When you look at your life, are you enjoying the moment? Can you really appreciate life? If not, what do you need to change?
Maybe you need to change everything.
Gratitude takes a simple shift in your mindset. Notice the positive things, and you’ll feel positive. Notice the joys, and you’ll feel joyous. Notice goodness of the life you have, and you have more things to look forward to.
Gratitude rewires the brain. The ventral and dorsal medial prefrontal cortex are activated and “involved in feelings of reward (the reward when stress is removed), morality, interpersonal bonding, and positive social interactions, and the ability to understand what other people are thinking or feeling.” After that, your brain releases neurochemicals like dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, which allow you to experience happiness.
You may start a day with negative emotions and perceptions, but choosing to be grateful can help you in many ways. Appreciation leads to finding determination and feeling whole, you see. It can help you love your life even at your lowest.
Appreciation is all you need to make the most of your life.
You can appreciate life more and be grateful in the following ways:
When you give to others, you don’t immediately realize how much impact your life can have on them. That makes it more meaningful.
You can easily give to a stranger, a loved one, or anyone by merely showing up for them. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have endless means to provide for other people. What matters is that you care.
Selflessness is so vital in becoming the best version of yourself. Why? You’re a part of something bigger than yourself. You’re living with meaning and purpose. You lose yourself in doing good, so you can think of yourself less while still getting to know yourself. It comes full circle.
When you give selflessly, ethics and empathy are the best tools to have under your belt. You grow and evolve and see what’s most important in life this way.
Sometimes, it’s easy to forget what’s real and get lost in the fleeting, fake side of life. But when you give, you remember everything. You remember your why — your reason for reaching out to those in need. You are no longer alone, and your love for life just shines through you.
What should you give, you may ask?
Give your time if you can’t give anything else. In that sense, anyone can provide something valuable to others. You will feel grateful for all you can do in this life with what you have.
It doesn’t mean that giving will solve your problems or anyone else’s. Kindness in this world can do so many things that we don’t even know of.
You don’t do it for rewards. You do it because it feels right to give.
This is how to lead a life that you can feel good about.
Sit with your feelings, your thoughts. Listen to what your gut is trying to tell you. Love yourself. Then, look around you and see what you have.
Focus on the senses, and ground yourself in things that make you happy. You can be at the moment if you do it more than you usually do. Thus, you can appreciate life and the small things that come with it.
Try to realize how tiny you are compared to the vastness of the sea or sky. There is much to be in awe of in this world. Forget what is false and fleeting, and see the brilliance of being alive.
Mindfulness is one trick that most psychologists and gurus use to help others get over their fears. It is about finding acceptance, going with the flow, and sticking with it. Instead of focusing on what you’re afraid of or worried about, you need to cherish the moment and focus at present.
Here is a helpful guide if you want to learn how to live in the moment: 5 Reasons to Live in the Moment and Stop Planning Too Much
If you are mindful, you can take control of your life by letting go. This will reduce your stress and increase your mental strength. Your life can improve when you know what doesn’t serve you anymore. Then, you may learn to appreciate life without depending on others.
3. Love Yourself
When you love yourself, you can be more grateful for the life that you have. You can rise to meet any challenge that comes your way. You just have to try to be good to yourself like you would to anyone else.
Self-compassion is key to surviving whatever you are going through. Once you feel that, you will know who you are meant to be.
According to Deepak Chopra, unconditionally loving yourself is about accepting your flaws, inner resistance and challenges, old wounds, etc. It’s not about just plastering a smile on your face and faking self-love. No, you have to get real with yourself.
Being vulnerable takes some power and honesty. You may start loving yourself more if you genuinely face things and appreciate how far you’ve come.
Appreciate who you are as you are. It doesn’t mean that you are perfect or that you are worth it. When you accept yourself as a whole, you can climb higher than you ever imagine and view yourself with pride.
You got here. You made it this far.
What do you love about yourself? What about the imperfections — can you give yourself grace for some of them? Be patient with yourself and realize what you have to offer. No one can live this life but you.
You have your unique path, so try to love yourself and enjoy the ride.
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4. Hyperfocus on the Positive
When you have a positive outlook, you become productive. When you look at what’s good in life, you can do more with it. When you stay hyperfocused on the positive, you can achieve anything.
You appreciate life more when you have this mindset because you choose not to focus on its negative aspects every second of your waking day. You look at everything around you, figure out what you can use, and ask yourself the following questions:
- What is an act of kindness that I or someone I know has done?
- What is an experience I can look back on and feel good about?
- What has made me feel happy lately?
- What activities have I enjoyed?
- What’s a positive thought about myself and my life?
- What healthy choices have I been making?
- What good things can I do more of?
- What can I appreciate even during the days when I feel like giving up?
- What good can gratitude do for me?.
5. Make a Gratitude List
You’ve probably heard of this one before, but it’s not easy to make a gratitude list. Still, that’s precisely what you should be doing.
Write down everything you are grateful for at the end of each day. Stay open to how life progresses and how your attitude or beliefs change before it’s too late.
The things you are grateful for don’t have to be colossal. It can be something that has happened in your past or is happening right now. It may even be something that you are looking forward to.
There are also simple ways to create a list. In truth, some of them were even used by children. For instance, you can play “rose and thorn” every day. What was the lively (rose) or awful (thorn) part of your day? Try to find more roses than thorns whenever possible.
More importantly, you can write a gratitude list anytime, any day. No matter what your reason is, just write it. Then, you will find yourself feeling genuinely grateful for the things you have written down.
6. Take a Break
Have you spent time with the people you care about lately? Have you chosen to look around you and see how good your life is?
It doesn’t mean you don’t have to keep evolving appreciate the now. In order to develop, you have to know what’s worth fighting for. The quickest way to do that is by taking a break to enjoy life more.
Whether you take a vacation or go to your backyard to experience the wonders of life, take the time to do so. Perhaps you just need to exhale and know that you are safe. Maybe you were missing out on things before, or there was a version of yourself you would like to get back. Whatever it is, you can gain it all by showing gratitude.
Explore nature. Take a trip. Get out of the house. Put down your smartphone and look up in the sky. Take the more scenic route and find a way back to what matters.
7. Celebrate Your Wins
Please take note of what you have achieved in life and what you continue to do well.
Doing so says a lot about you. It entails that you have a reason to get up in the morning and keep going. With that perspective, you can do anything.
You can also be grateful for any accomplishment, even if it’s as simple as being alive. You are still here; you will always have something to say.
Even if you can’t succeed at everything, whatever progress you have made matters. It tells an important story about not just who you are but who you can become as well.
You are resilient, worthy, and good enough. All you have to do is see it — see your value — to appreciate your worth and shape your life’s narrative.
8. Stay Thankful
You may not know how far a simple “thank you” can go.
When you appreciate everyone, you make more profound and more meaningful connections. When your life takes a positive turn, you cannot forget the people who have helped you along the way. After all, if you can remember them, you can remember yourself. You can choose to keep giving and showing up for life because you know who supports you.
Furthermore, say thank you to life itself. Be grateful every time you walk outside. You can decide to make it a good day just by being grateful. You get this one life, and what you do with it is up to you.
Your life has value. If you give up, you will never appreciate life. Your time is short, so every little bit matters.
When you give thanks, you make meaning. You pick out parts of your life that are still good and hold onto them despite everything. Then, you pay it forward by doing a good deed for someone else. You can pay attention to the world and its beauty even if you are dealing with a mess by simply being thankful.
It’s not always easy to see what’s right in front of you. It’s easier to complain, close off, and be blind to the beauty that this life has to offer.
However, when you open up, you recognize that you are never alone. You have enough. You ARE enough. And that’s the power of appreciation.
Appreciation can fill you with positive thoughts and emotions when you think you have nothing. It’s the fuel that can help you keep going.
More on Appreciating Your Life
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.