It is important to be where I am at and totally accept it. A common term is mindfulness. Mindfulness is not necessarily a zen-like peaceful state. Rather it is acceptance of whatever state I am in, or just being. Mindfulness is living in the moment and paying attention to what is happening.
Depression and anxiety are direct results of not living in the present. Depression is a sad state of looking backward, and anxiety is a state of looking forward with fear.
When I look backward, I can fill my mind with regret and guilt. Do I choose to focus on the problems I had, lost opportunities, my inadequacies? Or I can look backward seeing the victories that I have won, that have enabled me to get to today. I can look at how hard I looked to improve myself, at the progress I’ve made. I can deal with the past and move forward.
Looking forward, I want to know my future and can have an overwhelming fear that I won’t measure up, that it will be hard and things will never get better. Or I can look forward with hope, knowing that good things will continue to happen in my life, and I can make it through the hard ones. I can look to the future with an eye to prepare and improve.
But mostly, I can live right in the present moment I have now. Life is made up of individual moments most of which are normal and mundane. All the joy that I want isn’t found in some great victory or activity. It’s often found in the everyday moments, and if I’m not paying attention, I will miss it. Live in the present.
You can’t change the past and you can’t change the future by thinking about them. That is a simple truth that we constantly ignore. Problems are impossible to deal with when they are already gone or they haven’t happened yet.
What do I want my life to be? To enjoy exactly where I am and what I’m doing. This might not meet any worldly standard of happiness and success. My life might be simple and normal. So much of my ambition matters very little and rarely brings me the things I most value.
What does help create a life of happiness and value is paying attention to what I already have, and loving it. I can be content at any moment if I’m actually, truly, paying attention to it. Mindfulness is what the word describes: my mind full and engaged in the present moment.
Mindfulness brings gratitude, for I can see what I’ve been blessed with, the good in my life, even if it is mixed with bad. And with mindful gratitude, there isn’t the mental clutter of stress and worry. It is a state of being present and enjoying that present.
Practicing mindfulness is often associated with meditation, but perhaps a better first step is to simply work on my focus and stop multitasking. Modern life creates opportunities to fill up every ounce of my mental space with external input. A simple step to mindfulness is to turn the TV off, the music down, the phone off, and pay attention to the main thing I am doing: eating a meal, playing with loved ones, conversing with others, or working.
When I am practicing mindfulness, boredom is pushed away and instead, there is a vibrancy of experience as I pay attention to whatever I’m doing with all my senses, and by being aware of my surroundings. Even mundane experiences can become quite interesting.
A practice of meditation can also enhance mindfulness. Meditation comes in many forms, but it is a simple act of being quiet. Guided meditations, hypnosis, listening to relaxing music, simple repetitive motions, a thought or mantra to focus on, or noticing my breath can all be effective parts of a meditation practice.
Mindfulness can be an enjoyable, fun experience as well. Indeed, I naturally experience mindfulness when I am enjoying myself. Dancing while cleaning the home, being a bit silly, and truly being happy and present when experiencing an enjoyable event, can all be mindfulness.
The state of “flow” or “being in the zone,” is also a state of mindfulness. When I am in this state, my focus is direct and long: I am fully engaged in the task at hand, and any difficulty I experience is readily met and isn’t that hard. (Question: how do you break flow when you need to? I get overfocused sometimes and things will happen around me and I’m not aware of them?)
In a book I read about meditation, it talked about every moment can be time for you. Because if you are present in a moment, you get something out of it. “Me time” doesn’t need to wait for specific times in the corner of our live—we can get rich fulfillment out of cleaning up messes and taking care of children and working and whatever we have in front of us.
- Practice mindfulness. Find one task that you generally don’t like, or frequently don’t pay attention to, and practice being mindful of it.
- Remove any distractions, and focus entirely on the task at hand.
- Pay attention to each of your five senses during the task, and commit to paying attention until the task is complete.
- Rather than make this a hard, boring task, focus on having a light and fun experience.