1. Celebrate the tiny joys.
What are the little things in this world that make you pause, make you breathe a little deeper, or put a smile on your face? Perhaps it’s when you see your favorite flower. The scent of a family member. Watching dogs play. How can you bring more of those tiny joys into your life?
2. Identify the moment.
Take a moment to check in with yourself and identify the moment you’re in. First, notice what exists in this moment. The sounds, scents, feeling on your skin. Where am I? What is around me? What noises do I hear? What can I physically feel around me? What do I smell? Who is around?
Then you might consider, How am I feeling right now? What do I like about this moment? What am I grateful for?
3. Make mindfulness a practice.
Carve out time in your day to intentionally be present. Perhaps it’s simply while doing dishes or the laundry. Perhaps it’s bringing awareness to your feet as you walk. Or bringing more of yourself into the hobby or task you are engaging in. If you’re speaking with a friend, can you keep your thoughts in that conversation.
Mindfulness is something that takes patience, attention, energy, and dedication. A daily practice makes it easier and easier to access presence.
4. Listen without intending to respond.
When you’re engaged in conversation, how often do you worry about what to say next? Often we’re only half-listening to the other person because we’re constantly thinking about our own stories and what we can add to the conversation. Instead, try inviting more presence into your conversations and relationships simply by listening with curiosity, rather than anticipation. A great way to do this is by asking more questions. This also allows us to let go of assumptions we might be holding.
5. Be okay with not knowing.
Part of the reason we get so caught up in future worries is because we want all of the answers to our problems immediately. We want to feel like we are prepared for whatever might come. We feel inadequate for not knowing how to handle certain situations, which only leads to self-criticism and self-doubt. The less you strain to find the answers, the more likely they are to come to you. And, that sense of feeling like you can handle whatever comes your way? That can exist without knowing the future. Can you allow that feeling to wash over you?
6. Listen to your body.
It’s easy to start thinking that you need to eat a certain way or exercise for a certain amount of time every day because other people do it. Or perhaps its any one of the other beliefs we hold about what people normally do? I need to wake up early, I need to go to bed now, I need to work harder.
One of the best ways that you can be present in your life is to listen to what your body tells you. This can be done by taking pause and asking “What do you need from me right now body?” Is it craving chocolate? Eat it. Does a run sound invigorating? Go for one. Do you want nothing more than to curl up in bed and forego the gym today? Do it. Your body will let you know when it needs energy and when it needs rest.
7. Feel your feelings.
It is not uncommon for us to spend a lot of time trying to understand or change our feelings or situation. It is natural to want to jump to “solve the problems” of life as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this can mean we don’ create space for our emotions. Emotions are not inherently logical – sometimes it’s not possible to understand them or to “solve” them and, in those situations, any attempts to do so may inadvertently tell those feelings that they need to be solved or that they aren’t OK in and of themselves.
I encourage you to sit with your feelings and simply observe them instead of trying to change them. Let go of the mentality that certain feelings are bad and that you need to be positive all of the time. Instead, let yourself feel. You can do this by taking a few deep, slow breaths and try to find the place in your body where that emotion lives. What does that sensation feel like? Is there a color or texture associated with it? Is it moving or saying the same? What happens if you breath into that space? What happens when you tell that emotion that it’s welcome and that now is a safe time for it to be?
8. Reduce distractions.
Most of us are never fully present in our lives because the world continually presents us with distractions that then get our attention. Our phones, for example, are designed to take us away from where we are and make us feel like we have to attend to them right now. Our focus may be on one thing for a few moments, but suddenly another thought, request, or task comes up and we’re onto the next thing.
You can identify your top distractions by recording how you spend your time. I suggest doing this on a work day and on an “off” day. For everything 30 minute window, record what you were doing. A the end, look at the things that took up time and see how aligned they are with what you want out of life. If family time is important, how much time was spent with family? If learning new things is important, how much time, on average, do you spend doing that?
Is there space to make tiny shifts away from time fillers and put toward those things that have meaning in your life?
9. Savor your rituals.
We all have our little rituals that we do on a daily basis. For me, it’s watching my dog bring me back the ball on our walks or that first sip of coffee in the morning. It’s something that gives a little bit of peace and ease every single day.
What are your rituals? If there is something you would like to add, consider piggy-backing it onto something you already do. Want to add a daily affirmation? What about doing it while you brush your teeth?
10. Find balance between flowing and planning.
When we plan out every single detail of our days, weeks, and months, we don’t allow ourselves the opportunity to go with the flow. When there is no space to flow, there is no opportunity for boredom and boredom can be an important motivator to recenter ourselves with what we truly enjoy. While it’s important to plan, it’s also important to be flexible in how you handle your daily life.
11. Reflect on your day.
New Years is a common time for many to reflect on the year. Many gain a lot from this reflection – it can serve as a course-correction. But you don’t need to wait until the end of the year to do this. What if you made this part of every month or week? This practice can allow us to see where we might be slipping or getting caught up in things that aren’t actually in line with what is important to us and make a more concerted effort to introduce the things that are.
Journalling, writing a gratitude list, planning the week. It’s important to reflect on what is going well during your day so that you can celebrate those things. This encourages you to think positively (even if it was ultimately a terrible day), and it can help prevent the days from blurring into one another.
12. Get away from the digital world.
Electronics, while incredibly useful, are incredibly well designed at getting out attention. Did you know that the makers of mobile phones either do not allow their children to have them or, at the very least, turn off ALL notifications? This is to prevent the powerful addictive components from flourishing in minds particularly susceptible to them. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t also deserve to drive your attention as opposed to letting your electronics dictate.
Spend time away from your phone and computer every day. Read a book, write (not type!), go for a walk, practice yoga, or eat your lunch without an electronic device nearby. Do something daily that doesn’t require a connection to the internet and see how it feels.