Too often, our minds are caught on things we did in the past (“Why did I sing “Pony” at office karaoke?”) or worry about things we might do in the future (“What if I my date tomorrow night hates my back tattoo?”).
To live purely in the moment is a concept known as mindfulness; to practice it is called mindfulness meditation, a process that involves breathing and centering one’s mind in the present. Some studies have shown that this can ease anxiety, depression, pain and make for better sleep.
“Our minds are like a snowglobe, and when you shake up a snow globe there’s snow’s going all over the place,” says Cory Muscara, founder and head teacher of the Long Island Center for Mindfulness. “Our thoughts are all over the place, our emotions are all over the place. Mindfulness meditation acts as a settling of that snow globe.”
For those who are just learning about meditation, or haven’t committed to it yet, Muscara says there are quick everyday tasks that anyone can do to start becoming more mindful. From exercises you can do in the morning to exercises you can do right before you go to bed, here are five easy ways to live in the present and
1. Stay in the Moment When Showering
This may sound strange, Muscara admits but when soapin’ it up in the shower, you need to make sure your mind is there too.
“Feel the sensation of the water on your body, feel your hands moving through your hair,” Muscara says. “Notice when your mind gets caught up with things like ‘What am I going to make for breakfast?’ or ‘I have so much to do today’ or ‘I have so many emails to take care of.’”
Instead, focus on just being in the shower and grounding yourself there, which will help ready your mind for the day.
2. Don’t Plan Out Your Conversations
When speaking with someone, people often plan the script in their heads.
“This is very common, and what it does is it actually makes the conversation about me and ‘Let me show this person what I know’ rather than fully listening and being fully engaged in what that person is sharing with us.”
Muscara’s advice? Wait until someone is finished talking before you decide what you’re going to say next.
“Just see if you can listen fully without having an agenda of what you’re going to share,” he says. “Then let the response come organically. Often, it’ll be more appropriate because you’ve heard fully what that person is sharing and you’re not responding to your own needs. Rather, you’re responding to the interests and needs of the other person.”
3. Take Some Time to Do Nothing
Wherever you are, put down your phone, step away from the computer, close your eyes and be completely still for a few minutes.
“Just notice the thoughts passing through your mind, notice how you’re feeling and notice any sensations in the body without any agenda of trying to change it or fix it,” says Muscara. “You can do that at any point during the day, even once every hour if you’d like to. But it’s a moment of no technology and no conversation. You could even do it on the toilet.”
These moments move the body from a state of doing to a state of being — meaning, the body is able to fully be in the present.
4. Look for Tension in Your Body Before You Go to Sleep
Before you go to bed each night, Muscara advises closing your eyes and scanning your body from your toes to your head, searching for areas of tension and stress.
“You can actually have a conversation with your body where you say it’s okay, and just giving your body permission to shut down and to be at ease as it transitions into the evening,” he says.
5. If You’re Having Trouble Sleeping, Don’t Force It
When people have trouble falling asleep, they often try to force themselves into slumber which in turn brings on anxiety. According to Muscara, it’s a good meditation practice to give your body permission to be awake rather than demanding it to fall asleep.
“We so often get caught up in that train of thought, instead of just acknowledging, ‘Alright, maybe my body wants to be awake right now and I’m going to give it permission to be awake’ ... that allows the body to settle more than anything else,” Muscara says.