10 ways to slow down and enjoy the present moment
As much as we would all love to just close our eyes, breathe and clear our heads, without feeling rushed or thinking that we have to be somewhere else, most of us find this very difficult. However, you don’t have to spend hours meditating in the traditional sense in order to become more mindful. Below are 10 ways to slow down and enjoy the present moment, and help you to become more mindful during your everyday life.
Contrary to what most people think, meditation is not just about relaxation – it is basically mental training to increase awareness. Training is something you need to build up. You wouldn’t try to run a marathon without training, and the same applies to meditation. Start with just one minute per day: just sit down comfortably, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Whenever you notice your thoughts are starting to wander, bring them back to your breath. Once you made that one minute per day a routine, try to gradually increase it to two minutes, then three, and so on.
#2. Show appreciation
Tell people how much you appreciate them. But be sure to be specific when you do! Remind them about how they always take time to listen to you, even when they are super busy. Or about that time they came to pick you up when your car broke down in the middle of the night and you were stuck on a deserted highway. Chances are, they don’t get such compliments very often. Showing how much you genuinely appreciate someone, is one of the best gifts you can give them.
#3. Stop worrying
In order to enjoy the present, you have to stop worrying about the future. Worrying about stuff leads to anxiety. The problem for people who are often worried, is that they confuse their thoughts about reality with actual reality. When you focus your attention on your senses instead of the narrative content of your thoughts, it will become easier to distinguish your anxiety-inducing thoughts from the truth.
#4. Observe your environment
Instead of constantly looking down at your smartphone when you’re waiting for the bus, sitting in the train or taking a ‘break’ at work, try to just observe what’s going on around you. Focus on the feeling of the sun on your skin, the wind in your hair. Notice the movements around you. The people. What sounds do you hear? What do you smell? When this is hard for you, try to imagine your superpowers are heightened senses. Chances are, you will see, feel, smell and hear a lot more than before.
#5. Do less
We live in a culture that is all about business and deadlines and achievements, and it has us racing through life at an abnormal pace. We rarely allow ourselves to slow down. But what if we did? By physically slowing down, we can also slow down mentally. True, you might not get as much done as before, but it does help you do be more aware of every moment, to get more pleasure out of the things you do, and to actually connect to others. Try to do less, but be fully present in everything you do.
#6. Leave room for free time
I have to admit that I was one of those people who would literally forgot how do to nothing. There is always something to be done, usually work related. I had this go, go, go mentality. I was in a constant state of stress; the idea of just doing nothing seemed so foreign to me, it made me incredibly uncomfortable. However, this is not a healthy mindset. We really don’t have to ‘do’ all the time. Every day, try to leave room for free time. Even if it’s just for five minutes. Just sit down, and do absolutely nothing.
#7. Forgive past hurts
Gandhi said the weak can never forgive. This makes sense when you realize forgiveness can require a lot of strength. Forgiveness starts with acknowledging that you are blaming someone for something. You need to become conscious of any anger, resentment and grudges you’re holding, and ask yourself where those feelings are coming from. Once you know, forgiveness becomes a matter of letting go. However, you also need to forgive yourself sometimes, when you have regrets. Define them first, and then let go.
#8. Notice sensory details during your everyday life
If you take a moment to stop and, well, literally smell those roses, you will develop more appreciation for the beauty in life. But aside from smelling the roses in the garden, you can apply this to everything you do throughout the day. Take folding the laundry for example. Usually, you would simply rush through it, trying to get it done fast so you can get on with other stuff. But next time, try to notice the textures of the fabrics, how they feel, how fresh they smell. Look at the colours and the patterns, and pay attention to the way they are affected by the light. This way, something you would dread can become something like a sacred ritual. I promise you, once you make mindfully folding a habit, it won’t be a chore anymore!
#9. Smile and laugh more often
Laughter relieves tension and anxiety and releases endorphins (the chemicals in your body that make you feel great). It brings people together and is physically and emotionally healing. But sometimes “Just laugh more!” is easier said than done. How do you laugh more? Well, you have to start somewhere, and a laugh starts with a smile. So try to smile more! Also, don’t try to take everything too seriously, spend more time with people who make you laugh or share your sense of humour, and simply try to spend more time doing the things that you love.
#10. Practise gratitude
Multiple studies have shown that gratitude reduces feelings of depression and anxiety and has many physical benefits, too. Gratitude is not just saying “Thank you” to people when they do you a favour; you have to actually be grateful! And not just for the good things. Try just sitting comfortably and acknowledging how you feel in this moment. Focus on the happy aspects of your life, hold on to them and say “Thank you” for each of them. Then, focus on the struggles in your life. Think about the hardships you’ve had to endure, and what (maybe unexpected?) results they have brought into your life. This makes it easier to be grateful for the bad things as well.