Small Easy Ways to Start Being Present in Your Own Life After 50Jul 19, 2023
Last spring after some stressful "stuff," I decided to move forward with my plan to fade out of my job (I just cannot bring myself to use the word "retire" for some reason) and declared last summer "my summer of being present."
I realized that I had spent the majority of my entire 60 years at that point dealing with constant worry and anxiety, often about events that never happened.
To the point where I never felt the complete joy in what should have been a joyful day, activity, or moment. Instead, I was always worried or distracted about something in the future that "might" happen.
As I began working on this new habit of mine, I realized a couple of things!
Realizations Along the Way
The main realization that I had during this process of training myself to be present, was how much work this actually was! I knew going in that worry and anxiety had ruined many of the moments in my life, but I had no idea really how prevalent it had been. It was quite eye opening and a little bit sad to think about how much time I had wasted worrying and how many joyful moments I didn't fully take in and appreciate. But, I was going onward and upward.
Working on this was a constant effort, at first. After all, I'd been doing it the other way for 60+ years! Now, more than a year later, I just require a gentle reminder to myself to be present when I catch my mind wandering. Although, if I'm honest, I'm still gently reminding myself more than I'd like to be!
The next realization I had was the positive effect this practice was having on my self-awareness. And, on this side of 50, being self-aware is the best thing that we can do for ourselves.
We aren't going to necessarily magically shed our negative core beliefs and our anxiety. But being self-aware can allow us to understand where our fears and anxieties are coming from, that we will be okay, and give us the courage to move forward in finding our joy and following our dreams at this stage of the game!
The last realization that I've had is how grateful I've become as I've started this practice. Truly truly grateful. Because I'm in the moment more and truly taking it in.
I love more than almost anything, spending time with my grands. Previously I would be with them and would be worrying about countless different things that had zero to do with what was going on. Or, I'd worry about the boys wrestling and getting hurt. Or, what we were going to do for dinner. Or, when mom and dad were going to get back and if they'd be safe. Or, or, or......
Truth be told, I still do a bit of worrying. That's never going to completely disappear. But, I also take a minute to revel in their laughter. Or watch the boys wrestle and know that they will in all likelihood be just fine and am grateful that they are brothers but also friends. I listen when my grandson tells me all of the things that I need to know about Minecraft and Fortnight and am grateful that he is sharing his world with me. I play catch in the driveway with the four year old and am grateful that I am able to move my body even though my back may hurt a bit.
Fully present in this moment with my youngest grand on our birthday
Some Ways to Start Small
The best way to start introducing any new habit into your life is to start small. When we try to go all in and huge, we generally become frustrated and give up. Here are some small ways to start out as you begin to work on being more present:
- When taking a walk, gardening, or just walking out of your door in the morning when you wake up, take your earbuds out. Listen to the sounds of the birds, the children playing, the people talking. Look at the definition of the green trees against the blue sky. The colors. The beauty.
- As you're walking, exercising, or moving in any way, think about your body and consider all that it can still do! I complain constantly about my aching back but when I stop and really think about it, my body can still do so so much. When I really take the time and stop to consider it, I am so truly grateful.
- When you're having a conversation with another person, especially a family member, really listen to what they are saying. Don't worry about how you're going to respond. Listen to what they are saying. Acknowledge that you've heard it. Especially if it's a serious or emotional topic.
- Turn the TV off when you're eating. Really taste your food.
- Lose yourself in a book or in a movie.
- Carve out 20 minutes of quiet time and reflect and journal on a topic.
- Put your phone away for at least an hour each day. The longer, the better. I would say that for the majority of us, our phones are probably the biggest barrier that stands in the way of us being present in our daily lives.
- Each day, journal something you are grateful for. Really stop to think about your life and find a thing you're grateful for that day. My gratitude items can range from the delicious cup of coffee I'm drinking to my family and health. One morning, I decided indoor plumbing was the thing I was grateful for that day!
Being self-aware and allowing ourselves time to be in our moments and do things just for ourselves is important at every phase of our lives, but more so than ever. Practicing being present in the seemingly small moments is an incredible place to start.