How times have changed. In our teens ‘living in the moment’ meant an excuse to sack off our homework and play another computer game. In our twenties, the reason for that third, fourth and fifth pint on a ‘school night’.
But in our thirties, when distractions and deadlines define our everyday, living in the moment has come to mean something altogether more holistic and healthy. Indeed, countless studies have shown that being present and aware in our everyday tasks (a concept rooted in mindfulness practice) leads to better mental health and a more positive outlook on life. With that in mind, here are 5 IDEAL tips for living mindfully and in the moment.
IT TAKES PRACTICE
Just as you shouldn’t expect the first bicep curl in the gym to immediately bring you bigger muscles, so you shouldn’t expect your first shot at meditation to instantly make you a calmer, more present person. Incremental improvement is key here. At first, practice taking just a few minutes each day to gather the attention on your breath, breathing deeply from the belly and then observing whatever thoughts or emotions there are, being completely accepting of them when they arrive. With patience and practice, this will become more natural and manageable and you’ll be able to increase the time you spent in the moment.
YOUR CUE TO PAUSE
Many of those who practice mindfulness extol the virtue of having daily cues placed innocuously throughout their day which serve to remind them to take a moment, breathe and appreciate the now. This can come in the form of managed prompts, like an alarm, reminder or simply a time of day, or as an event which you know happens each day. If you, for instance, always catch a smell of freshly baked bread when you pass the bakery in the morning on your way to work, let that be a reminder for you to take a minute.
EMBRACE & INDULGE THE SENSORY EXPERIENCE
Life is lived through our five senses, but they’re very rarely given a harmonious and equal platform throughout a normal day. A brilliant way to live in the here and now is to activate and indulge all of your other senses and really pay attention, in minute detail, to what they’re perceiving.
Eating mindfully is a perfect way to do this. Instead of gobbling down your food as quickly as possible at your desk so you can get back to making money, really take the time to appreciate every aspect of your meal.
Smell your food as though it was the first time you’d smelt anything, observe the miasma of competing scents which contribute to one whole aroma. Taste with a childlike curiosity, noting each component of flavour and considering how they all interplay and compete to create an overarching profile in the mouth. Appreciate the texture of each grain of rice, or crumb of bread, without thinking about the next bite. Consider where the food came from, and show gratitude for those who worked so hard in producing it. Go deep, go micro, and really appreciate the moment.
AN END TO MULTITASKING
Multitasking, it could be posited, is the ultimate enemy of mindfulness. Do you live your life in such a rush that you’re sitting on the toilet while brushing your teeth? Eating your cornflakes standing up, as you check your schedule for the day? Flicking through Twitter on your phone while watching tele while reading the newspaper? This frenzied rush to an imaginary finish line means we’re never fully present and appreciative of each moment for what it is.
A way to embrace being in the present is by completing every single daily task with care and respect for the process. A major aspect of the much-lauded Japanese productivity focused philosophy of Kaizen is that by completing each and every daily task with rigour and to your full potential, you will incrementally – even unknowingly – become the best version of yourself. Harness this.
Giving thanks and truly meaning it is a huge aspect of mindfulness. Grounding yourself in gratitude helps you to respond to life’s rich tapestry with a more discerning and generous eye, and is good for nurturing a positive mentality and better relationships with loved ones. Some keep a gratitude journal of moments which they felt glad to have experienced each day while others observe something they’re grateful for with each breath of their meditation. However you choose to be more thankful is up to you. The method isn’t important; what matters is the positivity and awareness it brings.