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How to “Live in the Now”

By Natalie Hickey

Photo by Pexels

All of this past fall, I was planning. Planning on which abroad program to choose, which dates to apply for, which housing I should decide on, and how to save up enough money to make all of this possible.

Unfortunately, after arriving in London to study abroad, I found that not much had changed in my thinking, despite the fact that “I had arrived.” I was still transfixed on what was next. My mind endlessly fluttered back and forth from planning my next weekend trip, to deciding what new restaurant I needed to try, or art exhibits to visit. All that was a change, since the fall was the time I had between my planning and the actual “doing.”

Eventually, on my trip to Switzerland as I was walking up the Swiss Alps with my friends, I caught myself. I realized that throughout my entire walk, I had been almost exclusively thinking about next weekend's plans. Even at that moment, in a place I had never been with a truly unbeatable view, I was still managing to focus on the future. I realized then that I was not only failing to live in the moment, but I also wasn’t savoring the finality of the moment.

Upon realizing how extreme this state of mind had become for me, I decided I wanted to fix this mindset; and if fixing it completely wasn’t an option, then I at least wanted to acknowledge it and try to adjust its control on my thoughts.

Throughout my attempt to fix my mindset, I decided that the problem with figuring out how to “live in the moment,” is that most online articles don’t help. Let's face it, reading “10 Things You Can Do to Live in the Moment” that lists the first two items as “smile more” and “pay attention to the small things” isn't going to help change your thinking process. And, important to note, it’s not because these lists aren’t true or accurate (or even that they don’t work for some people, because I’m sure they do), but it's because they’re too broad (at least for me). I found it hard to apply these lists to my life without any concrete plan of action that I could take.

So, I decided to focus on something more specific, which for me, was focusing on my gratitude. I began an “abroad journal” and started collecting postcards from each location I visited. I would also write down three things I was grateful for at the end of every day. My harsh realization of my rather extreme inability to live in the moment led me to adopt a few new habits in order to focus on my gratitude. However, all of these steps aren’t necessary! In fact, none are! If simply thinking about what you’re grateful for rather than writing it down works for you, then that’s amazing too!

For me, I decided upon the journal and the list of three things I was grateful for to not only remember the best parts of each day, but to also see the parts as a whole. I can now view this abroad experience in a timeline of events that are leading me through the days of my life. Rather than constantly planning, I am focusing my attention on trying to remember the moments of each day that I am most grateful for.

While living in the moment is definitely a work in progress, my advice would be to add one (just one!) tangible and specific step into your day. Make this step something that relates to you, your current situation, and something that you care about. If gratitude isn’t your thing, then maybe you can ponder the funniest moments or recall your favorite food of the day. Everyone has their own version of living in the moment, the key is to find yours!

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