Have you ever struggled with overthinking? If so, you’re not alone.
I struggled with overthinking a lot in high school and university. And as a result, I felt depressed at times.
But over the years, I’ve learned to reduce my overthinking by staying in the present.
And now, I overthink less. And I feel much happier with my life.
So, without further ado, let’s get started.
What is the present moment?
Being in the present moment is being in the here and now.
For example, you’re present when you focus on how your partner’s eyes crinkle when they smile. How your friend’s nose twitches when she laughs. Or how your son holds his spoon.
Why is living in the present moment important?
Kids are happy most of the time, right? Have you ever wondered why?
Well, it’s because they’re immersed in their environment. They don’t think about the past or the future. They just enjoy every moment without giving it any thought.
We were like this when we were kids, too. But then, as we got older, we began to overthink. We started to dwell on the past and worry about the future.
And this is why we tend to get unhappier and unhappier as we age. Especially during our 20s and the decade from 40-50. In fact, people score lower in happiness levels at these ages.
Think about it. How often does your mind drift to the past only to become depressed?
Do you replay your mistakes repeatedly, wondering what you could’ve done differently? Or do you relive the same embarrassing moment hundreds of times?
This happens mostly at night when I’m trying to sleep.
While lying in bed, my mind likes to ruminate on the time I accidentally had a little too much to drink and did something stupid. Or the time I messed up my speech about pandas in the 6th grade. Or the time I acted selfishly to my friend.
The list is endless.
Or how often does your mind worry and get anxious about the future?
For example, I’ve noticed I overthink the future in two ways.
The first way I overthink the future is by constantly wondering “what if.”
What if my boss and colleagues don’t like me? What if I get fired by a client? What if I said something to upset my parents, brother, or friends?
Luckily, I’ve gotten better at catching myself and stopping it before it gets out of control.
Because over time, I realized what’s the point of wasting valuable energy on conjuring worst-case scenarios?
The worst-case scenario you’ve imagined might not even happen at all. And on the chance it does happen, then you’ve just lived through it twice!
I also learned what you focus on grows. So, if you continually focus on the outcomes you don’t want, you’re still directing energy into it. And the chances of it happening increase.
So instead of expending your energy on these “what-if” scenarios…
The best thing to do is focus on what is in your control and what you can do now at this very moment.
The second way I overthink the future is by constantly thinking, “I’ll be happy when x…”
I’ll be happy when I get married. I’ll be happy when I have kids. I’ll be happy when I make x amount of money.
But lately, I’ve learned that if you believe “I’ll be happy when x…,” you’ll never be happy.
Because your ego will never be satisfied. You’ll always want more, making it harder to fully appreciate your wins and every moment along your journey.
Instead, focus on finding a balance between being content while striving for more.
I do this through gratitude journaling. I write down three things I feel grateful for in my daily life to remind myself to appreciate every moment while I work towards my bigger goals.
So, to answer the question, “Why is living in the present moment important?”
Because it’s where you’ll find happiness.
To be happy, you must learn to stay and embrace the present moment instead of overthinking the past or the future.
As Naval Ravikant said:
One can be very happy as long as one isn’t too caught up in their head. Otherwise, we’re just missing out on life.
Why is it so difficult to live in the present moment?
Our mind is in constant motion. It either dwells in the past or worries about the future. In fact, we’re even encouraged to do so by:
For example, consider how often this happens. You’re busy working on a task, only to be startled out of your deep-work state by a sudden notification from your phone.
I’d bet the answer is quite often if you're like most people. The thing is, whenever this happens, you’re removed from the present task and moment.
Look, phones are great. They allow us to do so much. But don’t let it control your life. Because you don’t need to respond to every message or email right away. You don’t need to read the news or alerts immediately.
Maybe you’re afraid you’ll miss out on something important. But the thing is, those messages, emails, and news will still be there when you decide to check them.
So once in a while, take a break from your phone or disable your notifications to focus on being present in the moment.
It’s never been easier to think about the past or the future. This is because our lives are so well-documented by social media now.
For example, you can easily reminisce about the past by scrolling through your Instagram page.
Or you can get lost in your expectations and desires by looking at other people’s lives on your feed, constantly wishing you had this or that.
I’ve found the more I use social media, the more envious, depressed, and anxious I get.
And it’s why I’ve limited my usage. I use the screen-time option on my iPhone to limit my social media usage. Or sometimes, I’ll delete the app off my phone.
Since then, I’ve been less envious, depressed, and anxious.
Plus, now that I use social media less, I have more time to focus on building my own life.
How should you balance the past, present, and future?
The truth is, you’ll never be fully present in the moment 100% of the time. And this is actually a good thing because sometimes you need to think about the past and the future.
Think about it. How will you learn and grow if you never reflect on your past mistakes or successes? How will you achieve your goals and progress in life if you never plan for the future?
This is why you must spend time thinking about the past and future to live a happy and fulfilling life. Just DON’T get caught up in either one.
Now, this balance will be different for everyone. But you’ll know you’ve found the right balance when you’re less stressed about the things in your life and when you're spending most of the time enjoying the present moment. Most importantly, you’ll be happier.
7 Simple Ways To Live In The Present Moment
Move your body. Go to the gym, or attend a dance, HIIT, aerobics class etc.
Do a digital detox for an hour a day, once a month, or however long you choose.
Go on an outdoor walk without your phone or music devices.
Spend time with your pets or loved ones, giving them your full attention.
Do the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique. List 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
Learn a skill. You can learn to play an instrument, bake, do pottery, code, etc.
Journal your thoughts.