Why We Should Live in the Moment
Have you ever had someone tell you to live in the moment?
Although these words may sound like a catch phrase to many people, they should be taken seriously. According to a recent study from Harvard University, 46.9 percent of people are thinking about something other than what they are doing. On the surface, living in the moment may not sound like it has a lot of meaning. However, the propensity to not concentrate on the present can develop into a life fraught with disappointment and unhappiness.
Our mental state is often permeated by the future. Once we start thinking too much about what will happen tomorrow, worry can get the best of us. Many people who have been fortunate enough to live long lives offer us a warning about the habit of worrying or thinking too far ahead; they tell us that life is short. This is because they see younger people worrying too much about the future. They know that life goes by in a blink, and they know that the time to enjoy life is now. We shouldn’t put it off until tomorrow or next week; we need to start enjoying it right now.
A Generation that Believed in the Moment
About 50 years ago, there was a generation that believed in living in the moment. The were known as hippies. Known today as baby boomers, they were the youth movement that was responsible for the social revolution in the 1960s. The word now appeared frequently in the signs that they brought with them to protest things like the war in Vietnam. Stop the Vietnam War Now is an example of one of the signs that they carried back then. Before they began their revolution, society was very staid, and they worried about how things looked. The establishment wanted to keep the society running in a very uniformed way. The hippies came along, and they did not want to be told what to do or how to live their lives. They believed in peace, love, togetherness and several other things that were looked down on by society. They grew long hair as a protest to conformity. They did not worry about tomorrow or next week; they lived in the moment. What happened? Why have we not learned from their experiences?
A New Conformity: Generation X
One explanation for not living for the moment can be found in those that followed the baby boomers. They started to surface in the 1980s. Collectively, they are known as Generation X. In the 1908s, conformity was popular. People stopped living in the moment. They worried about some impending doom that may happen tomorrow, next week or next year. The political climate in the 80s was conservative. The term homeless was coined during this time. This was largely due to the fact that there was a rise in homelessness. The government no longer believed in giving what they termed handouts to those who did not work or could not find a job, and the unemployment rate was high. This generation’s mantra could have been Poverty sucks! Financial planners and Wall Street types were at their career peaks during this time. They scared the general population with the fear of going broke. They convinced them to worry about their financial futures. Later, these advisers went broke themselves.
But really, folks, what is the point of planning so far ahead?
We have no control over the future, so why worry so much about it?
Religious Perspectives on Living in the Moment
Many religious fundamentalists tend to discourage living in the moment. Lots of people believe in religions that require planning the future of their souls. This usually means that they cannot have sex unless it’s to procreate, no touching anything below their waists and several other ridiculous rules. If the followers of these religions should break too many of these rules, they will have to repent or risk eternal damnation in the fires of hell. Aside from creating unnecessary fears, just keeping track of all of these things can dissuade anyone from living in the moment. In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that it could cause a myriad of anxiety disorders.
Eastern philosophers have left us a better guide for living in the moment. Their philosophy goes directly against most of what is taught by Western religions. The Eastern philosophical approach is more concerned with how to experience our reality. They are much less concerned with thinking too much. They evaluate effectiveness rather than someone else’s stated truth. Eastern philosophy teaches us to enjoy the journey of life. They advise not to concentrate on points of destination in future scenarios.
The Millennial Generation: Generation Y
Most people reading this blog post will be of the millennial generation. Millenials are people who are known for being quite adept at using computers and Smartphones. Considered highly social, millennials prefer social media as a mode of communication. They like to send and receive short messages through Twitter or Facebook or Google+. Look around, and you will see many people engrossed in their Smartphones. They are sending instant messages, making calls, and posting on their social media sites. They buy and talk about products over social media. They tend to recommend or reject products by creating a buzz through Facebook or Twitter. They are busy doing their own advertising, announcing and questioning so many things through their Smartphones and computers. Above any other generation, the millennials appear to be living in the moment, but they aren’t. Their minds are wandering when they are using social media to stay in touch.
Wandering Too Far From The Moment
On average, the subjects in the aforementioned Harvard study were most happy when exercising, making love, or engaging in actual conversation. They were least happy when working, resting or using computers. Mind wandering was the predictor of people’s overall happiness. In fact, how much our minds wander while we are doing something else is the deciding factor of our happiness. Not living in the moment and letting our minds wander was not the consequence of unhappiness, but it has been identified as the cause of unhappiness.
There is little doubt that our minds are wandering too far in the future far too often. We are thinking too much about what could happen, what we want to happen or what might not happen. Maybe we just need to learn to concentrate on the things that we are doing. Training ourselves to think about the process will help us to enjoy life.
The key to happiness is to stop thinking so much about other things. It may take a little time to get there, but you can learn how to let go of wandering thoughts. You can make now the time for everything. Your moments should be savored. It would be beneficial to slow down a little, and take the time to let your mind rest while going about daily activities.
Rewards all come in the present slice
so don’t look for future paradise
Take heaven now is my advice
…and you will be RIGHT.
– Flipper, “In Life My Friends” (1984)
Reasons to Live in the Moment
You have seen that not living in the moment can make you unhappy, but did you know that failing to live in the moment can also make you sick?
Most people who are diagnosed with mental and physical illnesses have a higher incidence of having unhappy lives. According to a psychological study, unhappiness was found to be an important predictor in sickness.
When all is said and done, who wants to look back and remember that they were unhappy for nearly half their lives?!
The time to change that is now. Now is the moment to start caring for yourself a little more and living in the precious few moments that we collectively call life.
Maybe the next time your alarm goes off in the morning, you can start a new trend for yourself.
Open your eyes, and savor the first few moments of stretching into a brand new day.
Call in sick to your job.
And live the day for NOW.