Do you often find yourself in a rut feeling like your burden gets heavier as each day pass by? Why do you think that’s so? Well, most usually it’s got to do with not “living in the now” or not living your life in the present. Let me explain.
When you feel miserable, most of often than not, the reason is either you worry too much about the future or you regret something you did in the past. “Why was I so stupid?” “I can’t do anything because I dropped out of college.” “She’s not going to like me, I’m not tall enough.” “I failed so nobody’s going to love me.” “How would I pay for my kid’s schooling if I fail?” Sounds familiar?
“Living in the now” means focusing your mind and energy on just what’s here now. It means you do not worry about the future or think about the past. You do what you can do now without a care about what will happen in the future. When you live in the now, you are living where life is happening–now. It means action. If you focus on what you can do now or what you’re doing now, you won’t have time to worry or regret.
Of course even though it’s not good to dwell too much about the past, it does not mean that you shouldn’t learn from it. And eventhough there’s no need to worry about the future, it does not mean that you shouldn’t plan anything or set goals for the future. However, it’s important to understand that you can only control what happens in the present–the past and the future is only in our imagination.
This part of the Serenity Prayer perfectly describes the importance of just focusing on what we can do now.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
The Japanese people understand the importance of living in the moment. They have their own term for it: 一期一会 or ichigo ichie. Literally translated as “one time, one meeting” it means that each moment we encounter may never happen again. Thus, to live a meaningful life we must treasure each and every moment that passes.
Fortunately, “Living in the now” is easy to practice, you just have to know how. Here are some simple guides you can do to incorporate this principle to your life:
Our jobs, routines and tasks occupy most of our waking hours. Tight deadlines, mistakes, arguments and unforeseen glitches can be sources of significant stress and anxiety. Becoming mindful can help in reducing stress, especially at work. Mindfulness is when you are truly present in the moment, mind and body together.
Most of the time, we find our mind running on auto mode flying in various directions and worrying about random stuff like worrying about tonight’s dinner, how to finish work on time, dwelling on the past, or daydreaming what could have been. Being mindful means training our minds to pay attention to what’s here and now. Fortunately, being mindful is quite simple to practice.
The goal of mindfulness is not to stop thinking or to empty the mind but to closely pay attention to your immediate surroundings. There are many ways to practice mindfulness. The following are a few examples of mindfulness exercises that incorporate into your daily routine:
- Breathing in and out
- Closing your eyes for a few minutes
- Taking a walk
- Purposeful pauses when eating
You think you get more things done when you multitask but, in reality, multitasking makes you less productive. According to research, multitasking may seem efficient on the surface but may take more time in the end and involve more errors.
Currently, there are more things that compete for our attention everyday. Just think of all the notifications that pop up on your smartphone every hour or the myriad of ads you come across on your commute to work. Even in some places where work transitioned from office to home, there are many disruptions in the workflow like preparing lunch, a package arriving, or kids or pets interrupting your work.
Although many people think they’re more productive when they’re multitasking, according to psychologist David Meyer, even the slight pauses when shifting from one task to another can cost people up to 40% of their productive time.
How do you regain control of your life and schedule in a world full of distractions? Focus and deal with one task at a time.
Writing a to-do list everyday will help you prioritise important tasks and focus on them. Do the most important tasks first and leave the miscellaneous errands later. Give yourself a specific period of time to complete every task and work through each with minimal interruptions.
Having clear, long-term goals can also help you to focus on things that matters. Give importance to tasks that will bring you closer to your goals and give less weight to those that don’t.
Ikigai Notes is a unique planner that helps you live in the now by prompting you to write your important tasks each day, asking you to reflect in the morning and at night before you retire. By doing so you become more self-aware. Being aware of your thoughts and mood will help you rein them in when necessary, and effectively, helps you to focus.
Trying to juggle multiple tasks is not sustainable. You will surely experience burnout in the long run. Those who can do one task at a time will not only thrive in the workplace, but they’ll be healthier and happier as well.
Daily meditation is the practice of staying present and living in the now for a limited period of time but it has numerous benefits for our mental and physical health. Meditation, like physical exercise, is an exercise of the mind and we experience greater benefits when we do it everyday. A short daily meditation is better than no meditation at all.
When you meditate, you enhance your focus and you feel less stress. Meditation allows you to become more aware of your surroundings. Moreover, people who meditate have also reported improvements in their relationships. This might be because meditation stimulates the part of the brain associated with empathy.
Meditation is an umbrella term for the many ways to a relaxed state of being. There are many types of meditation and relaxation techniques that have meditative components. All share the same goal of achieving inner peace. Some of the ways to meditate are:
- Guided meditation
- Mantra meditation
- Qi gong
- Tai chi
Appreciate the (small) things around you
While walking to the train station on my way to work each day, I pass by bushes, trees, wild shrubs and flowers, fallen leaves, birds, and small insects–all doing their thing. I sometimes touch the leaves and the tree trunk as I pass by. I gaze at them with wonder and think to myself how beautiful they are and how lucky I am to live here in this world full of miracles of life. The thought invigorates me every morning and I feel I’m better equipped to handle the day with such happy thoughts.
Appreciating small things around us does not mean appreciating only physically small stuff, but being able to see and appreciate those which are often neglected.
Back in college when I was still a student people thought I was weird because they sometimes see me walking under the rain just like it’s nothing. The truth is that I’ve always been fond of rain and I never mind getting wet. Even now, I still feel happy everytime it rains–I even named one of my sons Rein. The thing is rain is often neglected or even hated by many. But for me no, I see rain very differently. I find rain cool and refreshing and in my mind I often relate it to nourishment and growth.
Living in the now means appreciating what’s in front of you–even small often neglected things. Ichigo Ichie is not limited to meeting people. Everyday there are wondrous encounters waiting for you to notice. Did you notice the sweet chirp of the birds this morning? How about that yellow butterfly circling around your path on the way to work? If you open your heart to each moments’ encounter you may even start to see rain, not as a nuisance, but as a good walking companion sent from the heavens above.