Jay Dixit

Brainstorm

Back to the Present: How to Live in the Moment

How to get mindful now.

Posted Dec 17, 2008

In my cover story in the November-December issue of Psychology Today, I laid out six paradoxes of living in the moment. Since then, I've tried to live in the moment as much as possible myself. Whenever I feel upset or worried, I try to bring myself into the present. And whenever it occurs to me, I take a few mindful breaths, look around my surroundings, and become aware of the moment. I still have a long way to go, but I'm living less in my head and more in the moment now than ever before—and I can feel the difference. Here are some practical tips to help you get mindful now.

• Use a reminder of the string-around-your-finger variety. Wear your watch upside-down, put a quarter in your shoe, or put a smudge on one of the lenses of your glasses. When you notice it, let that serve as a reminder for you to notice your surroundings, become aware of your senses and your bodily sensations, and bring your focus into the present. If you get to the point where you're going entire days without noticing it, switch up the reminder.

• Make it new. When you're performing music, giving a presentation, or even just recounting a favorite story, try to make it new in subtle ways, delivering it in a way you've never done before. Rather than performing it by rote, take a risk and try something different—use different words, add a pause, try to express a particular emotion to the audience. Not only will you enjoy it more yourself, but studies find that audiences prefer such performances too. Somehow mindfulness seems to leave an imprint on everything we do.

• Focus on the soles of your feet. Here's a good trick to return to mindfulness if you feel angry or aggressive. Shift all your attention to the soles of your feet. Move your toes slowly, feel the weave of your socks and the curve of your arch. Breathe naturally and focus on the soles of your feet until you feel calm. Practice this exercise until you can use it wherever you are and whenever you find yourself feeling verbally or physically aggressive.