You may be having a difficult day or a difficult week. It can feel like an uphill climb to get out of that emotional and mental rut and be kind to yourself, but there are, fortunately, many tools at our disposal for resetting our attitude. When we show ourselves kindness, we start to create new habit patterns and neuron pathways in the brain . These new “mentalities” take us from seeing everything as negative and grim to joyful, positive, and full of opportunity.
We understand kindness from the perspective of how we treat our family and friends. What if we were to take that same approach to how we treat ourselves? How would our health improve if we listened to our body’s signals and responded with care and compassion? These are profound questions to ask. While having a bad day and feeling down is another part of life, we can start to implement tools into our routine that grow our self-compassion muscle even more.
1. Forgive Yourself Often
This may be the best and hardest tool to implement in your life, but it is so potent! We are so hard on ourselves, and we are often our own worst critic. We can easily forgive our friends and family, but we have a harder time taking that forgiveness within.
Today, practice self-forgiveness. When you get caught up in self-blame, pause and think about how you would react to the same situation with a friend. Often, we need the same kind of forgiveness. At the end of the day, we’re doing the best that we can. When we know better, we can do better. In the meantime, forgiveness is key.
2. Write Yourself a Love Letter
This is a simple yet precious way of writing your thoughts and feelings down on a piece of paper. If you really want to add a touch of extra love and be kind to yourself, pull out your fanciest stationary! If you’re having a hard time with writing, imagine you’re writing to your younger self. What would you want to say? Often, it’s words of encouragement.
We hold a lot of compassion for ourselves in hindsight, after life has tested and blessed us. Writing love letters offers us perspective in which to find gratitude! If you want, you can also mail it to yourself, or save it and open it in a few months or even years.
3. Take Care of Your Physical Health
This may look like going out for a walk every day in your neighborhood or favorite park; it may also look like taking a yoga class on a Saturday morning, or joining a favorite gym or fitness club.
When we’re feeling down, our physical body hangs on to all of that pent-up energy and emotion. We need to clear that energy in order to maintain physical health, as well as emotional and mental health. Whatever you choose is up to you! Just make sure it feels good and you’re having fun while you’re at it.
4. Nourish and Treat Yourself
This may look like taking yourself out to dinner or cooking a delicious meal for yourself at home! Often, in times of despair, one of the first things that starts to lack is our nutrition. We either don’t eat enough or we overeat, and never the right kinds of food.
Schedule a time on your calendar for treating yourself! It may be ordering food from your favorite restaurant, or spoiling yourself with something that you would never order regularly. Whatever it is, make sure it feels special, something out of the ordinary, and bonus points if it’s healthy!
5. Seek out a Therapist
When it comes to emotional and mental health, seeking out professional health is a major win and a great way to be kind to yourself. We can’t always help ourselves. We need someone to hold space for us, listen and hear us out, and offer perspectives that we wouldn’t have on our own. There is no shame in asking for help.
Therapists will often challenge you to confront the way you think about various situations and experiences, so if you have a problem with negative thinking, therapy can be particularly useful. Just make sure you’re ready to go into it with an open mind and lots of self-compassion.
6. Buy Yourself Flowers
This may seem like a cliché approach to self-kindness, but think about the last time you bought flowers for yourself. How long has it really been? There is great power in treating yourself in the same manner as you would treat someone you loved.
Small gestures, such as buying yourself flowers, are breadcrumbs towards those new habit patterns. When put together, they create a new outlook of joy, happiness, peace, and contentment. To go a step further, take yourself out on a date! You may be surprised how much you enjoy your own company.
7. When You’re in a Rut, Ask Questions
We reflexively jump to outside stimuli when we’re facing a challenge or are in a rut. You may turn to food, drugs, or alcohol; or you may keep yourself mindlessly busy, distracted, or running headfirst into emotional restlessness and poor decisions.
Instead, we can ask ourselves questions to start to dig deeper into our current situation. For example, asking “What do I need right now?” can be a powerful moment of introspection. It not only brings us back to the present, but it also cuts through the noise of mental and emotional chatter.
8. Surround Yourself with Like-Minded People
Our loved ones have a beautiful way of pulling you out of your own funk when you don’t know how to be kind to yourself. Just by being around other people, our energy can lift and shift in ways that promote a new, fresh start to our day. Make sure you find friends who will be patient with you and make space for you to be heard and loved. If you feel like your friends aren’t capable of this, it may be the moment to limit the amount of time you spend with them. Remember to surround yourself with people who can lift you up versus people who can only bring you down!
This also may seem like a simple tool, but it is an incredibly important one! Just like food, hydration is also something we toss to the back burner when we’re feeling down. It just doesn’t seem to be that important until we have a headache and don’t know where it’s coming from.
Drinking water not only regulates our body’s innate functioning systems, but it also heavily impacts our mood. Remember to stick to water and avoid high-sugar drinks, such as sodas. If you’re not sure, water is your best bet!
10. Have a “Self-Care” Day
This doesn’t have to be fancy. You can draw yourself a bath, have a picnic outside, or choose to snuggle in for a movie night. A “Self-Care” day is all about being present with yourself and enjoying the little things with more appreciation. There are many ways of enjoying the day that won’t cost you a lot of money, and all with tools already at your disposal in your home or community.
11. Make Time for Meditation
This is a wonderful practice of tuning into your mental state and works to teach you how to be kind to yourself. With so many meditation applications out there, you can find teacher-guided sessions or timers with gentle background music to ease you into meditation. Meditation teachers often say that all of our answers reside within us, so starting this practice in a time when we’re struggling can provide powerful insight.
12. Give Yourself Recognition
There are many successes we simply don’t take the time to celebrate. Instead, we wait for others to celebrate or recognize our accomplishments. Today, think about something you’d like to be recognized for. It could be a project you’ve been working on or something you’ve devoted time and effort to in your life. Then, celebrate it!
Share it with your friends and family, and give yourself a pat on the back! Another fun way of giving yourself recognition is to create a “Brag Bucket.” Each time you accomplish something, drop a note with what you did. At the end of the year, take a look at everything you’ve done and celebrate yourself!
13. Give Yourself a Massage
We already mentioned how the body holds on to emotional and mental baggage. This can show up in tension, tightness, aches, or pains. While it is certainly rewarding to go get a massage, you can also give yourself one. Ayurveda, the sister science of Yoga, highlights a particularly healing massage practice called abhyanga, which is an oil massage that you can do from the comfort of your own home.
14. Stop Tolerating What/Who Doesn’t Serve You Well
Sometimes practicing self-kindness is about cutting the cords of what no longer brings you joy in life. This may be an idea, routine, or a person. It’s OK to walk away from something that brings you down. When you can let go and distance yourself in such a way, more space opens up for you to fill that void with what actually makes you happy!
15. Rest and Recharge
We live in a society that worships productivity. While that may be needed in some instances, it also creates the assumption that a lack of productivity makes you worth less as an employee and a person and makes it very difficult to find time to be kind to yourself. We need to get back to the flow of nature, which shows us that while much may not be going on, life is still thriving and growing. Likewise, so are we.
We are not designed to thrive in a “grind” society. We don’t always need to work, move, create, and do. More often than not, we need rest! We need to simply be, and we need to know that this is more than OK.
We all have days where we feel down and out. In these moments, we can either wallow in our despair and let it consume us, or we can practice simple yet effective tools to nourish ourselves. At the core of self-kindness and compassion is the fact that we’re all just doing our very best, day in and day out. As the old Buddhist saying goes, “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserves your love and affection.”
More on How to Be Kind to Yourself
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.