One of my friends came back from her semester abroad in Rome and told me that one of the biggest cultural differences she noticed was how people there lived more ‘in the moment.’ She said they seemed to be happier enjoying their day-to-day life and stressing less about the future. As the “abroad changed me” mentality wore off and she re-adjusted to her normal life, the one thing she most wanted to hold onto was the mindset of living in the moment.
We spend much of our lives wishing we could change the past or worrying about the future, so how do we keep ourselves in the present? Mindfulness, that trend you’re probably tired of hearing about, is one of the ways to do that. In fact, the whole purpose of mindfulness is to keep people in “a state of active, open attention to the present,” according to Psychology Today. While mindfulness has been overused in marketing, the basic idea of it is really important.
Credit: Time Magazine
Mindfulness requires effort. While our minds easily jump to the future, living in the present isn’t so easy. Some people practice mindfulness in structured ways, like in yoga class, during meditation sessions, or by using deep breathing. Personally, I don’t have a set time in my day to practice mindfulness. Rather, any time I notice my anxiety rising, I refocus my thoughts to the present.
Living in the moment helps with both happiness and stress. The American Psychological Association states that mindfulness can help with depression, and a publication through Harvard Medical School describes how it can help with anxiety. By engaging with stimuli in the present, it distracts your mind from other, unhelpful thoughts.
As college students, we have plenty to stress about, especially when it comes to finding a job. But isn’t this true for any stage in life? The biggest thing that has helped my anxiety is realizing that there will always be causes of stress in my life. While this may sound counterintuitive, it’s just a fact of life. If you realize that, then you can focus on how to handle stress and ignore unproductive thoughts instead of always waiting for the stress to end and hoping the next situation will be better.