The one thing that separates humans from all other animals is our awareness of self. This means we are conscious of what we think about and how we feel - and we try to understand why we think and feel those things. In doing so we often find ourselves thinking and reliving things from our past or trying to anticipate and predict things in the future.
This ability to think about and feel emotions from the future and past is why so many people struggle to find balance. We are constantly thinking about decisions we have already made that we can’t change, or things in the future that have yet to take place that we have no control over.
When you think about something from the past that has an emotional association your brain relives and feels the emotion from that past event. If you constantly relive an event with a negative emotion your personality or energy will start to permanently project that emotion because we get “stuck” in it. Think about it, most of the negative people you know only focus on the negative things of their past or anticipate negative things in the future.
The part of the brain that allows for this type of thinking is not present in your dog and has yet to develop in young children and it’s why they have such an easy time living in the moment. When your dog or kid wakes up in the morning they are not thinking about tomorrow or yesterday...only right now which is why being present and in the moment is vital when we are with them.
I know we must make plans for the future and we certainly should learn from our past but we must be aware of how much time we spend living in the future or past.
Two common conditions of spending too much time looking forward or back are anxiety and depression. For some, anxiety is fueled by the fear of losing control so they try to anticipate every possible scenario to avoid losing that control. Depression can come from always reliving past negative events and emotions mixed with fears of how to deal with the future. I understand their is more to these conditions but our patterns of thought have a tremendous influence on how we feel and behave.
I have learned how to live in the moment and here are some tips to help you do the same.
- Practice meditation
- Eat a balanced diet
- Practice yoga, pilates, tai-chi or other mind-body exercises
- Learn proper breathing techniques
This easy ritual can also help you find the moment:
- If possible go outside or open a window and take 5-6 deep breaths in through your nose and slowly out through your mouth.
- Close your eyes and while you are still taking nice calm steady breaths I want you to put all your focus into each one of your senses, one at a time.
- Start with sound. Listen to each sound and really listen to it. Listen to the birds and how many different songs they make. Listen to the planes, wind, frogs, cars and really let your sense take over.
- Move on to smell then touch while you keep your eyes closed.
- Do vision last. Look at the details of the things you see every day. The patterns of the bark on the trees or colors of the leaves. Let the sense take over.
- Every time you feel your heart beat start to go up for any reason, you should begin step one.
This simple ritual will teach you how to use your senses which will can bring you back to the moment. When you focus your energy on the sights, smells and sounds of right now you are not thinking about the future or past. This is a great way to prepare for any event that takes you out of your comfort zone.
Practice this exercise the next time you take your dogs out for a walk. Spend the time using your senses and watch what your dog does. Most dogs will stop and smell when you smell, listen when you listen and focus on what you are watching. Live in the moment and be a leader to yourself and your pack.