I read once that whenever you are depressed you’re living in the past, and whenever you are anxious, you’re living in the future….If you are at peace, you’re living in the present. Right now, with the future being so uncertain and the past haunting our moments at home, it can feel like there’s no relief. Still, in this article, I’ll talk to you not only about how I found peace by living in the moment, or how it helped me make better choices for my future, but how you can start implementing it immediately!
“Mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and our experience.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
I know both sides of anxiety and depression very very well. I have spent much of my life living in both. But only recently have I learned how to live in the moment.
Looking back, I had touches of depression and anxiety throughout my childhood. Being raised in a strict home, homeschooled which dramatically limited my social experiences, and wondering if I would ever be free of the immense pressure to perform and comply with my family often left me with physical symptoms of what I now know to be panic attacks.
I thought they would go away in college, and again when I got married, and again when my mother died, and I became estranged and moved from Florida to Massachusetts…but anxiety and depression followed me like a shadow creature. I can remember being in Australia. It was day 7 of my trip and I had been so happy! I remember wondering how I could find a way to live in Australia because I had finally escaped my anxiety and depression…but no… a few days later, while walking to get lunch, there it was again that feeling. That ominous feeling that something bad had happened, or would happen, or maybe was happening because I was no longer happy. I felt like I was doing fine and then it’s like those emotional monsters had somehow found a way to catch a plane and track me down!
The truth is, I had started to get used to where I was staying on Coogee beach. I had begun to develop a routine, and my mind had started to, in some ways, get bored and wander to the only place it had felt familiar and in a strange way comfortable; the pressure of my past and the fears of my future.
Now here we are as a collective all staying in our homes isolating, and we might find that while we had such big hopes for working out, reading books, creating art, and otherwise getting to know ourselves, perhaps the monsters of anxiety and depression are our only company. Maybe it’s hard to get out of bed, hard to change out of our PJ’s, much less do a workout routine. Maybe we’re losing hope that we can even do this for much longer. But I am here to tell you there is hope.
Being in the moment slows life down and takes it to a different space. I tend to think of a Japanese tea ceremony. It’s not like going to your favorite coffee shop and having a cup o’ Joe thrown at you as you walk by. This is almost sacred: You sit down usually in a special room. The room is sparse, with the exception of maybe a single potted flower. There is a certain etiquette followed. It’s like a dance. In silence, the host makes the tea, mixing the Macha in a special cup designed for this moment. It is presented to you. Etiquette requests that you take a moment to admire the cup and slowly drink the tea. Perhaps an elegantly decorated rice cake or Mochi will be presented, and you are expected to also take a moment in silence to admire those as well and enjoy their flavor.
This takes “having a cuppa” and elevates it. It slows it down by demanding that you take all your senses and mental attention to observe what you are being involved in.
When I returned from Australia, I realized that everything at Coogee was special. I took in every moment, and it wasn’t until it started getting routine that my monsters found me. So I started learning about being mindful in the moment. Cooking became special. Washing my hands became a chance to be thankful for my body, for the soap, for the water, and its temperature. A moment outside on my porch became a moment in heaven.
My anxiety and depression lessened, and when they did occur, mindfulness helped me to feel and experience them with curiosity and compassion, rather than fear or thinking it would last forever.
Here are some concepts that helped me with practicing being in the moment:
1.) This Too Shall Pass: If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw me post this story of a king who asked his advisors to make him a ring that would make him happy when he was sad. They made him a ring, and on its seal were the words, “This too shall pass.” The king loved the ring because it indeed made him feel happy when he was sad, but it also made him sad when he was happy because he understood that nothing lasts forever.
Being mindful is the understanding that you only have this one moment. The future hasn’t happened yet, so it doesn’t exist, and the past has already happened and is no longer in this moment, and as you live your day, every second, every breath, every beat of your heart goes into the past. This is what is real. So regardless if you’re super happy right now, or extremely wracked with depression and anxiety, know that this too shall pass.
2.) Choose one moment a day to be fully committed to and practice being mindfully in the moment: For me, ironically, this started when I was doing dishes. I would turn off all music or TV or phone stuff, and I would stand at the sink. I would listen and watch the water as it filled my sink. I would take a moment to be thankful I had a luxury like clean running water. I would add the soap and breath in the fragrance; I would watch the bubbles. I would take a moment to be thankful for the meals eaten on those dirty dishes, and then I would pick up the sponge. I would take a moment to feel what it feels like to hold a sponge in my hand, and I would start to wash the dishes. I would listen to the sound the water makes; I would take a moment to recognize and be thankful for the room I was in for this beautiful moment of washing dishes. Ironically, I felt peaceful afterward, and I felt like I had a special moment with both myself and my surroundings.
You can choose anytime, just try to be as engaged in that moment as you possibly can. Just like in meditation, if you find your mind wandering, kindly bring it back to what you are involved in. You can do this while:
*While folding laundry
*Sitting on your porch
*Sitting in your car at a light
*Walking your dog
*Cleaning your home
*Cooking (another favorite of mine)
*Even before you fall asleep in bed!
(just to name a few)
3.) No Moment is Ever Good Or Bad…It is just preferable or not preferable: This might be a bit difficult to explain, but I’m going to give it a try. I learned it while listening to a discussion with a Buddhist Nun named Tenzin Palmo, who spent 12 years in isolation living in a cave. She discussed that there was a moment while in this cave that it had snowed, and it had buried the exit of her cave. Then there was a time when the snow started to melt, and it flooded her cave. In Buddhism, that is neither good nor bad. It wasn’t bad that snow had covered the entrance to her cave…it just had. It wasn’t bad that her cave flooded; it just had. That was all.
It can be tempting to look at this time we’re going through with being in quarantine as “bad.” That, however, means that this moment is ethically tied to our own, and moments don’t work like that, they just are. This moment in quarantine….just is. The sooner that is accepted, the easier it’s going to be to make choices in the moment that are going to optimize your pleasure. If you label this time as bad, you’ll either want to fight it, run from it, or numb yourself and possibly sink into depression. If you can see this moment as just a time, that is, that allows you to stay with your feelings and work with those feelings to feel a bit better.
Let’s say that the feeling you are experiencing is a strong desire to go to the mall that you know is closed. Understanding that this is just a moment and that it is temporary makes the idea of not being able to go to the mall a bit easier to bear. With that anxiety eased, you can now present other options to your brain. “I can’t go to the mall right now, maybe later, but what would I do there? Would I go shopping for clothes? Would I hang out with my friends? Maybe I should call a friend, or take a moment to organize the clothes I already have, or maybe this is my brains’ way of saying I should change out of these PJ’s I’ve worn two days straight and dress in something that makes me feel good?”. See how that worked? Now you’re in a curious state of mind that allows you to make choices that help change your emotions, rather than remaining upset that you can’t change the circumstances.
4.) Start A Gratitude Journal: I know, this is probably the 50th time you’ve read that, and I can almost feel your eyes rolling, but give me a moment to explain. When you focus on looking for things to be grateful for, you are automatically putting yourself in the moment!
I have a memory of when I was a child. I had gone off to sleep away camp for a couple of days at this horse ranch with my church. I had fun, but staying in tents can be tough. I was dirty and exhausted. I remember coming home and my mother telling me to give her all of my things and to just take a shower and lunch would be ready. I remember that shower. I remember being so thankful for HOT water (since there wasn’t any at camp). It had rained the majority of the time, so I was left feeling cold, damp, and dirty most of the time I was there. I remember the smell of the soap. I remember washing the dirt from under my nails and my hair. I remember how NICE it was to put on clean, warm clothes that didn’t smell like my tent! When I got out of the shower, I can still remember my mother had made Sloppy Joes (which is a kind of meat sandwich for those who don’t know what those are). I remember being SO THANKFUL that everything was fresh, and I was clean and warm. I was extremely thankful.
Understanding that there are things we take for granted (like clean, hot, running water in our homes) that other people would love to have, brings a level of thankfulness and feeling special. When you actively look for those moments and look to record those moments, it emphasizes that the moment you are experiencing is fleeting and special and a time to be enjoyed for what it is. If you record these “moments” then when you are having a time that is not preferred, you can look back and remind yourself that this too shall pass.
I hope these four things help you and give you a different perspective you can take with you on your day. Your day will be filled with moments. Some will be preferred, and others won’t be, but they will all pass, so write down the ones you enjoyed.
If you would like to talk more about this with me, shoot me an email or a comment in the comments section below. If you’d like to be notified of future posts like this one OR be entered automatically into any of my giveaways, please SIGN UP HERE! Lastly, if you found this article to be special to you and you’d like to show your thanks feel free to Buy Me A Coffee (which isn’t actually a coffee but a small donation to keep this site up and running). I am so thankful you took the time to read through this article, and I hope it was worth it. I wish you a wonderful day! -Heather Astaneh