Plenty of people set out each year to change their lives. You may want to lose weight, increase your income, recommit yourself to your faith, or spend more time with your family. Yet, less than 8% of them actually accomplish their resolution. Somewhere along the way, you face an obstacle that leaves you feeling restless and unmotivated.
It is essential to recognize that feeling restless is a normal part of life. Things do not always happen as quickly or as efficiently as you anticipate. Depending on why you feel that way, there is a variety of actions you can take to bounce back in life.
Below are the seven most common causes of restlessness, along with a few strategies to feel peaceful and motivated.
1. Suppression of True Passion
Everyone has two little voices in their head. One voice belongs to your inner self, while the other is your inner critic.
Your inner self is the voice of your imagination, confidence, and a sense of purpose. This allowed you to march to the beat of your own drum when you were young. If you wanted to play, you played. When you were ready to sleep, you went to sleep.
As you aged, though, you were conditioned to believe that following your purpose made you selfish or irresponsible. Your inner critic starts to take over and tell you why playing it safe is the best option. As a result, you start feeling restless because you need to suppress your desires to please others.
This internal battle is exhausting. Thus, you must be true to yourself all the time. Allow your inner self to guide you and accept the fact that you can’t please everyone.
2. Battling on Too Many Fronts
When they say you can have anything you want, they didn’t mean everything at once. You may be feeling restless and unmotivated because you set yourself up for failure.
For example, you may find it challenging to reduce your spending while trying to eat healthily. Most will agree that healthy eating requires you to spend more money on raw foods, after all. Since your goals run opposite of each other, you must prioritize your goals.
The same would be true if your goal is to earn a promotion and be with your family more. Promotions usually require you to take on more projects while maintaining your current workload. Naturally, you will build efficiencies as you become familiar with the new tasks, but you may need to work overtime on multiple occasions, too.
3. Negative Perspective About Life
Failure tends to make you feel like reevaluating your life. The following questions may come to mind as you deal with setbacks:
- Was this really what I was meant to do?
- Should I have played it safer?
- Does this mean it is not for me?
Feeling restless is a natural feeling when you are wondering if you wasted the last few years chasing a far-fetched dream.
The problem with asking yourself, “What went wrong?” is that it will produce a negative answer.
Negative perspectives are difficult to overcome. In truth, it might show you that you could have always done better. That is why so many people never leave the analysis phase of changing their life. Right before taking action, they realize how something can improve, so they end up not doing anything.
Instead of consistently recognizing all that is wrong with the world, start to train yourself to identify what is right in your life. Try asking yourself, “What is one positive outcome of trying and failing?”
4. Lack of Confidence
Somewhere along this journey that we call life, you stopped believing you were good enough.
A quick fix for this cure is to think of something that makes you feel incredibly confident. It could be as simple as your ability to ride a bike or ace a job interview.
Would it be fair to say you have not always had confidence in your interview skills? What changed then?
What changed is the fact that you have secured several jobs over the years. The same idea goes with your confidence in your ability to ride a bicycle.
When you accomplish a goal, doubt vanishes from your consciousness. You no longer feel the need to spend three days preparing for a job interview or researching how to ride a bike. You are confident because you have successfully passed a variety of interview questions before.
You lack confidence and feel restless if you haven’t prepared sufficiently for the task at hand.
5. Excessive Dependence on Others
Depending on other people is not always a bad thing. As an African proverb states, “If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.”
When you work with others, you have an accountability partner who motivates you to continue. However, the problem arises when you depend too much on others.
It is comparable to those group projects you had in school. If you don’t like to procrastinate, you will be frustrated by a partner who does not look at the assignment until a week before its due date.
To stop feeling restless and keep others from siphoning your motivation, you need to collaborate with people who share your core values.
6. Experiencing Burnout
Burnout is no joke. It is usually the result of trying to do too much too quickly. You feel as if you have lost time; you want to make up for the last five years in a short time.
A classic example would be someone who has gained 90 pounds over three years and now wish to lose it all in three months.
Is it possible? Sure! But what kind of diet would someone need to maintain in an attempt to lose a pound a day?
Similarly, someone has wanted to start a business for the past couple of years. They have always found a reason to push the date back, but now they feel a sense of urgency. They slave away in their day job and work and work on the business all night, causing them only to get an hour of sleep.
You may undoubtedly feel like things are finally progressing in the right direction, but how long can you keep this pace up?
When you eventually burnout, you will be feeling restless, significantly when your gains slowly erode. Because of that, you need to maintain a realistic timeline for your goals. Remember: You are building a life-changing habit, and that takes time.
7. Being an Army of One
Whether it is difficult for you to trust others or you are attempting to conceal your setbacks, secluding yourself is a recipe for disaster.
There is a reason why the best among us have coaches and mentors. Seeing things from a different perspective is beneficial, especially if it’s from an expert at achieving the same goals you set for yourself.
Too often, when you isolate yourself, your perception may become skewed to your own biases. From the numerous studies regarding diversity, one highlights the increased returns created by a diverse board versus one that lacks diversity.
Sometimes the only thing you are missing is the ability to run an idea by someone else. Not even that you need them to create the concept, but there is a benefit to talking things out with others. Don’t take the burden on yourself. Outside of feeling restless and overwhelmed, your results may suffer.
The first step to stop feeling restless and unmotivated is to acknowledge something did not go quite as planned.
Whether you set an unrealistic timeline or you face an unforeseen setback, recognize you need to make an adjustment. This allows you to stop holding onto the past so that you can propel into the future.
Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness tend to drain your motivation. You will find success by allowing yourself to make adjustments as you gain additional insights and knowledge. Remember: your past doesn’t dictate your future if you change the actions that have created your past results.
More on Getting Rid of Restlessness
We often hear people talk about the importance of living in the present and the different ways it will benefit us. It all sounds wonderful, especially the lower levels of stress and anxiety, but how exactly can we live in the moment when our mind is constantly worrying about the past or plans for the future?
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the benefits of living in the moment you may not be aware of. Then, we’ll look at some of the obstacles and why we worry. Finally, and most importantly, I’ll show you how to live in the moment and stop worrying using some simple practices that you can easily incorporate into your busy schedule.
The result: a happier and more fulfilling life.
Table of Contents
The Importance of Living in the Moment
“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” -Buddha
While it can be difficult to live in the moment, it has innumerable benefits.
Here are just a few that will enhance your life tremendously:
By reducing stress and anxiety, you avoid many of the associated health consequences, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. Studies have shown that being present can also improve psychological well-being.
Improve Your Relationships
Have you ever been with someone who is physically present, but mentally s/he’s a million miles away?
Being with unavailable people is a struggle, and building relationships with them extremely difficult.
How about being with someone who is fully present? We enjoy being with her/him because we can make a much deeper connection.
By living in the moment, you can be that person other people enjoy being with, and you make relationships much easier.
You have greater control over your mind, body, and emotions. Imagine how much better your life would be if it weren’t at the mercy of a racing mind and unpredictable emotions. You would certainly be more at peace, and much happier.
Why Do We Worry?
Before we answer this question, it’s important to distinguish between worry and concern.
When we are concerned about something, we are more likely dealing with a real problem with realistic solutions. Then, once we do whatever we can to address the problem, we’re willing to live with the outcome.
Worrying, on the other hand, involves unrealistic thinking. We may worry about a problem that doesn’t really exist, or dwell on all the bad things that can happen as a result. Then, we feel unable to deal with the outcome. Either way, we have difficulty dealing with uncertainty, which is a normal part of life.
Certainly, some of our problems may not have desirable outcomes, such as a serious health issue. Some problems may be beyond our control, such as civil unrest or economic downturn. In such cases, it can be hard to avoid worrying, but not impossible.
3 Steps to Start to Live in the Moment
Step 1: Overcome Worrying
In order to overcome worrying, we need to do two things:
Calm Your Mind
When you calm your mind, you are able to see more clearly.
The reason some problems seem so daunting is that our mind is racing so fast that we cannot see things as they truly are. Then, we make up a bunch of possible scenarios in our mind, most of which are unlikely to come true.
In addition to seeing more clearly, a calm mind will help us think more realistically. Unrealistic thinking is fueled by confusion and uncontrolled emotions. Calming your mind will reduce confusion and calm your emotions, allowing you to live in the present.
Focus on Solutions Instead of Problems
Some people tend to be more solution-oriented, and others more problem-oriented. Some of the factors that may determine this are gender, upbringing, and education.
People with more education tend to be problem-solvers. That is what their years of education train them to do. In addition, their jobs probably reinforce this way of thinking.
If you’re not problem-solving oriented, don’t worry. You can train yourself to worry less. We’ll discuss that soon.
Step 2: Identify Obstacles to Living in the Moment
In today’s busy world, it can be a challenge to live in the moment. The reasons revolve around how our mind works, as well as outside influences.
Many busy people have a racing mind that never seems to slow down. Their mind gets so agitated from too much sensory stimulation.
You see, anything that stimulates any of our five senses will trigger a thought, and that thought leads to another, and then another, and so on.
If you have a busy life, all your activities will overstimulate your mind and make it seemingly impossible to slow it down.
Unpleasant Situations and a Troublesome Past
None of us want to be in unpleasant situations, or remember those of the past. They can bring up painful emotions, which we don’t want to feel.
So how do most people cope with painful emotions?
By doing whatever we can to avoid them, we can take our mind to another place and time where things are more pleasant.
In other words, we avoid living in the present moment.
Some people resort to things that stimulate sensory pleasure, such as food, alcohol, or sex. Others will consume substances that dull their mind and keep them from thinking about unpleasant or stressful situations.
A Wandering Mind
From the moment we are born (likely sooner) until the time we die, our body and mind are active performing some function. Therefore, it’s natural for our mind to have some level of activity, whether conscious or unconscious.
Generally, a wandering mind is unproductive. One thought starts an endless chain of thoughts, and this process can go on until we need our mind to perform a specific function or get distracted with something else.
Now, there are times when a wandering mind can be productive, such as when creating works of art, or trying to find creative solutions to problems. In such cases, we need our mind to explore different possibilities.
Most of us are not fully aware of how our environment and social norms influence our thinking and behavior. People and institutions are constantly competing for our attention. The media draws our attention to the past, and advertising usually to the future.
Many people around us who dwell on the past or future try to draw us to their way of thinking. Even the whole concept of the American dream is geared toward the future. It tells us that if we acquire things like a good career, family, and house, then we’ll be happy.
Step 3: Practice Mindfulness
So how can we live in the moment in a world that is constantly trying to draw our attention to the past and future?
Before we get into concrete actions you can take, it’s important to understand what mindfulness is. You’ve probably heard the term before, but may not fully understand what it means.
The concept of mindfulness is actually quite simple. To be mindful is to live in the moment.
When you are mindful, your attention is focused on what is happening in the present moment, and you are fully in touch with reality.
You are aware of what is happening in your body, mind, emotions, and the world around you. This is different than thinking about these things. To develop greater understanding, you don’t have to think about them so much, but rather just observe them.
This may be counterintuitive to many people, especially intellectuals, because they’re so used to using logic to develop greater understanding. With mindfulness, we calm our mind and emotions so we can see clearer. Then, much of our understanding will come from simple observation. When we develop mindfulness, we literally expand our awareness.
To develop mindfulness, we need to train ourselves to observe things more objectively, that is, without our emotions or preconceived ideas influencing our views.
If you’re ready to live a better life, read on for some simple mindfulness practices that you can incorporate into your daily routine to help you live in the moment.
You don’t have to do all of them, but rather choose the ones that appeal to you and suit your lifestyle.
Mindfulness meditation is the mainstay of developing mindfulness and living in the moment. To practice mindfulness meditation, all you really have to do is sit quietly and follow your breathing. When your mind wanders off, just bring it back to your breath.
Notice how your lungs expand with each in-breath and contract with each out-breath. Let your breathing become relaxed and natural.
You don’t have to do it perfectly. The idea is to start spending time away from the constant sensory stimulation of all your activities, and just allow it to settle down naturally. Start with about 5 to 10 minutes per day and work your way up to about 20 minutes or longer.
This practice is highly effective, and can have both short-term and long-term benefits.
If you want to learn more about mindfulness meditation, take a look at this article:
While this may sound the same as mindfulness meditation, all you’re really doing is taking short breaks occasionally (10 to 15 seconds) to observe your breathing. Stop whatever you’re doing, and take a few mindful breaths, then resume your activity. That’s it.
You can do mindful breathing at any time of the day during your busy schedule. What it does is interrupt the acceleration of your mind. It is like taking your foot off the accelerator while driving. It’s a nice refreshing break you can take without anyone noticing.
Here’re some breathing exercises you can try to learn: 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly)
Walking is an activity that you perform several times throughout the day. We often think we’re being productive by texting or calling someone while walking. But are we really?
Instead of getting on your cell phone or letting your mind wander off, why not use your walking to train yourself to live in the moment and focus on the task at hand?
Mindful walking is similar to mindful breathing, but instead of focusing on your breath, focus on your walking. Pay attention to each footstep. Also, notice the different motions of your arms, legs, and torso. When your mind wanders off, just bring your attention back to your walking.
You can even make a meditation out of walking. That is, go walking for a few minutes outside. Start by slowing down your pace. If you slow down your body, your mind will follow.
In addition to paying attention to your walking, notice the trees, sunshine, and critters. A mindful walk is enjoyable and can really help your mind settle down.
You can discover more benefits of walking in nature here.
Eating is an activity that most of us perform mindlessly. The reason is that it doesn’t require your attention to perform. Therefore, many of us try to multitask while we eat. We may talk on the phone, text, watch TV, or even hold a meeting.
The problem with not eating mindfully is that we don’t eat what our body and mind need to perform at an optimal level. We may eat unhealthy foods, or too much. This can lead to various health problems, especially as we get older.
Mindful eating has many health benefits, such as reduced food cravings, better digestion, and even weight loss.
So how do you eat mindfully? Start by slowing down, and avoid the temptation to distract yourself with another activity. Here are 3 different aspects of eating where you can practice mindfulness:
- Eating itself: Focus your attention on choosing a portion of food to insert into your mouth. Notice the smell, flavor, and texture as you chew it; then finally swallow it. As with following your breath during meditation, pay close attention to every aspect of eating.
- Choice of foods: Although you’ve already chosen your food before you have begun eating, you can still take the opportunity to contemplate your choices. Think about the nutrients your body needs to sustain itself.
- Contemplating the sources: Most of us don’t think about all the work it takes to provide us with the food we eat. While you’re eating, consider all the work by the farmer, shipping company, and the grocery store. These are real people who worked hard to provide you with the food necessary for your survival.
You can find more tips about mindful eating here: 7 Simple Steps to Mindful Eating
Choose an activity that you perform regularly, such as washing dishes. Focus all your attention on this activity, and resist the temptation to let your mind wander,. When it does, just bring your attention back to washing dishes.
Notice some of the specific movements or sensations of washing dishes, such as how the soapy water feels on your hands, the circular motion of scrubbing the dish, or the rinsing. You’d be surprised at how such a mundane activity can truly expand your awareness.
You can choose any activity you like, such as ironing, folding clothes, mowing the lawn, or showering. Over time, you will begin doing all these activities with greater mindfulness.
Practicing mindfulness is like regularly putting small amounts of change in a jar. They will all add up over time, and this will add up to greater peace and happiness, as well as get you closer to achieving your goals.
Remember, you don’t have to do the mindfulness practices perfectly to get the benefits. All you have to do is keep bringing your mind back to the present moment when it wanders off.
Practicing mindfulness may be a bit challenging in the beginning, but I can assure you it will get easier.
The benefits of living in the moment are well within your reach, no matter how much your mind is racing. If you stick with these mindfulness practices, you too will learn how to live in the moment and stop worrying. When you do, a whole new world will open up for you. This is what Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh calls the ultimate reality.