8 Ways to be Present in the Moment even if Life Sucks

how to live in the present moment

Okay, so life isn’t all roses. We know that, right? Some days a sack of coal just gets dumped on your doorstep.

And yep, we have to deal with it.

Of course we all know that the most effective way to deal with whatever we’re experiencing is to stay present, stay in the now. Because that’s what brings the clarity and calmness needed to find solutions to the issue.

But when in the midst of trauma, from the smallest to the most tragic, sometimes even figuring out how to live in the present moment seems quite elusive indeed.

I mean, when I have a flat, I just want it fixed and to be home, you know?

Unfortunately, my tire doesn’t get changed until I call AAA and wait. But how cool to have them come deal with it!

So let’s address how to be present in the moment so we can get through whatever mess consciously, and in the best form.

1. Give voice to the emotion

I know when crap happens, negative emotion arises. And many times, our first response is to realize that it’s negative, and try and quash it. Because we’re all positive thinkers, right?

But stuffing negative emotions never works now, does it. We can all recount anecdotal evidence for that one. What that brings is denial.

And the only way to really get through an emotion is, well, through it. So give voice to it. Accept it. Do as in Right Use of Will and scream at the sky if you need to. Which will then let it out.

  2. Question the veracity of your Truth of the matter

Something bad happens and we instantly place judgement on it, or worse, ourselves.

“Things never work out for me.”

“Crap just follows me.”

“I’ll never make it in x, y, or z.”

Really? Do you know this for an absolute fact? Can you say this with 100% accuracy?

If you can, wow, that crystal ball must be truly effective! Send it my way J

Because the truth is, we can’t be entirely, 100% sure about much of anything in this life. And if something isn’t 100% true, then why are we banking our emotions on it?

  3. Realize that you’re not the one cosmic fluke

You know, honestly, everybody gets that sack of coal now and then. Shocking, isn’t it? It’s not just you?

We all have to deal with stuff we’d prefer not to. And just knowing that others have done so, and gotten through, makes me feel better. Doesn’t it you?

  4. Pause, breathe, and be the witness to your life

Of course breathing and meditation are part of all of this, but in the midst of turmoil, often taking 20 minutes to sit in the lotus position and meditate isn’t in the cards.

But breathing always is though. And with the in and out of the breath, an internal stillness comes.

And then, watch your emotions. See them as if from outside of yourself. Third person works great for me: There is Susan feeling all stressed again over something she can’t control.

This isn’t a judging session. But rather, a non-judgmental awareness of what you’re seeing/doing/feeling in any moment in time.

I’m always amazed at the clarity that brings me.

  5. Stop and smell the roses

That’s the last thing you want to do in this situation, right? I mean, seriously, folks, we have real issues here!

But funny thing—if you focus your attention even for a second on something else, you not only get the benefit of distraction, but that gives your brain a break as well.

Often, an instant is all that wonderful brain needs to refocus on the present moment, and find solutions to the task at hand.

As Einstein said, “You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it.”

  6. Realize there is always a lesson here

No matter what’s going on, there’s something to be learned from it. Something you can gain, whether it’s mastery of a task, insight into a relationship, or even learning how you deal with things by habit, rather than consciously.

“I’m wise enough, Lord!” we often say.

Then again, if we were all that wise I’m fairly sure we’d have evaporated into what’s next by now.

We can always learn, and learning is always a good thing.

  7. Realize a blessing resides herein

Always.

I just had an interesting validation of this point. I decided that my two-year-old Lab wasn’t going to make it in my breeding program. That’s always such a difficult decision, because it means the loss of all that potential, of all that time and investment in her.

So when I had her spayed, we found that her uterus, even at that young age, was filled with edema and paper thin. It bled everywhere the vet touched. And she had some metritis as well.

Which is scary, especially for a girl so young. Had I thought she was going to work out, I’d have shown her and ultimately bred her, and with that sort of uterus, I could have lost her by doing so. Or, she could have had an infection even without being bred, and once the cervix was closed, I could have lost her.

I cannot express how blessed I felt bringing her home from that surgery . . .

Yes, there is always a blessing.

  8. Persist

Times of trouble and trauma are not the time to reconsider if what you’re doing is your true path. If your life is working. If you should choose another way.

You’re already filled with enough angst to deal with, and any major life decisions at this point will not be in your best interest.

All sages, therapists, counselors agree on this point. There’s a reason the truism exists that says when you lose someone very close, don’t many any life decisions for at least a year.

You have to get through the trauma first.

So in times of that, just focus on where you are. Then take the next step. Then the next.

You can decide whether your life is on track or not down the road. Because that decision will always be there, no?

So even in the worst of times, we can not only stay in the now, but learn how to enjoy the present moment as well.

It’s worth it to do so, isn’t it?

As Tennessee Williams said, Life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quickly you hardly catch it going.”

About the Author Susan Malone

Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.

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36 comments
Neely Moldovan says May 31, 2017

Love this. What an uplifting post. There is always a lesson and reason. I try to remind myself that all the time.

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Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com says May 31, 2017

Hey Susan! Perfect reminders as we all get started with a brand new month tomorrow. Your #2 reminds me of the work of Byron Katie which I’m sure you are familiar with (I’m always amazed at how much we’ve both studied the same people!) And then of course your #7 reminds me of that Wayne Dyer saying, “we don’t know enough to be a pessimist.” My husband Thom and I say that ALL THE TIME to each other and it really helps to bring us back. Thanks for these great tips and reminders. I can always use more. ~Kathy

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    Susan Malone says May 31, 2017

    We do study the same folks, Kathy! I just love Byron Katie. Haven’t read him in forever–thanks for the reminder! I’m gonna pull him out again 🙂

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Colleen says May 31, 2017

Amazing on your 2-year-old. So glad you had the instinct to spay her! This post brings to mind the trips my family used to take back to New York to see my grandma when I was a child. Some of my fondest memories are of when the car broke down, which it always did as we were living on a shoestring. My mom was awesome at making each experience fun. Despite the stress of getting the thing fixed and on the road again, she could always find the humor in it, and get us laughing. Once the car was in the shop, we’d set about touring the area and finding a meal somewhere nearby. We got to know some places we never would have without those breakdowns, and we still talk about the treasured memories. There is always a silver lining! :O)

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    Susan Malone says May 31, 2017

    What a wonderful mom you have, Colleen! I just love that. She made the experience magical for you. And what a great way to grow up for a writer!

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Lori English says May 31, 2017

Good article very realistic and easy to understand the logistics and how we all feel sad or down from time time to time. It’s helpful to know that others feel the same and we can be a friend, or someone that listens to not solve their problem but just be. Thanks Lori English

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    Susan Malone says May 31, 2017

    Isn’t that so helpful, Lori–to listen and just be with someone, without trying to solve the problem.

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Denise C says May 31, 2017

It’s so easy to forget to stop and smell the roses, especially when you’re stressed. I sometimes have to take a mental step back, and it helps me put things in perspective.

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Maureen says May 31, 2017

these are very helpful tips for someone found in the moment where they feel a heavy emotional response. Love that you wrote this as it can help so many avoid conflict when it doesn’t have to go that way. Love the tips!

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    Susan Malone says May 31, 2017

    Love that, Maureen-when you feel “a heavy emotional response.” Sometimes we’re all there, no?

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Tamuria says May 31, 2017

I agree with everything you said, Susan. We must first acknowledge our feelings and even forgive ourselves – after all, it IS really annoying when you get a flat. Then take the time to acknowledge the good – how wonderful people will come to you and fix it – what a blessing. It can be a process, depending on the trigger, but eventually, you get to the place where you search for the lesson within and can maybe even be grateful for that.

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    Susan Malone says June 1, 2017

    It is a process, isn’t it, Tami. I’d love to jump from the incident straight to gratitude, but I’m not sure how many flats I’d have to go through to get there!

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Meghan says May 31, 2017

Never would I have considered talking to myself in the third person! Lol! I LOVE that idea. Don’t tell anyone, but sometimes I narrate my life, so this tip would work for me, I know it! Crap happens & I believe it’s fine to embrace the crappy moment and walk right through it. It’s the holding on to the crap that gets us!

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    Susan Malone says June 1, 2017

    It’s a great tool, Meghan! Gives me some objectivity in order to see things more clearly!

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Janella says June 1, 2017

This post was so motivating to read. And you have provided some practical points that can help many that go through rough times

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Audrey Weidman says June 1, 2017

Wow – this rings very true for me. As a heart attack survivor, I would say giving voice to the emotion I was feeling was so very, very healing. It is the first step. And yes – there is always a silver lining when something you didn’t want happens. Always, always!

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    Susan Malone says June 1, 2017

    I bet having a heart attack left you with a LOT of emotions, Audrey. So glad you turned that into a positive!

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katrina gehman says June 1, 2017

great advice. I need to remember this from time to time.

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Beverley Golden says June 1, 2017

What really stands out for me in your post, Susan, is how the majority of humans just haven’t learned or practiced being in the moment. Imagine how much freer and less stressful a world it would be, if more people were living that way? As someone who flies into the future, I really get it. I am often miles ahead of the present moment and boy, does that ever create a lot of unnecessary concern! Thanks for the gentle and practical suggestions on how to ‘catch’ ourselves when we drift into the past of future and how to focus and centre ourselves back to a place of calm. So happy you 2-year-old got a second chance to be healthy and enjoy a full life!

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    Susan Malone says June 1, 2017

    Oh, I do the same thing, Beverley–fly into the future and all the fears that go with it. But I’m better and better about that. Still a work in progress 🙂

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Teresa Salhi says June 1, 2017

Hi Susan, I find the topic of presence or being in the moment such a profound and meaningful awareness – even when we realize it is just a fleeting moment. Your reminders are loaded with such great insight and value. I have finally learned to be grateful for everything, the good, the bad and ugly. Because just as you say – there really are things we can learn and blessing to expand into.

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    Susan Malone says June 2, 2017

    Isn’t being grateful for all things just a life-changer, Teresa! I still have to work on that at times (okay, at the less-than-stellar times!), but am getting better with it every day! So glad you’ve learned to be there.

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Tami says June 2, 2017

My life is pretty good but some days I feel less than blessed. These are ways I believe will help me live more in the moment and I can’t wait to give them a try.

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Candess M Campbell says June 2, 2017

Just reading this made me take a deep breath and relax. These tools are so helpful to have in when difficulty arises. “Give voice to the Emotion” can be really helpful. Feeling your feelings is powerful, but so many people are afraid to just feel. It truly is a present moment experience. Actually practicing them daily is even better. Love this Susan!

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    Susan Malone says June 2, 2017

    It’s all about the practice, isn’t it, Candess! There is a magic wand–and it’s called practice 🙂

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Tandy Elisala says June 3, 2017

This was a much needed post. Thanks for the great tips. I’m going to reference this article in one I’m publishing soon! Thanks

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Joyce Hansen says June 6, 2017

Years ago, I found a poster of a lion with one paw over his eye. The caption was something like -Oh Lord, not another challenge! When anything ever happened I would look at that poster and it made me laugh. I believe that we are here to experience life and with that comes the challenge of all kinds of experiences. You’ve set out 8 great points to remind us. I especially love the one about not being the only comic fluke.

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    Susan Malone says June 6, 2017

    Oh, Joyce–I need that poster! I laughed reading your words and got a great image of it. I’ll be using that one. Thank you!

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Apolline Adiju says June 7, 2017

This is such a good reminder to us all. Life happens, and I sometimes fall prey to reconsidering my moves in times of trauma. Your advice on “going through the trauma first” makes sense. Thanks for these tips.

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    Susan Malone says June 7, 2017

    Life just does happen, doesn’t it, Apolline. And it’s just human nature to try and reconsider while in the trauma. Tabling decisions at that time truly helps!

    Reply
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