I sit here writing this blog post with my mind drifting.
It’s hard staying present.
Even as I sit here in this coffee shop, a flat white to my right, my headphones in, I find my mind drifting from thought to thought.
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle was one of the first self help books I read, and although I quickly understood the message behind it… living in the now proved difficult.
I get it…
You can’t control or rewrite what’s happened in the past.
You can’t directly control what’s going to happen in the future.
The only thing you can control is the present moment.
But why do we still find it so hard to live in the now? Why are we still so consumed with what’s happened to us and what might happen to us?
I’ve had to practice staying present a lot over the past few months.
My brother recently had a life changing accident, a traumatic brain injury which left us with no real idea how he would recover.
From a life support machine to a coma, from a coma to not being able to communicate, to being able to communicate to not being able to see or move…
It’s been hard to stay present and not be consumed with “what if”.
But staying present is all that I can do.
I can’t change his accident (the past), I can’t change his recovery up to now (the past), I can’t directly control how he’s going to recover from now (the future), all I can do is stay present and remind myself how grateful I am he’s still alive.
If I get caught in my head, thinking about how hard it must be for him and how his life has changed forever I’ll find it hard to stay positive to support him.
I have to remind myself…
What can I do right now?
What can I do to help, to stay positive?
What I can do now is all that matters, that’s all I can control.
I guess that’s how we practice staying in the now.
By reminding ourselves.
It’s not something we do naturally.
Take a moment as you read this to look around you, to breathe, to smell, to truly be aware of your surroundings and what you’re doing and feeling right now.
Nothing else matters, just the present moment.
When you feel yourself drifting back to the past, or drifting too far in the future, come back to the present.
Come back to now.
It’s not something you’re expected to do naturally, so remind yourself daily to stay present.
Depression typically stems from living in the past.
Anxiety is driven by living in the future.
Happiness and positive change start by living in the present.
Let me expand on that…
I’ve been hurt in the past, we all have. Emotional trauma that’s happened in the past stays with us.
But we can’t change what’s happened to us, we can only change how we react to it.
Losing my Dad to suicide hurt me, it hurt hard. I originally blocked out those emotions replacing them with short term pleasure, but they soon resurfaced.
I was depressed.
Living in the past, thinking about what I could have done to change his mind and trying to change something I couldn’t.
Instead I learned to deal with his suicide, I didn’t ignore the emotions… I faced them.
My Dads suicide was the easily the hardest time in my life, but I’ve managed to use it to learn more about myself, to help others, and to grow as a man.
Past hurt can either drag you down, or it can propel you forward.
On the other hand, I’m a worrier (maybe you are too).
It’s something I’ve always struggled with.
But worry is needless energy. It’s stories we’re telling ourselves, stories we’re making up that don’t even exist in real life.
Getting caught up with what ‘could’ happen in the future is pointless. You can’t control would ‘could’ happen.
You can make an indirect change on your future by putting things in place in the present moment.
Here’s an example…
“I feel so fat, if I carry on like this I’ll be so overweight it will be unhealthy. I feel bad about myself, my wife doesn’t find my attractive anymore and I’m worried she might leave me for another man. I’ll have to start going to the gym, but the gym is scary. It’s also something I don’t have time for…”
That’s an example of living in the future, consumed by worry.
Breaking that down, 100% of those worry’s may not even happen.
Here’s an example of making an indirect change to your future by living in the now.
“Yes, I’m overweight so I need to do something about it. I can’t go on like this. I’m not going to eat this cake in front of me, in stead I’m going to go for a walk right now.”
It sounds silly, but that tiny decision you make in the present will propel you forward to continue making more positive choices.
Start being more present.
Start living more in the now.
When you do, you’ll get a glimpse at how happy it makes you feel. You’ll see the stress it relieves, the past hurt and anxiety will be easier to deal with.
But don’t think it’s something you can naturally do at the beginning.
Practice it daily.
Then it will become more natural.