How to Enjoy the Present Moment

In this cartoon, one person asks another, "What are you doing?" The second person says, "Enjoying a quiet moment of reflection." The first person says, "Oh, I LOVE enjoying a quiet moment! This one time, I was driving through Topeka and..." There's an awkward pause, then the first person says, "Sorry."

How can you enjoy the present moment? After all, life is so busy. It’s difficult to find a quiet moment to begin with. And even if you can get into your happy place, mentally, something might come along to interrupt you and drag you back into reality.

Actually enjoying the present moment is pretty simple. First I’ll explain how not┬áto enjoy the present moment, and from there our answer will reveal itself.

To not enjoy the present moment, all you have to do is dwell on some way life could be better. For example, think about something that could’ve gone better in the past, such as a conversation that didn’t go well, or perhaps a relationship that didn’t work out. To maximize how lousy you feel, make sure and replay the situation over and over in your head. Bonus points if you do this while lying in bed, just before going to sleep.

If you can’t presently think of anything you regret about your past, then try obsessing over something you want for the future. For example, imagine some future scene where you’re supremely content with every aspect of your life. Now just keep continuously imagining some future time when you’ll be happy. This will ensure that the present always looks inferior in comparison.

OK, so how do you enjoy the present moment? You might’ve guessed it: stop thinking so much about the future and the past. Take in everything that’s going on around you: sights and smells and sounds and maybe more smells if you’re still up for it after that first set of smells. If you feel your thoughts drifting to the future or the past, just bring yourself back to the present and immerse yourself in whatever you are doing, no matter what it is.

Let’s say you’re doing the laundry. How do you enjoy doing that? First, go slowly. Put the clothes into the washer one by one. Appreciate the different textures of the clothes. Marvel at the different-colored food stains on your kids’ pants. Consider the stain-fighting power of your detergent. Behold the wonders of washing machine technology. If you find yourself dwelling on the past or the future, just gently bring yourself back to the present by paying deeper attention to whatever you’re doing.

If you’re enjoying the present and something disrupts you, don’t worry about it. Disruptions are going to happen. Just try and enjoy the disruption. Keep paying attention to what you are doing. If you start getting annoyed about the interruption, then you are slipping into thinking about both the past (the moment before you were interrupted) and the future (the peaceful moment you want to get back to having), instead of staying grounded in the present moment.

I’m not saying stop planning for the future or learning from the past. Just remember that if you want to enjoy the present, you have to spend time there. You can’t always be hanging out in the future or the past.


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