How To Enjoy The Moment: The Ultimate Guide To Enjoying Life

Memories can be fantastic, but they can also be painful. But thinking either about the past or the future too frequently can hold you back from the things happening now. If you let them consume you, these thoughts can cause you to miss what’s happening now and miss making new memories.

This article delves into what can keep you from living in the present and will provide some practical ways on how to enjoy the moment.

The Things We Hold Onto

The way the sun feels on your skin as you sit on the beach with your family. The way your first kiss felt. The way the rain sounds on a tin roof. The way your spouse looked at you when they said, “I do.” The sound of the first cry you ever heard your child make after birth. Every major positive milestone in our lives, every moment that we feel made us who we are, is a moment we hold on to and replay in our minds when we are down.

These are the moments we cherish and hold onto. These are the moments we live in and think of when things are quiet and we are lost in thought. These are the things we think of when we think of happiness. As time goes on, the memories become more treasured, and we hold on to them with an enthusiasm that is unmatched by most other things.

Memories are Great, as Long as We Don’t Live There

It’s okay to think about the things that have already occurred, especially the good things. But when we constantly live in a different time, whether the past or the future, we are not allowing ourselves to make new cherished memories that we could be making at this moment, in the present.

We risk losing our sense of the present, the things happening right now, the people right in front of us.

For example, when you continually think of your child when they were born or as an infant, you miss the things they accomplish in the present moment. When you think about how you wish they had stayed little or sit and think about the way the top of a newborn head smells, you may miss things like your daughter’s first crush or son’s great test score after he studied for weeks.

You can enjoy dwelling on your past successes or taking the trips down memory lane, and should, but living there all the time means you aren’t making new memories you can cherish because you aren’t living in the present moment.

Mindfulness of what is transpiring now and how it makes you feel is needed if you want to truly enjoy the moment. The present moment is something we should all be, well, present for.

Let Go of the Past and Enjoy the Present Moment

Not every moment we remember forever is a pleasant one. Sometimes, we end up stuck in a memory that plays on a devastating loop in our minds. The death of a loved one or pet. The first heartbreak or break up. The time your spouse said something awful to you in a fight. The time you got passed over for a big promotion or turned down for a job you really wanted.

You may see this frequently happen in relationships. People who have had bad experiences with previous partners are (rightfully, to point) wary of the people they attempt to connect with romantically now.

For example, if you were cheated on in a past relationship and dwell on that and how it made you feel, you may sabotage the relationships you try to form after that. While a certain amount of caution is warranted, not moving on and living in the relationship you’re in now will almost certainly spell doom.

how to enjoy the moment

Going with the previous example, rather than choosing to live in the here and now, you could find that you’re putting strain on your current relationship by being wary of every single thing they do.

You may seem controlling, or distant, or unable to trust your current partner, all because your thoughts keep you tied to your past relationships and the bad aspects of it. That’s not fair to you or your partner.

A lot of us live in the past. A lot of us dwell on things that aren’t pleasant and aren’t healthy. Day-to-day Life isn’t perfect, and the past has a way of sticking around, especially the not-so-great moments that made us feel small and unloved, or sad, or angry, or jealous.

It doesn’t really matter if the moments of the past that you relive are good or bad. Of course, we all want memories. But when we focus on them instead of living in the present moment, we can’t make new memories. We squander the time we have, which we should hold dear to us.

Letting Go of an Unpleasant Past

Have you ever stood in the shower or driven home from work, thinking, almost obsessing, over what you should have said during a disagreement or argument?

You think about how you should have been more clever, or you should have stood up for yourself more. Or maybe you realize that you should have been less outspoken, perhaps a little less opinionated. Either way, most of us have those moments of compulsive thinking where a scenario replays over and over in our heads, and we’re stuck in it, analyzing things and feeling more and more anxiety as the emotions of the event catch up with us.

Usually, this happens when our feelings are hurt or conflicted about something that happened recently. But it’s not only recent events and interactions that cause us to focus on the past instead of enjoying present moments.

The Science of Being Stuck in the Past

Neuroscience tells us that when a bad thing happens, we have to think about it more than when good things happen. We do this so that we can process bad experiences in an attempt to process and cope. Because we think about the negative experience so much, we tend to remember it better than good memories.

Fear is also to blame for this. It sounds simple, but you can’t just decide not to be afraid anymore. If you’ve been hurt in some way, physically or otherwise, learning to deal with and cope with it and move on so that you can enjoy each new day and breathe easy with a sense of safety and self-worth are things that seem like a pipe dream. We have to let go of trauma, and that’s not something easily done.

Every time we encounter trauma in our lives, we try to tell ourselves the old adage, “This too shall pass.” But it often doesn’t just “pass.” Often, we end up trapped in the thoughts of negativity and fear, and until we can banish those thoughts, we can’t move forward. It’s like running down a hallway that seems to get longer with each step forward we try to take.

Sometimes these thoughts aren’t something we can rid ourselves of on our own. This article will address seeking professional help for these sorts of traumatic experiences, as well.

Knowing all of this, how do we let go of the past? How can we live in the present if we know that our memory isn’t going to drop the past simply because we want it to?

Try to Avoid Worrying About About What’s Done

We all try to relive things in our heads and use our mental energy to replace the dialogue with what we should have said.

Maybe it was an argument. Perhaps someone was cruel to you, and rather than standing up for yourself, your anxiety and the stress of the situation got the best of you, and you remained silent.

Now, in the dead of night, shower, car, or vacation when you should be enjoying yourself, you replay that confrontation in your mind. But in this version of it, you have the perfect response because you are aware of what is going to happen. You take control of the situation, and you assert yourself.

You make yourself into the hero you wish you had been when the confrontation happened because it makes you feel better. But it still doesn’t free you from being stuck there in your mind, in the past.

Maybe it was something that happened.

Maybe one morning, you woke up, and your significant other was packing their things. They said that they were leaving and that their feelings for you had changed. Your awareness of the situation is more apparent now, so instead of sitting there stunned in a state of shock, you take control of the situation when you replay it obsessively in your mind.

So in your mind, you ask them to stay. You ask them to see a counselor with you to get advice and tips about how to have a healthier relationship. Maybe in this imagined version, you chase them out the door, and you’re able to get them to reconsider. You know how it ended in real life, but it doesn’t stop you from the practice of inventing a new end to the story. One that you can live with more peacefully.

We invent these alternative endings as a coping mechanism. But coping like this keeps us stuck. Constantly calculating what might have been if we had done or said something different keeps us from experiencing what can be now.

You’re not doing yourself any favors when you beat yourself up for the things you didn’t get right and try to become the hero in your falsified inner scenario.

You’re not weak because you’ve been vulnerable. You’re human because you’ve been vulnerable. You can love deeper and give of yourself more because you now know what it is to be vulnerable. And you can now appreciate another person who makes themselves available to you and feels comfortable and safe enough to be vulnerable in your presence because you’ve been in that position, too. And you know what you risk when you willingly enter that state with another person.

how to enjoy the moment

Don’t Focus on What Might Have Been

We get stuck in our heads on a moment from the past because, over time, we slowly convince ourselves that we can change it. We want to end up the victor of the story; no one wants to be the bad guy or loser. So we dwell on the past, reinvent the story, and in this new telling, there’s no need to worry about how it ends. It can end on whatever positive note we want it to.

But the issue is that it’s not healthy. You’re not really living when you do these things. The stress from the past doesn’t leave. It takes a toll on your mental health after time because instead of letting go, you’re hanging on, and you lose focus on the here and now.

The world keeps moving forward, and it starts to leave you behind. You know that you should try to live in the moment so that you can put everything that’s over with behind you. But you can’t figure out how to enjoy the moment when you’re hyper-focused on what might have been.

Try to tell yourself that the things that you’ve been through are over and done with, and you can’t change them or go back and redo them. All you can do is move forward with the knowledge you gained and the lessons you learned by having experienced them.

Don’t allow yourself to be defined by what has happened to you, the hurts you have caused, or the things you did or didn’t say or do. Instead, heal and decide that you’re a better person today than you were yesterday. And then leave yesterday where it belongs, behind you.

You Don’t Always Have to Be Thinking about the future

Sometimes our thoughts aren’t stuck in the past but in the future when we anticipate troubles. Living in the moment seems like a dangerous thing to do because you worry that when you do that, the life you’re planning will get away from you. You’re always trying to be several steps ahead. Preparation is key.

Maybe you’re a college student, and you don’t know how to enjoy the moment because you are constantly thinking about how hard you need to work to get to the end of your educational journey and start your career.

While we should keep our future in mind so that we can live in the present moment with the best shot of reaching our goals, we shouldn’t obsess to the point that we don’t enjoy the moment. Living your life consciously is all about personal development and choosing to live in the present moment wisely, for an even better future.

Focusing Too Much on the Future Robs You of the Present

While it’s good to have goals and stay focused on them, being too focused on the future takes you out of the present moment. The future is something you will never attain. Tomorrow never gets here because it turns into today.

You’ll never be satisfied, and then when you get to the end of it all, you’ll wonder how you ended up wasting your time worrying about things that didn’t happen because you were too busy focused on the future.

For example, worrying as an adult if you’ll ever find love or get married is something that many people get stuck in. You thought you would have found “the one” by now, and so you obsess over what will become of you. You try to think about what life will look like in next ten years, rather than what is going on right now. You try to imagine yourself with someone and happy. You imagine yourself alone and trying to be content.

Think about the future so much can prevent you from the connections you could be making with people you see or meet every day. And before you know it, you are ten years older, and you’re still thinking about ten years down the road.

Living in the present may not be smart all of the time, but trying to enjoy the moment as it comes is a great way to live. Work on your goals, but pay attention to what is going on around you. Be aware of how nice it is to get to be in the situation you’re in. Notice how being aware of the moment makes you feel more alive. Enjoy what life has to offer you right here and right now.

How to Live in the Moment

“And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

― Kurt Vonnegut Jr., A Man Without a Country

Below are some tips and suggestions on creating a balance between keeping your memories sacred, living in the present, and planning for the future. Too much of any one of those things could end up causing you pain that will doubtlessly continue to plague you in the future.

Meditation for present moment awareness

Meditation does more than clear your mind and help you find inner peace. It is a mindfulness exercise where you forget about your surrounding environment and any unpleasant thoughts. This ancient practice is helpful in many ways: mental, physical, emotional, and psychological.

When you meditate, you focus on your breathing and spend time in tune with your body and mind. You do this in a controlled and quiet environment so that there are limited distractions. Spend time learning to meditate, and you will most likely see a world of difference between how you feel right after and how you feel when you are worrying about past memories, negative emotions or the future.

It’s a practice of mindfulness that allows you to focus on your breath, on your body, and your actual self. Your emotions, worry, and negative feelings can all be shed and replaced with positive thoughts focused on health. Meditation also lowers blood pressure. It is a simple exercise that can be done in a few minutes and can easily be added to your daily routine.

The next time you find yourself unable to enjoy the present moment, and you feel like you’re about to backslide into the past or worry unnecessarily about the future, try to meditate, even if it’s just for a minute or two.

Get Control of Your Life Via Healthy Venting

When you live with past pain and focus on what might have been or what you should have said or done, you cannot move forward or embrace the current moment. You can’t truly appreciate the life you have.

Sometimes it can be helpful to call a friend on the phone or tell a family member what you’re going through. Vent to them in a productive manner. Keeping your thoughts and feelings to yourself only makes the pain worse. So getting on the phone to someone who cares can genuinely be helpful to get past the past.

Be the Narrator of Your Own Story

Sometimes we dwell on the past or future, and we don’t live in the moment because we don’t control who we are in the story of our life. We let other people define us and tell us and others what our role is. That sort of behavior leaves us obsessing about what we could have done to have a different role.

The issue in this is that you were present for your entire life. You are the storyteller of your life story. Allowing anyone else to define you in that story robs you of your essential self, so you dwell on it. When you tell your story, practice mindfulness, don’t embellish so that it is a total fantasy, but you can rid yourself of the anxiety that has built up by slowly setting the record straight.

When you hear someone retell a story that embarrasses you and that you often obsess over, instead take over, and tell it yourself. Be the person you know you are instead of the person someone else has decided you are. Let go of the things that made you who you used to be if you don’t like that version of you.

how to enjoy the moment

Create a Healthy Environment

When you live and exist in a positive and mindful mental environment, you can focus on things without the chaos of the past or the future weighing you down. This takes effort, though, and a bit of patience. The following are tips to help you create an environment where you can focus, let go of the things weighing you down, and work on figuring out how to enjoy the moment.

Don’t surround yourself with trauma

  • To enjoy the moment, you have to rid yourself of reminders in your space, both physical and mental. Know what triggers you to start thinking about things that aren’t beneficial, and remove them as best you can.

Be present in the moment

  • Pay attention when people are talking to you. Try not to zone out and think about other things. Living in the moment is about being available to the present.

Forgive yourself and others

  • Your past is over with, and you don’t have to live there. Forgive those who have wronged you, but be sure to focus on forgiving yourself as well. When you let go of guilt, you let go of the past.

Try spending time focused on your breathing and noticing your happiness

  • Each time you start to get pulled back into memories that aren’t healthy, stop what you’re doing and focus on your breathing. Focusing on this task will help you stop thinking about whatever is weighing you down so you can enjoy the present moment.

Free your thoughts

  • When you tell yourself not to think about something, chances are, you’ll immediately start to think about it. Enjoy the freedom of your thoughts, and distract yourself by trying to enjoy and appreciate what is truly right in front of you.

Every Moment Counts

Every single moment counts, and missing out on the little things that are happening right in front of you is not living in the present, and it’s not how to enjoy the moment so that you have memories later that are worth relishing. What doesn’t seem like a big deal right now may turn into a moment you could cherish forever if you allowed yourself to be aware of the moment, rather than dwelling on a moment from years ago or a moment that has not yet occurred.

Everyone has trauma, and if you find that no matter what you try, you cannot free yourself of the trauma, then it may be time for professional help. A counselor or therapist can help you learn to appreciate the things you cannot enjoy on your own. Letting another day pass you by without really living because you can’t cherish the present moment is no way to live.

One moment, one interaction, one chance meeting that’s all it takes to change your life and to experience a better life. Life is just a series of moments strung together, and each moment has importance because each moment builds up and leads to the events in life that matter most. Be there for those moments, be here today, be here now.

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