At the beginning of anything, especially something as defining as a new year, it can seem like there are infinite possibilities. The feeling of a clean slate or a fresh start can be an exciting and daunting one. There are many pressures to make plans for the future or start big life changes.
Because of this, it can feel like daily life becomes just a stepping stone towards the ever distant future. What is happening now can seem like mere means leading to a greater end. In short, we sometimes lose our ability to be present in the moment.
Making goals and looking forward to the future are by no means bad things. But when they consume a person’s thoughts completely, they can lead to an increase in stress and anxiety – even depression. When everything you want is so far away, it might feel like you have nothing to hold on to day to day.
Therefore, the beginning of any journey is the perfect time to consider some ways to bring yourself into the present moment – and savor it. Even if you are dedicated heart and soul to something that may not happen for some time, there are plenty of ways to engage with the present. And the benefits can not only soothe worries and fears, they may also make achieving your goal that much sweeter.
The first and perhaps most important step in enjoying the present is creating in yourself the ability to be mindful. This means simply recognizing what we are doing and what is going on around us, without immediately making a judgement or analyzing what is happening. Becoming aware of things like breath, bodily sensations, and local smells, sounds, and colors may seem like an inconsequential act, but it can be an amazingly calming practice.
It also sets us up to be acutely aware of what is physically happening, as opposed to skipping straight to thoughts about consequence, motive, and expectation. For more about mindfulness, take a look at this blog detailing some ways to practice and explore this multi-faceted technique.
Now that we know mindfulness is key to enjoying the steps of our journey, we must locate some opportunities to observe and reflect. This can be a challenging process – as it is usually in the heat of something going well that we can refocus toward the results the situation can yield.
The easiest way to start is to set aside some alone time to practice. Find a safe spot or somewhere you can be comfortable. Try to clear or simply relax your mind. Observe and experience as lightly as you can. It may seem silly to sit in a quiet room and check for colors and smells, but it is rewarding in ways that might be surprising.
After trying this in a controlled space, it might be easier to recognize opportunities in daily life. Milestones and small objectives completed are excellent times to take a brief moment to breathe and enjoy. Times when you are contented or relaxed, enjoying a good meal or a nice day are also excellent moments to record.
The ability to appreciate the present is not always easy. But it is a method that, upon practice, can become a great and powerful solace in life. Beyond this, you may start to understand more deeply what parts of life you truly value.
Though it may seem at first like mindfulness takes you out of your own head, it might actually clear out negative self-talk and pervasive outside influence and reveal a deeper, more insightful you. In this way, living in the present may allow you to see more vividly what things about life you are attracted to, and what you value about your own experience.
Things as simple as a sound, a scent, a flavor, or a word may be giving your life meaning in ways that someone always looking into the space of the future could miss. And in the end, ignoring these things may be what’s causing you stress.
It is amazing to see what a variety of valuable experiences are available on a daily basis. But the ability to see these things is not always inherent in people. That doesn’t mean, though, that it is impossible to learn.
With time and guidance, anyone can live in the present. Anyone can be mindful. And in this way, we can truly appreciate our lives and the journeys we take.
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