Being “in the moment” is a big part of mindfulness and it’s been shown in studies to be really effective in helping us to feel happier.
A big study into wellbeing found that daydreaming, thinking ahead and going off track with our thoughts in general are a lot more likely to make us feel miserable.
Participants were asked to log in and say what they were doing at that particular moment, how happy they were and whether they were thinking about that activity. In almost half of cases, their thoughts were elsewhere and this seemed to be directly linked to their mood.
This led researchers to claim a link between not being “in the moment” and feeling unhappy, even if this tangent includes positive thoughts about something that we like or enjoy. They believe that the distraction is what was making a lot of the study participants less happy, rather than their emotions being the cause of their wandering mind.
The Importance of Being “In the Moment”
There’s a lot to be said about the wellbeing benefits of being able to stay “in the moment” with our thinking but it’s not always that easy to actually make this happen for any great length of time.
Our minds are very good at veering off on tangents, sometimes to the past or the future. This can work against us in some cases and encourage thoughts about things that may happen further down the line (but often never do!).
Most of our negative thoughts tend to involve dwelling on things that have happened in the past or worrying about what could happen in the future. Living more “in the moment” takes this away and forces us to focus on the here and now, which is often a lot less stress inducing.
A busy, active mind is only part of the problem though. Add in the fact that most of us also have incredibly hectic lives (and increasingly blurred lines between home and work in many cases) and it’s not hard to see why few of us spend much time “in the moment”. The end result? Our busy minds take control of us.
You can change this through mindfulness, which is all about spending time in the present. This helps to distance yourself from your thoughts and take a step back from them.
How to Be “In the Moment”
Mindfulness doesn’t involve fighting against your thoughts. The key thing is to acknowledge your thoughts and let them wash over you. You don’t need to push away any of your thoughts or even pass any judgement on them at all. You just want to observe them.
Savour the Moment
Mindfulness can be practiced in lots of different scenarios but you may want to start off with something that you enjoy to get into the habit and experience the benefits.
Next time you’re eating a food or enjoy or doing an activity you really enjoy, take the time to really focus on what you’re doing and the way it makes you feel. For food, concentrate on taste and texture, for example.
Most of the time, we rush through everyday things including eating and drinking but they’re a great opportunity to spend some time “in the moment”.
Focus on Something Else
One mistake that people often make when trying to be more mindful is to overthink things.
Focusing your attention on outside things can help to distract yourself from the ‘talk’ that is happening in your mind.
It can also be a good way to make it easier for you to avoid attaching any kind of label to thoughts that come into your mind and judging them. This way, the thought come and go in your mind without it gaining the same significance compared to non mindful thinking.
Accepting Feelings and Emotions
A lot of the time, we’re actively trying to fight against emotions, especially negatives ones such as stress, anxiety, sadness and pain. Rather than making things better, this usually only makes us feel worse.
Being “in the moment” with your emotions means accepting that they may be out of your control. You’re not admitting defeat and you still have complete control of how you manage the emotion(s). The key thing is not to let it overwhelm you or to focus your attention on it. Acknowledge it by all means but then try to turn your attention to something else.