Thursday, August 22, 2013

Living in the Moment

In a conversation with one of my best friends we breached the topic of "living in the moment", which is something both of us have struggled with. From her perspective I seem a lot happier, and I would say to some extent I'm doing better at "living in the moment", and so she asked me: How do I do it? How does one properly live in the moment?

So, I've been thinking about this for a while now: what is the golden key to living in the moment? The first answer I received about this: there is no golden key. There is never "the solution" to any problem. I mean, if we all had to solve our issues in the same way, wouldn't we just end up as the same people? I think our culture is a little obsessed with finding a "universal" truth on how to "be happy", but I think that is a little misguided. Even within my religion, I feel that there isn't just "one way". Sure, there are boundaries, but we don't have to do things the same way.

In any case, here are some thoughts that I have had on how I have "lived in the moment":

1st: As the phrase suggests, "living" requires something more active than just "thinking". I did a quick Google search for "living in the moment" and the top answers on the first couple of solutions all dealt with thinking. Phrases such as: don't think too much, don't worry too much. Ok, well, stop thinking of a pink elephant! You can't. I find the advice to "not think so much" generally only makes someone more anxious about how they are thinking of thinking too much and this just evolves into a destructive anxiety attack. I think that there may be some mental aides that we can draw upon, but in the end, I don't believe you can live by thinking.

So, what are these mental aides that can help a person (since we are so set on using our brains to solve every problem)?

- Reevaluate Priorities: I remember that my most stressful periods of life was when I was working to achieve something. Yet, once I "arrived" at the something, I would become unsettled and anxiously look for a new something to work for. My work habits pushed me to live in future accomplishment rather than enjoy the here and now. So, after much work, I've realized that most of what I was working towards was not worthy of defining my self-worth. I don't obsess (as much) over grades, assignments, being the "best". Instead, I'm trying to redefine my goals to be actions: spending time with people, learning from assignments, developing relationships, sleeping (haha, that is a real goal).

- Accept Paradoxes in life: Sometimes things don't make sense. Good things happen to bad people and to good people. Bad things happen to good people and to bad people. We just usually focus on what isn't "just" to our minds. Well, news flash, rain doesn't choose who to fall on. The sun doesn't choose who to shine upon. It just happens. Best friends get cancer, Mormons can be gay, Wendy's is out of Frosties (heaven forbid). Instead of growing angry at an inability to control, how about we accept what happens and try to make the best of it. This may sound crass, but what is the point of anger when we can't change things? I recently had a good friend and support pass away from cancer. I started to get really upset because he was one of my favorite people in the world. But, what would that help? Instead, I decided to remember him. I listened to his music, I told stories of fun times we shared, and I plucked up the courage to go to his funeral (which is a big step for me because I hate funerals). Rather than grow angry, I built up a positive memory of the experience.

2nd: So, if we are supposed to be active instead of reflective to live in the moment, what does that mean? This might be situational: if you are involved in something you absolutely hate, it will be uncomfortable and probably a bad idea to "live in the moment". So, you should probably change moments! Live what you want to live. Obviously we all have to pass through unpleasantries: passing by someone you barely know while deciding to look at him/her and smile or ignore them; dealing with the tedious bureaucracy of any organization; traffic; in-laws; etc. However, we can fill our lives with activities that we do enjoy: pick a career you love, find people whose company you enjoy, eat more food you like (even healthy food can sometimes taste good). Although we need to accept when bad things happen or when paradoxes do arise, we can make the best of them by choosing where we go, who we love, what we do.

The rest of these are just tricks that help me to avoid thinking too much about life:

- If I catch myself obsessing or worrying over something during a party, while I'm trying to sleep, or during a time when worrying or planning is not conducive, I write down (or put it in my phone) what I'm worrying about as a reminder to address it in a more appropriate time. That calms my fears about not addressing it while allowing me to enjoy the time when I should not be thinking about it. There is a time for worrying. Don't let it ruin your sleep schedule or your dates.

- When you are stressed, do something that you LOVE. Go running, do a puzzle, call up your best friend or mother or grandpa, eat a crepe (always a good solution). Find a way to relax yourself before tackling your worries. Being uptight about it will only lead to extreme conclusions and drastic action.

- Make jokes about the hard parts of your life. When my dad went in for surgery for appendicitis, our family was on Facebook chat sending surgery and appendix jokes to one another. Although I was slightly uncomfortable about some of the jokes (but really), it definitely made the mood lighter and cheery. Same thing happened when I got my tonsils out: my sister started sending me hilarious tonsillitis memes that made me less anxious about what was about to happen.

- Watch fun Youtube videos. My recent favorite channels are Ellen and SoulPancake. For me, they just show how to enjoy life. Check them out.

- Check out this song by Jason Mraz:

Anyways, those are just some of my ideas. The real solution for you could be found in a multitude of ways. If you have fun ways to "live in the moment", feel free to leave a comment and share.