Being Present in the Moment: 6 Simple Exercises
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Tessa Brennan - 12/11/2021

Being present in the moment

Being present in the moment is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. In our fast-paced society where there’s pressure to always be moving forward, it’s easy to focus on what’s next instead of living in the now. Being in the moment can be forgotten because we’re always looking towards the future. We’re constantly saying “I’ll be happy when ___ happens”.

The trouble is—if we don’t live in the moment, we can’t appreciate when we do reach a goal or achieve something big, because we’re already focused on the next moment or next task. This leads to a vicious cycle of feeling like happiness is always down the road or around the corner. In contrast, when you let yourself be in the present, you feel more gratitude for what you have now, a greater sense of peace, and feel more alive on a daily basis. This, in turn, leads to less stress, more creativity, and even better health outcomes.

At Vertellis, we realize that being fully present in the moment can feel challenging. We all have stressors and worries that can keep us locked in the future or the past. That’s why we compiled these six exercises to help you get you back to the here and now. Keep reading to learn these simple and straightforward tools to aid you in your goal of being present in the moment!

6 tools to help you be present in the moment

These six tools to help you be present in the moment can be used on a daily basis or whenever you need to get back to the here and now. You can try one or try them all; there’s no right or wrong when it comes to this practice. Remember though, that this is a practice. It may feel challenging being in the moment at first, but over time, being present in the moment will feel easier and more natural. For now, simply read through the exercises and notice which ones speak most to you!

be present in the moment

    1. Be present in the moment by observing your thoughts

    First things first, we’re going to practice being present in the moment by simply observing your thoughts as they are now. Why is this important? Because it’s easy to read about being in the moment and think “I want that. I just need to get rid of all the racing/anxious/negative thoughts in my head first!”

    While that is tempting, and yes these exercises may help you have fewer unwanted thoughts over time, the reality is—”anxious” or “negative” thoughts will never fully go away. So instead of thinking that you need to remove the unwanted thoughts before you can be present in the moment, why not be present with your thoughts now...just as they are?

    Noticing thoughts without judgment

    The key here is to simply notice your thoughts without judgment. That means removing the labels of “positive” or “negative” and considering each thought to be neutral. Don’t try to change anything; simply sit quietly and be present in the moment with your thoughts, whatever they may be. Feel free to set a timer if you’d like. This simple exercise not only brings you fully into the here and now, but allows you to practice acceptance for where you are in this moment.

    Being in the moment without numbing

    We all know that life isn’t all roses. Challenging life events and even daily stressors can be uncomfortable to experience and make us want to reject being present in the moment. But those feelings, while sometimes incredibly uncomfortable, are still worth being present for.

    One way many of us reject being present in the moment during a stressful or challenging time is by numbing our emotions. This can be done with food, alcohol, drugs, overspending, technology, etc. Now does this mean that every time we have a glass of wine or buy a shirt we’re trying to numb an emotion? Absolutely not! But it’s important that we become aware of our urges to numb out (we all have them) and notice when we’re engaging in behavior that is meant to numb our emotions so we can’t be in the present.

    Using “urge surfing” to stay fully present in the moment

    Once you become aware of your impulses to escape the present moment by numbing out, what can you do about it? One way to help cope with these urges and stay fully present in the moment is using a tool called urge surfing. This tool, attributed to Dr. Alan Marlatt, was initially developed for relapse prevention with addiction but is a great tool for anyone trying to be present in the moment when an uncomfortable feeling or urge arises.

    Urge surfing relies on the fact that feelings and impulses to escape the present moment are temporary. Just like a wave, the water (or urge) will build and then dissipate. So when you notice the urge to numb and want to reject being present in the moment, get quiet and sit with that feeling. Allow the urge to build (like the wave) and then fall away. Eventually, that urge will subside, and you will have been fully present in the moment the whole time.

    2. Be in the present by taking conscious time away from technology

    Ahhh technology. It helps us stay connected, learn new things, aaaaand a lot of times it keeps us from being fully present in the moment. I mean, how often do you pick up your phone because you’re “bored” or have a meaningful conversation interrupted by a text message notification?

    We’re not here to say you need to cut technology out of your life, but if you’re committed to learning to be present in the moment, it’s important to take conscious time away from your devices. You can do this any way you like, but if you need some inspiration, here are some ideas:

    • Implement a “no phones at dinner” rule
    • Have a screen-free day in your home like “Screen-Free Sunday”
    • Take a day trip where all phones stay off (no concerns about getting the perfect picture for social media!)

    At Vertellis, we’re all about connections, so our favorite way to be more present in the moment without devices? Hosting a technology-free gathering!

    Host a technology-free gathering

    When was the last time you sat around with a group of friends or family and had a deep conversation where everyone was being present in the moment? Since the creation of smartphones, I’m sure it’s been a while. Why not try that now

    Invite a group over for dinner or drinks and have everyone turn off their phones. Instead of spending time scrolling through social media or texting people who aren’t there, ask each other interesting questions! If you need some inspiration, take a look at these meaningful questions to ask your friends. You all can practice being in the moment without technology while learning more about each other and deepening your relationships at the same time!

    3. Use meditation to be more present in the moment

    By this point, you’ve probably heard of the benefits of meditation—reduced stress, better focus, more creativity. It’s no coincidence that a tool designed to help you be more present in the moment provides all these benefits! The best part? Meditation for being in the moment doesn’t require any fancy tools. Yes, you can use an app (like Headspace) for guided meditations, but you can also be in the present by practicing meditation on your own.

    How to start meditating for the present moment

    To get started, simply sit quietly in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Begin to focus on your breath. When your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the here and now. This can be all you do for your entire meditation, or you can try some other methods to help you be present in the moment, such as:

    • Counting your breaths.
    • Repeating a traditional Sanskrit mantra. A favorite is  “So Hum”, which means “I am that”.

    Saying positive affirmations (like these affirmations for anxiety) to calm your mind and bring you fully present in the moment.

    Keep a consistent practice

    Meditation is most powerful when done consistently. If you want to bring this practice into your routine to help with being present in the moment, try committing to it for at least 5 minutes a day. This can be done whenever you have some free time, but personally, we love meditating in the morning. That way you start your morning being present in the moment, which sets you up for success for the rest of your day!

    4. Being present in the moment with journaling

    Another great way to be present in the moment is by journaling. Most of us spend our time typing on our phones or computers, but there is something special about going back to old-school pen and paper. Writing your thoughts out by hand forces you to slow down and become more self-aware—two key elements to being fully present in the moment.

    There are two ways we like to use journaling to practice being in the moment: stream of consciousness writing and using prompts focused on the here and now.

    Stream of consciousness writing

    Stream of consciousness writing is an exercise where you write out whatever is on your mind for a specific period of time. You don’t stop to edit, read, or judge it—it simply exists in the present moment. To start, set a timer for however long you’d like to write. This can be 1 minute, 5 minutes, 10 minutes...the sky’s the limit! Then, begin writing. Allow whatever is on your mind to come out. If you get “stuck”, keep writing, even if you just repeat a word over and over! Remember, this doesn’t need to make sense—it’s simply an exercise for being in the moment.

    Journal prompts for the here and now

    If you’re craving something more structured, be in the present while journaling with prompts. Some great questions to bring you into the here and now include:

    • What are three things I’m grateful for in this moment?
    • What is something I love about myself right now?
    • What’s something I’m proud of in this moment?

    This exercise can be done in a plain notebook or a guided gratitude journal like Vertellis Chapters. Like meditation, you’ll get the most from this journaling exercise if you do it consistently. Personally, we love journaling in the evening to wind down before bedtime, but feel free to do it whenever works best for you!

    practice being in the moment

    5. Make time for unstructured play and creativity

    Remember unstructured playtime when you were a kid? We all had such amazing imaginations! We weren’t worried about what we were going to wear to school the next day or obsessing over something we said to a friend the day before. We were too busy being present in the moment to care about those things!

    Well, guess what? That unstructured playtime is still available to us as adults and is a great way for us to be present in every moment. This can be done with creative activities like:

    • Making art just for fun (not everything needs to be a side hustle!)
    • Coloring in an adult coloring book
    • Turning up some music and dancing by yourself in your living room

    Another great option? Grabbing your dog or kids (if you have them) and running around with them for an hour. Nothing like playing full-out with an animal or child to bring us back to being present in the moment!

    6. Being in the moment with self-compassion

    As you work towards being fully present in the moment on a regular basis, it’s important to remember that this is a process. We’ve all spent a great deal of time not being in the moment, it’s no surprise that this will take some practice. So as you dive into these exercises (or even just dip your toe in to start!) remember to practice self-compassion.

    Many of us want to be more present in the moment to reduce stress, gain peace, and enjoy life more—but that’s challenging to do if we get upset with ourselves every time our “monkey mind” starts to stray. And even if we can’t be fully present in every moment, we can always try to bring ourselves back to the here and now. So take it slow, be gentle with yourself, and start to unearth the magic that comes when you commit to being present in the moment!

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