The power of NOW

Trauma treatment

“Keep it in the now” is a phrase we often hear. We know it makes sense and have most likely experienced why it’s beneficial to live like this – in the moment.

But being in the here and now is a difficult quality to master.

It’s something though that really is worth being worked on. It’s mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically extremely good for us.

One day at a time

It’s why it is a key part of many people’s recovery from mental health problems, perhaps especially addictions. A central aspect to such as 12 Steps recovery groups is to live “one day at a time”.

In the beginning it’s the quitting that is one day at a time. People are told to say to themselves that “just for today I won’t have a drink”. Then repeat this the next day and so on.

Soon many in recovery realize that living one day at a time is the best way to live. Wake up, do your best for the day, sleep and repeat.

Sometimes when a day seems too much they will keep it in the hour, minute or even second. That is, to keep it in the right here and now – and that has great power.

Your life is now

Hence the title of spiritual teacher and bestselling author Eckhart Tolle’s The Power Of Now. Published in 1997, it is one of the world’s most popular recovery and self-help books.

Tolle wrote about how living in the present is the best way to live. He stresses how essential it is for our wellbeing to live in the present moment and go beyond any thoughts of the past or future.

If we are not in the present moment it is most likely because we are losing ourselves in regrets about the past and worries about the future. Tolle speaks about how we are so often living in our heads in the “unsatisfying past and the fearful future” – and this will only give us pain.

He wrote: “Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.”

How addiction shortcuts the wrong way to the now

Being in the now is particularly essential to recovery for people with mental illnesses.

“When you’re in a solid moment of the now you’re not thinking about the past, you’re not worried about the future,” says Tikvah Lake Recovery therapist Byron Wickham. “You’re right now and the brain interprets that as being balanced.

“Unfortunately for those people who have addictive situations and personalities or mental illnesses a lot of the ways they get to that now is the dilemma. They reach the now through substances and abusing those because it’s the quickest route and then they simply keep retraining the brain over and over again to use that route.

“Then the brain says: ‘Hey this is actually healthy. The quickest way for me to get balance is to actually use and abuse because that gets me to the moment of the now.’ 

“So then the process is to simply retrain yourself to reach that moment without the use of substances that cause negative consequences.”

Why is being in the now so vital to mental health?

Because if we are living in the past we will likely be full of regrets and resentments. If we are in the future it is most likely that we are worrying and so creating anxiety.

Careering through our minds it’s always the statements and questions containing the words “could have”,”should have” and “what if?”. Many people suffering from depression and anxiety just cannot seem to shift these sort of thoughts relentlessly bombarding them.

They sap our energy and they are a waste of our energy as we cannot change the past and we cannot predict the future. We can make plans but we have to realize for our own sanity that we cannot possibly control the future.

For instance who in 2019 could have known that COVID-19 would affect us all so much in 2020? People around the world were no doubt worrying about the future – but hardly anyone would have been thinking about a worldwide pandemic changing their life so drastically.

Living in the past or future is physically damaging

If we are regretful, resentful or anxious the only guarantee is that it’s stealing the moment from us. Physically it is damaging too as these emotions deplete our body’s immune system.

If we can learn to be in the present we will realize that most of the time the present time is fine. This will raise our spirits as well as our energy levels.

It’s no wonder that in recovery circles you will often hear phrases such as: “If you’re constantly staring in the rear-view mirror you’re going to crash sooner or later” and “today is called the present because it’s a gift.”

Why is it so difficult to live in the moment?

Keeping it in the here and now is certainly difficult in this fast-paced modern world. For a start most of us carry a little device in our pocket that has dozens of old photographs on and a calendar telling us what we need to do in the coming weeks and months.

Then all around us are commercials. Many of these are designed to persuade us into buying a certain product or service – because otherwise we won’t be best prepared when the worst-case scenario inevitably happens.

This is such as taking out some insurance we never would have otherwise thought about. Or that we definitely need a new car or we won’t be driving our family around as safely as we could be.

Author Matt Haig’s Notes On A Nervous Planet is a bestseller that raises awareness on all of this. He writes about how modern life purposely and actively feeds our anxiety in a bid to sell things to us.

How can I keep it in the now?

If you’ve lived for many years thinking about the past and/or the future you can change this so you are in the now much more of the time. It won’t be an overnight transformation, but day by day it is possible to make progress.

Here are some methods to help:

  • Meditation. The perfect way to start the day is in silence and stillness.

  • Yoga. You can only do yoga successfully if fully concentrating on posture and breathing.

  • Avoid multi-tasking and rushing. First things first, just do one thing at a time without thinking about the next tasks. Give each task your all and do it to the best of your ability.

  • Spend time among nature. In nature we tend to be spellbound by its beauty. This means we are naturally in the now. It also “right-sizes” us – we can put things in perspective when we such as stare at the stars or gaze at a calm lake.

  • Get creative. Write a few paragraphs describing what you see around you, paint what you can see or take some photographs of your surroundings. Play an instrument, learn some lines off by heart from a favorite play or film and act them out, do a drawing of a particular object.

  • Sports and hobbies. We fully focus on doing our best when playing sports. We know if we stop focusing we might make a mistake or miss something. This keeps us passionately in the now. This is similar for hobbies such as playing chess, birdwatching or fishing. Watching a sport can also be a good way to be in the now.

  • Practice mindfulness. This means being fully aware of what we’re doing and what’s happening around us, keeping a focus on all five senses while also being aware of all thoughts and feelings.

  • Look and listen. This is connected to being mindful and if you listen to your breaths, stare at your hand or smile in the mirror you cannot really be anywhere else except for in the present.

  • Clear out clutter. Throw away things from your past that are no longer needed. This will make more room for things from the present.

  • Write a gratitude list. Note down things – big and small – that are around you for which you are grateful.

  • Forgive. Much of the time when we’re not in the now it’s because we’re replaying a resentment from the past over and over again. Learn how to forgive. This can be forgiving someone else but also includes self-forgiving if we think we could have done something better or differently. Say to yourself about the past: “There are times I look back on my life and I could have done it much better, but I just have to remember I wasn’t able to at the time.”

  • Look to cats, dogs and children. For the perfect example of how to live in the now, just observe pets and children. As Eckhart Tolle wrote in The Power Of Now: “I have lived with several Zen masters – all of them cats.”

  • Focus on abundance. Concentrate on all that you have rather than what you think you are lacking.

  • Speak to yourself… Tell yourself as you do something. So such as: “Now I am picking up the brush and I’m brushing my hair.”

  • Read. Whether it’s a novel or a self-help book, reading stops our mind wandering back and forth.

Nestled besides a beautiful tranquil lake Tikvah Lake Recovery is in an ideal place to keep each moment in the now. Here you’ll discover a peaceful oasis under the towering palm trees that’s a world away from the anxieties of life.

We are a family-type environment rather than a large institutionalized clinic. This means that everyone here is looked after as our guest rather than just another client – and everyone’s emotional wellbeing is our priority.

Our experienced team always expertly considers every aspect of any emotional issue or mental health problem. We offer a range of proven effective treatments that we specifically put together for each individual guest.

To find out how we can help you or someone you care about, get in touch with us today.

David Hurst - Tikvah Lake Recovery

About David Hurst

David Hurst has four books published on mental health recovery, including 12 Steps To 1 Hero, The Anxiety Conversation and Words To Change Your Life. He has written for national newspapers and magazines around the world for 30 years including The Guardian, Psychologies, GQ, Esquire, Marie Claire and The Times. He has been in successful continual recovery since January 2002.

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