciousness frequently, try doing something you're good at, something you can focus on without worrying about how you look or how well you're doing. Plant a row of flowers, paint your wall a new color, or practice your instrument. Give yourself a bit of a challenge, but not one that's insurmountable.
    • When you experience a moment of not being self-conscious, remember how it feels. Your mind and body are operating as one, instead of warring with one another. Practice getting back to that feeling as often as possible.
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    Be a better listener. Focus wholly on the person you're talking with instead of letting your thoughts wander to your own problems and worries.[4] Look closely at the person's face and be grateful for the conversation. Look at each exchange as a gift of sorts, during which you get the opportunity to both teach and learn. Getting lost in thought or waiting for a lull in the conversation so you can end it are signs that you aren't fully in the moment.
    • Make eye contact and squarely face the person to whom you are talking. Notice details about the person's face. Think about your relationship to this person.
    • Even unpleasant conversations, or conversations with people you hardly know or with whom you don't have much in common, can have extraordinary value. Everyone has a history, a dream, desires. Being in the moment during conversations can help you experience greater empathy and feel more in tune with the world. As Buddha taught, we are all interconnected.[5]
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    Take people at face value. Do you spend a lot of time worrying about other people's intentions, judgements and desires? This is yet another distraction from the present moment. You can't control anyone but yourself, so why spend so much time thinking about someone else's thoughts? The best way to stop this pattern is to start taking people at face value. Believe other people's words, then move on to the next experience instead of dwelling.
    • It's true that some people mean "no" when they say "yes," and vice versa. Everyone says things they don't mean sometimes. However, it is not your job to attempt to read people's minds. If there's a miscommunication because you acted on a "yes" as a "yes," that person will learn to be more direct next time.
    • Take compliments at face value. Do people the kindness of believing what they say instead of thinking they're saying it just to be nice.
    • This is not to say you should be naive and have complete trust in everyone. A person's body language, history, and personality should tell you whether or not a person can be trusted.
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    Accept pain. When life brings tragedy, being in the moment means experiencing pain instead of trying to ignore it or make it go away as fast as possible. Allowing yourself to feel negative emotions - fear, guilt, anxiety, sadness, and anger - is an important part of living in the present.
    • Try not to let your emotions get wrapped up in past occurrences or worries about the future. If you're sad about a breakup, let the sadness be part of your current moment. Don't dwell on memories or think about what might have been; just bask in the feeling of sadness. Looking at a picture of the person's face, or writing down your thoughts, can help you connect your emotions to the present.[6]
    • Don't berate yourself for having negative feelings. Telling yourself you should get over something more quickly is a way of disconnecting yourself from the present, because the emotions are part of the present. Ride out your feelings and experience them to the fullest, the way you would experience joy or contentment. These, too, will pass.

Method 2
Spending Time Differently

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    Don't multitask. When you do two things (or three, or four) at once, you aren't fully focused on any one task. You can't be totally present, because your thoughts are jumping to the next project, or worrying about an email half-written, or planning the meeting that's happening tomorrow. Turning your focus to just one thing at a time is a way of being in the moment. As a bonus, you'll do a much better job at any given task if it's the only thing on your mind.
    • Try to finish every task you start. Give yourself enough time to do a thorough job, and do it from start to finish before moving on to the next item on your to do list.
    • Some projects can't be completed all at once. For bigger projects, set manageable goals that can be met in one sitting. For example, if you're writing a book, decide you're going to spend 3 hours focusing fully on the book. Write what you can during this time, then put your materials away before moving to the next item.
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    Go slowly. Rushing through tasks is not much better than multitasking when it comes to being in the moment. If all you can think about is getting a chore done as fast as possible, you aren't giving yourself the chance to really experience what you're doing. All your mind and body to act as one, for as long as it takes to get the job done.
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    Think about chores differently. Doing seemingly mundane chores like washing dishes, sweeping, painting, and so on is a good opportunity to practice mindfulness.[7] Do your chores slowly and methodically, giving yourself time to complete them well. Focus on the movements of your body and the way you are changing the space around you for the better - making it cleaner, more inviting, and more positive.
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    Spend time doing nothing. Packing your day with back to back activities doesn't allow you time to take it all in. Give yourself a break between tasks, and spend the time doing nothing. Don't look at your computer or read your emails on your phone. Just take time to sit, breathe, and appreciate the moment, no matter what it's offering.[8]
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    Notice the world around you. If you breeze through life without stopping to really see things, you're not being in the moment - instead, you're in the confines of your head. Look around you and observe.
    • When you walk into work in the morning, look into people's eyes. Notice their faces; what do you read there?
    • Pay attention to the news. How does do events happening in the
    • React to the world around you. If you see a can on the sidewalk in front of your house, pick it up. If you feel a burst of salty air blowing off the sea, stop, close your eyes, and let it swirl over your face. If you notice that the day is sunny and warm, open the blinds and the windows.

Method 3
Getting Physical

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    Fine-tune your senses. Being more in touch with your senses is an important way to live in the moment. Your senses help you stay grounded and connected to physical reality. What you see, hear, taste, smell, and touch is the moment. Becoming more aware of your senses and taking measures to sharpen them will help you appreciate the present.
    • To sharpen your sense of smell, sniff your favorite essential oils every day. You'll awaken receptors and be able to pick up on subtler smells after awhile.
    • To heighten your hearing, listen to music with distinct sounds, like jazz music with several solos. Concentrate on learning the sounds of different instruments, and name them out loud when you hear them.
    • To start seeing more clearly, pay more attention to details you wouldn't normally notice, like the color of people's eyes.
    • To tempt your tastebuds, use spices and herbs you don't normally use. Try cuisines that are new to you.
    • To enhance your sense of touch, learn more about textures. Notice the differences between cotton and polyester, or satin and silk.
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    Learn to savor. When you're in a beautiful place, or experiencing a wonderful event, do you find yourself imagining it as a memory while it's still happening? How many wonderful moments have been spoiled by the knowledge that they'll soon come to an end? Use your senses to help you practice enjoying moments for what they are right now.[9]
    • Think of savoring moments in terms of gratitude. Let's say you're on a sailboat sharing a six pack of good beer with two of your best friends, and the sun is starting to go down. Be grateful for the water, the sun, your friends, the beer, and everything else about the moment. Being upset that it'll soon be time to return to shore is a way of rejecting the moment while it's happening.
    • Practice savoring food. Eat your favorite foods slowly, savoring every bite. Once you decide to eat a certain food, free yourself from guilt and anxiety and just enjoy the taste on your tongue.
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    Get moving. Almost every type of physical activity can lead to feelings of being in the moment. Running, swimming, biking, yoga, walking, team sports, and other forms of physical activity tend to require full attention and concentration. Your mind and your body act as one to propel you over land and through water. It might hurt or it might feel good, but either way you remain aware of the present moment the whole time you're moving.
    • Dancing is a wonderful way to practice being in the moment. Moving your body to a rhythm requires you to be one with the music. You have to block out your inner critic and shed worries about what other people think.
    • Having sex is another good way to be in the moment. Focus on your lover's body, the smell, the sounds, the way he or she feels. Dismiss your worries and just be present.
    • Getting a massage can help you become more aware of your body. After a massage, you might reenter the world with a renewed sense of awareness that you are physically connected to all that's around you.
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    Create art. Whether your preferred medium is painting, sculpture, making music, writing, knitting, or photography, making art is a wonderful way to connect your thoughts to the present, becoming more mindful. Let yourself get lost in the strokes of your brush or the characters you're creating. Making art requires such intense focus that it's unlikely your worries and troubles will intrude on the moment.
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    Breathe. When all else fails, taking several deep breaths can help you return to the present moment. During those times when your thoughts are jumping from problem to problem and you can't seem to focus on the present, stop and breathe. Take five deep breaths, inhaling deeply through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Focus on your breath as it enters and leaves your body.


  • The practice of mindfulness is at the core of both Buddhism and Taoism. Consider studying these religions to learn more about being in the moment.

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Categories: Philosophy