By: Helen Jane Hearn
As simple as it seems, the best remedy is living in the moment: It immediately removes that layer of negative, anxious jitters. It’s not easy to snap out of a stressful thought spiral, so I’ve gathered a few techniques that almost always do the trick. Below are nine ways to appreciate the present and bring yourself back into the current moment.
1. Listen to the Birds.
There’s something about nature that brings me to the present every time. It might be that I appreciate its simplicity — my own worries fade to the background because nature is serene. A tree is just a tree: It isn’t worrying about what to put in tomorrow’s lunch, nor is the robin on its branch stressing out over the obnoxious thing she said to the principal last week. I find that getting into nature is incredibly grounding.
2. Do Something Physical
Getting into my body gets me out of my head. Whether it’s as low impact as a brisk walk, or a high-intensity strength building session, getting out of my head gives me space to remember that at this moment, everything is OK.
3. Focus on the Senses
This one is a very specific technique that helps me focus: By smelling, listening, watching, touching or tasting what’s around me, I become aware of what is happening right now.
If you have the time, arranging special candles, cooking with spices, getting a shoulder rub or checking out artwork will ease your senses, take you out of a stressful mindset and lead you to appreciate the current moment.
4. Let it Go
When I find myself endlessly going over past mistakes or worrying myself into knots, I realize that sometimes I just need to say, “Listen, I can’t do this, and I can’t control it, and what’s going to happen is going to happen.”
Acknowledging how little control I actually have over any given situation allows me to let go and step into the present.
5. Take a Deep Breath
This tip is the oldest, but it can be hard to remember amid a stressful situation. Just breathe. Take a deep breath in, hold for a moment and let it out slowly (repeat as necessary).
6. Create a Visual Touchpoint.
I have two visual touchpoints that remind me to appreciate the current moment simply by associating each item with the thought of living in the present. One of those is a silly hedgehog ceramic on the top of my piano, and one of them is our back doorframe. These touchpoints are arbitrary, but totally effective.
7. Make it a Routine
Sometimes I need to shift to a familiar routine to acknowledge the present. For me, coffee time is my time to be grateful — it allows me to live in the present. Going through the motions of having my coffee gives me the chance to mentally review what I love about life.
8. Make a Gratitude List
It is impossible to avoid the present when I write out a list of what I am thankful for. I am alive, I can breathe, my children are healthy and I have a roof over my head. It doesn’t even have to be anything huge, either. You can be thankful for a quilt, a cup of tea or a capacity to love. Remembering all of the good things in life brings me to the present moment with surprising speed.
9. Do Something Silly
A giggle is a great way to snap out of living too much in my head. When I’m worried about the future or regretting some past decision, I know I’m not in the present.
My family brings a little silliness into our lives by telling goofy stories or drawing funny people. Grownups can share videos of favorite comedians.
Worrying doesn’t bring any more love into my life. Endlessly ruminating over mistakes doesn’t help, either. But by remembering to live in the now, I focus my energy on what’s important, helping me become a better parent, wife and friend.
Helen has written about Internet culture and home entertaining at her eponymous site Helen Jane since 1998. Napa Valley-based, she is a certified specialist of wine and founder of Cheesewhizzes, a nationwide cheese-tasting club. She also captains her bocce team, Joanie Loves Bocce.