How Do You Live in the Present?

Woman with arms up at sunset.

Getty / DianaHirsch

Most of us have a tendency to live in the past or the future. How often do you find yourself thinking about what happened yesterday, or what might happen tomorrow? How does this affect your life and well-being?

In this article, we will discuss how to live in the present moment more frequently, and some ways that can help you get back into living mindfully.

Notice Your Surroundings

One way to be in the present moment is by noticing your surroundings. How often do you take time out of your day to actually look around and see what's going on? When was the last time you sat down, closed your eyes, took a deep breath, and just looked at everything around you?

Take this opportunity right now: close both of your eyes and take a deep breath, then open them and really take in where you are.

  • How do the walls look?
  • What about the floor or ceiling—what patterns can you see there?
  • How many windows are there to your left and right?
  • How many lights can you count from here?

When you stop to look at your surroundings and take in everything around you, it's easier to live in the present moment.

Focus on One Thing at a Time (Don't Multitask)

While it may feel more productive to multitask and work on more than one thing at a time, constantly juggling multiple tasks makes it hard to live in the present moment. While doing something that requires your full attention can seem overwhelming at first, be aware of how much more productive you are when fully engaged in a task. Compare this with trying to squeeze multiple things into one period of time or spending half of your energy on three different projects.

If you're working on something, give it all of your attention. When you find yourself thinking about other things or checking your phone because you don't feel like doing the task at hand, stop and turn that focus back to what's in front of you. Research shows that when you are fully focused on what's happening at that moment, you can better remember details in the long term anyway.

Be Grateful For What You Have Now

Part of living in the present moment is taking the time to be grateful for what you have now (not in the past or in the future). If you are constantly focused on things you don't have, you aren't taking the time to appreciate what you have right now at this moment.

One way to practice gratitude is to write a list of things you are grateful for and review that list on a daily basis. Try to write at least three things you are grateful for in your life right now. Alternatively, you can do a gratitude rampage, where you write out as many things as you can think of in a certain time period.

Accept Things As They Are (Not How You Want Them to Be)

If you want to start living in the present moment, you need to let go of how you think things should be and accept them for what they are. You cannot control everything that happens around you; sometimes life is going to be different than how you want it to be. Practicing acceptance will help you let go of the things in your life that are out of your control.

Practice Mindfulness Meditation

One way to live more in the present moment is by practicing mindfulness meditation. This type of meditation helps people become aware and increase their concentration on what they are doing at any given time. Starting a daily meditation practice can help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings, which can in turn increase the amount of time that you spend in the present moment.

Spend Time With People Who Make You Feel Happy and Fulfilled

Spending time with people who make you feel happy and fulfilled can be a great way to help yourself live in the present moment. Surrounding yourself with positive, supportive people will increase your own positivity and happiness levels. In turn, this will allow you to focus on what is going well right now instead of dwelling on past or future events.

Be Mindful of Everything You Do

Whatever you are doing from eating to scrolling your phone, you should be mindful of it. How often are you eating your lunch while watching TV at the same time? This is one way you might distance yourself from what you are doing and not live in the present moment because all of your attention isn't on that task or activity.

  • Instead, try to focus on each meal while you eat.
  • How does the food smell?
  • How does it taste?
  • How is your body reacting to what you have eaten so far?
  • What sounds are around while you eat - phone calls, traffic noises from outside, music playing in the background.

By focusing on these details and being mindful of everything going on around you during a specific task or activity, this will help bring more present-moment awareness into your life.

Practice Deep Breathing Exercises

Taking the time to sit down and practice a deep breathing exercise will help you focus your mind on the task at hand. Taking slow, regulated breaths helps to prevent feelings of panic or any other negative thoughts from taking over while allowing for more control during the activity in which you are currently engaged. One quick and easy method to try is the 4-7-8 breathing technique.

Take a Break From Social Media and Technology

Taking a break from social media and other technology can also help you to stay more present-focused. While you might think that constantly checking your social media accounts is helping you stay connected to the world, it is actually having a negative effect on your ability to be present.

How many times have you been doing something else and found yourself checking social media? It's important that you learn how to avoid letting technology take over your life as this can really prevent you from being mindful of what is going on around you.

In particular, when you are with other people, it is important that you focus on the people and environment around you, rather than being distracted by your cell phone.

Get Regular Exercise or Do Some Yoga

Regular exercise or even just taking a stroll through the park can help you to stay more focused on your present activities. Including yoga as part of your daily routine is another great way to live in the present, especially if it's coupled with meditation and mindfulness exercises.

If you can't make time for all full yoga class, just stopping what you are doing to take a couple of minutes for some basic poses can help you to get back into the moment.

A Word From Verywell

In conclusion, living in the present moment requires that you take the time to appreciate where you are, what you're doing, and who is with you. Instead of becoming caught up in the past or worrying about what will happen in the future, try to savor each moment as it passes. If you need help with this process, talking to a therapist can be very helpful. They can give you tools and techniques that may make living in the present easier for you.

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3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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