You’ve heard the cliché statements “living in the moment” and “living life to the fullest,” but have you ever stopped to consider what they really mean? It would be nice if we could simply have fun and enjoy pleasures every ‘moment’ of every day, but we have responsibilities. We have to plan for the future, whether it’s to buy a house, raise a family or to be able to retire. Right? “Living in the moment” is just a bunch of mumbo jumbo for people with too much time on their hands. If you do not fully understand the meaning of ‘living in the moment,’ it’s easy to pass it over as a cliché that just doesn’t apply to your practical life. So let’s take a closer look.
Living in the moment is not about being carefree and irresponsible. ‘Living in the moment’ is about having gratitude for what you have, right now at this point in time in your life, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.
Living in the Moment with Gratitude
Let me share a story about living in the moment and gratitude. This Zen Parable of the Magnificent Strawberry is from an article by Keith Rosen in allBusiness magazine, which is summarized from D.T. Suzuki (Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki). In summary, the story goes something like this.
A monk was walking through the mountains and out of nowhere, a tiger appeared and began chasing the monk toward the edge of a cliff. The monk climbed over the side of the cliff to avoid the tiger chasing him, only to find five additional tigers 15 feet below him. Hanging there, the monk sees a strawberry to his left, smiles and says “Wow, what a magnificent strawberry!”
That is the end of the story. You would expect the man to be in fear for losing his life and he’s commenting on a strawberry! What’s the point? The point is simple. We are all chased by our own ‘tigers,’ be it worry over our jobs, concern for our health, fretting over our finances or fear of the unknown. Only when we are truly able to experience the good in and around us in our life are we truly living. Being grateful for what you have, not being stuck in fear of what you don’t have or what may happen in the future. This is what “living in the moment” is. This is what truly being alive is. And this is what brings us richness, richness in life.
Navigating Away from Fear, Anger or Anxiety
So how do you begin to traverse away from fear, anger, anxiety or other feelings of insecurity and to navigate towards such richness in life? One way is to begin by looking at how you view the details in your daily activities. Let’s take a look.
A Day Gone Wrong
Have you ever noticed that once something goes ‘wrong’ in your day, more and more things go wrong? By the time you retire for the evening, your entire day seems like a comical, or sometimes not so comical, series of mishaps. Do you ever have a day like this? You sleep through your alarm, one snooze too many. As you’re rushing to the restroom, you trip over a slipper. Then, knowing you have an important meeting first thing, and you get shampoo in your eyes. No problem, you’ll just casually mention your allergies are acting up so she doesn’t think you were crying. What’s that you smell? Oh darn, toast is burnt. You get the picture. The morning didn’t start out as planned, and rather than acknowledging one minor mishap, we expect that the rest of the day will follow suit. And so it does.
Navigating the Day in a Healthier Fashion
The above scenario is a simple example of how the law of attraction can impact our everyday activities. Once we start focusing on the negative or on our fears of the worst case scenario, that’s what we experience. Our thoughts impact our actions. Now imagine the day in the above scenario in a different light. Rather than being upset at sleeping in a few minutes, you instead take a moment to pause and to appreciate the fact that you slept a few extra minutes, and now you’re ready to greet the day. Chances are there would be no tripping on a slipper, no shampoo in your eyes and no burnt toast. Why? Because your thoughts set the tone for your actions. By consciously directing your thoughts towards the kind of day you desire and being grateful for your current situation, you are taking a positive step towards displacing fear and/or anger with contentment and gratitude.
“The antidote to fear is gratitude. The antidote to anger is gratitude. You can’t feel fear or anger while feeling gratitude at the same time.”
When not giving in to fear and instead practicing gratitude for what we have as opposed to what we fear losing, we find peace and contentment, and sometimes even great success. That gratitude does not necessarily have to be for material things. Take the case of Sarah Hughes, who at the age of 16 won the 2002 Olympic Gold for figure skating. Going into her final skate, in all likelihood, she did not have a chance for gold. She would have to win first for the long skate and the favorite Michelle Kwan would have to place third. So what happened? Sarah was grateful for the opportunity and gave it her all. She had no fear of losing, because she did not think she could win. She simply skated to show the love that she had for the sport, and she brought the house down! Those skaters following her performance, knowing they needed a perfect skate, focused on the chance of errors, and all made mistakes, leading to Sarah Hughes becoming the gold winner of the competition.
The Power of Visualization
From golf professionals to classical musicians to speakers, there’s a lot to be said for visualization. Visualization is the concept of imagining yourself being successful, walking through your performance, step by step, and envisioning the outcome in a positive way. Professionals and amateurs alike benefit from visualization training, because by learning to practice the power of intention, they are learning to control their thought processes, which in turn impacts their actions and their outcome. As they replace fearful and anxious thoughts with thoughts of success and competence, they achieve better results. There’s less room for fear. We aren’t always training to win a big competition or preparing to lead a large presentation; however, the concept of replacing our fearful, angry and/or anxious thoughts and visualizing a different outcome still applies. By focusing on gratitude and visualizing our happiness and our contentment with where we are and with what we have, we push out these negative thoughts. There simply isn’t room for them. The more we practice this gratitude, the more we’ll take notice of what to be grateful for and the more we’ll attract things for which to be grateful.
Gratitude has been studied in relationship to any number of issue plaguing our society. From self-esteem to sleep to PTSD to happiness (or lack thereof). And time and time again, the studies indicate the gratitude plays a key role in how we view the world and in how happy and content we are. Here are just a few of the studies performed.
Self-Esteem: A 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that gratitude increased athlete’s self-esteem.
Restful Sleep: Writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep, according to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War Veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
If practicing gratitude can have an impact on such severe health concerns as PTSD, isn’t it worth incorporating this practice into your life?
Your Emotional Health and Physical Well Being
We listed a few studies related to gratitude in relationship to specific issues. But that’s not all. Recent studies also indicate that practicing gratitude consistently offers a host of benefits irrespective to any specific conditions, including the following:
- stronger immune system
- lower blood pressure
- increased quality of sleep
- decreased physical pain
- reduced depressive symptoms
- higher levels of positive emotions
- more joy, optimism, and happiness
- acting with more generosity and compassion
- feeling less lonely and isolated
Gratitude does so much more than to simply help you overcome fear, anger or anxiety. Gratitude helps you live a healthier and happier life.
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