As human beings, one of our greatest strengths is our ability to think. This is also one of our greatest weaknesses. Our tendency to think and re-think and overthink everything can keep us trapped inside of our own mind rather than living fully and freely in each moment of our lives.
Thoughts about things that have already happened or about what might happen in the future (whether that past or future is five minutes or five years from now) clutter our mind and leave little room for us to experience our real life, the one that is happening right now, in this moment. The following tips can help you cut through the mind clutter to stay present and live your best moment now, moment after moment.
4 Ways to Stay Present: How to Cut Through Your Mental Clutter
The idea of staying present–being mindful–is deceptively simple. Mindfulness is nothing more and nothing less than paying attention on purpose to what is happening around you right now. It’s giving your full attention to the people that you’re with or to how you are feeling or what you are doing in any given moment.
The concept is easy, but because the human mind is a thinking mind, the practice is often difficult. It’s hard to be mindful, but these tips can help.
- Find yourself. Have you heard the phrase “lost in thought”? It’s apt. It’s normal to become caught up in thoughts and carried away down a tumbling river of swiftly flowing thoughts and feelings. One thoguht leads to another and another, and without realizing it, we are living in memories or imagined scenarios rather than actively participating in our life as it is happening. How many times have you zoned out when your child or partner is telling you something important to them? How many times have you gone through the motions of a task or activity without giving it your full attention? The first step in cutting through mental clutter is to catch yourself thinking. If you’re lost in thought, it’s hard to find your way back. But once you find yourself by developing awareness that you’re thinking, you can more easily pull yourself back into your moment.
- Allow yourself to be human. One of the key concepts of mindfulness is nonjudgmental awareness of yourself, others, and your situation in each moment. When you catch yourself lost in thought, be happy that you have found yourself. Let go of the very human tendency to berate yourself for being stuck in the mental clutter. Remember that the mind thinks, so your mind is simply doing what it does. You just need to gently and gradually teach it to refocus. When we judge ourselves harshly, calling ourselves names like “bad parent” or “terrible friend,” we just add more mental clutter rather than changing our perspective and actions. So, allow yourself to be human and refocus your attention.
- Anchor yourself in the moment. You’ve found yourself amidst the mental clutter, and you’ve simply acknowledged it rather than getting caught up berating yourself. Now, on purpose and with intention, shift your attention. Choose something in this moment to pull yourself out of your mind and into what is happening around you. You might take a few slow, deep breaths and pay attention to the sound and feel of the air entering, filling, and leaving your body. Or you might use one of your senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, or, if appropriate, taste) to ground yourself in the here-and-now. For example, look at the person you’re with and tune in to the sound of their voice and the content of their words.
- Repeat. Again. And Again. When you first begin to implement these mindfulness steps, you might be able to focus on your present moment for all of two seconds before your anchor object reminds you of something and your mind takes off into the realm of cluttered thoughts again. That is okay and normal. Catching yourself lost in thought, forgiving yourself for it and being happy that you’ve found yourself, and anchoring yourself in your moment is a way of being that takes practice and patience to develop. The act of doing them over and over again will help you immerse yourself in your present moment and stay there a little longer each time.
The great thing about mindfulness is that life is an endless stream of present moments. Living your best moment means immersing yourself in a moment rather than being lost in all the mind clutter of thoughts and emotions about the past or future. And you have a new chance to do that over and over again, without limits.
Discover More Tools to Live Fully in Each Moment of Your Life
These mindfulness books will help you find yourself among all the mental clutter. Learn to allow yourself to be human and to anchor yourself in your moment.
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