Do you ever regret the past or feel anxious about the future?
I used to do this constantly. Worrying about things I’d done or said, fretting over what “could” happen. I’d also believe that the only time I could feel calm and relaxed was on holiday or doing something “fun”.
This was my pattern for a good eight years, constantly looking for the next fun thing and feeling unsettled on “normal” days. Then one day I read the book The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and I was like WOW, this is mind blowing.
There’s a tool in the book that’s absolutely fundamental to letting go of regret, anxiety and the constant patterns of needing the next “fun” thing.
Using the tool for just 30 seconds to 1 minute at different points in my day has brought me so much calm and joy. I always thought you needed to be on holiday for that!!
In case you don’t have time to read the full book I want to summarise some of the key principles. I try and put this into practice everyday, but I’m not perfect, so sometimes I completely forget and end up in a thought spiral all over again. But knowing how to soothe the anxiety and relieve negative feelings really helps. It’s brought more joy and calm into my days than I could ever have imagined.
(I’m not being sponsored to share this by the way, I’m sharing because it has genuinely helped me.)
A summary of the Key Principles from Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now
When you constantly think about the past or future your mind is covering up what’s happening right now. It’s like a layer of tar polluting the present moment.
The past has already happened and cannot be changed. It only exists as memories.
The future hasn’t yet happened and only exists as a thought.
Your only reality is right now. This very moment. This is all that exists.
At one point in your past, you may have thought to this period of your life, looking forward to or dreading it as your future. Yet do you feel you’re in the future right now? Or do you feel right now is the present moment?
Only NOW exists.
When you think about past and future it pollutes your present reality with negativity.
If you regret a decision you made in the past, the negative feeling seeps into this moment and stops you from enjoying or appreciating what’s around you.
Even looking forward to an event, such as a party, spoils the present moment. You’re essentially believing the party is more important than now. Yet all you have is now. You are alive in this moment. Not in the future or the past, but right now.
Believing a future event is more important, is the same as believing your life, right now, is not important.
Yes a party may seem more exciting than being at work, but daydreaming about it and wishing you were there means you’re wasting and rejecting your life now.
To remove negative feelings of worry, anxiety and regret you need to slow down and eventually stop your constant thinking so you don’t pollute the present moment.
This doesn’t mean don’t plan ahead or learn from things in the past. It means don’t CONSTANTLY think about them when it’s not even useful to you. Don’t constantly cover up the present moment with negativity.
See every single moment as important, because it’s all you ever have.
When you slow down your thinking to appreciate the present moment, you will feel more calm and peaceful.
You may have already experienced calm, when looking at a beautiful view, or that moment when you get off a plane and the warm air hits you. In these moments, for a split second, your thoughts stop and you appreciate the present moment.
It’s easy to appreciate the present moment when you’re on holiday or somewhere different because everything is new. Your senses are overloaded with new experiences and it jolts you into NOW.
This is why you might always crave a holiday. You’re not craving the holiday itself, but the break from your overthinking mind. The moments when you can sit with your feet in the sand, feel the sun on your face, look with awe at a temple. During these times your thoughts temporarily stop and you feel at peace.
The peace and calm you feel on holiday is something that CAN be experienced at home. Even when you’re faced with a pile of laundry.
The problem isn’t the laundry. The problem is how your mind overthinks, regretting something you said, fearing the future or thinking about finishing work.
The constant worrying, analysing and thinking is exhausting, so you end up craving the next moment of relief. The next moment of fun or excitement, a split moment when you’re free from thinking.
But soon enough your mind kicks in again, taking over, polluting your present moment.
People end up living in a constant loop looking for the next exciting, thrilling or fun thing that brings relief.
Your mind is like an overactive child screaming at you.
To numb the negative feelings or to temporarily pause the frustration or lingering unhappiness you might look to vices, such as TV, alcohol, drugs, gaming, adrenaline seeking sports or even your phone! Anything to pull you away from your mind.
But this is only a fake fix that covers-up the problem. As soon as you switch off the TV or sober up, you’re left with the lingering feeling of unhappiness.
If you want to feel the calmness and peace you’ve sometimes felt on holiday, you can.
All it takes is removing yourself from the past and the future and bringing yourself into the present moment.
You don’t need to be controlled by your overthinking mind all the time. You don’t need to live in the past or future. You will need to use them to function in life of course, to plan an appointment, research a physio, learn from past mistakes.
If you regularly intersperse your days with appreciating and acknowledging the present moment, you will feel moments of calm, peace and even joy.
By doing this you slow your mind and don’t let thoughts control you.
The most powerful way to access the present moment is by putting all your attention into one thing, for example:
Your breathe – focussing on how it feels
Your body – putting your attention on your hands, your feet, your face. Feeling and releasing the tension.
Touch – how something feels in your hand
Taste – when you’re eating dinner, focussing on the flavours
Silence – focussing on the silence between noises, like after a passing car
Sight – looking at a flower and a tree without thinking about the type of species – just simply looking at it.
You may have heard of similar things through mindfulness
When you go on holiday and feel peace it’s because your attention is fully on what you’re experiencing. The taste of a fresh banana, the smell of coffee, the feel of soft linen, the wind on top of a mountain.
Everything tastes better, smells better and feels better because you’re focussing on the present moment, instead of the past or future. Yes thoughts might pop up such as worrying about catching a flight, but it happens less, which is why you feel relaxed.
To reduce feelings of anxiety and regret, bring your attention into the now.
You don’t need to be present constantly or spend an hour meditating (we’re all busy and have things to do!), and of course thoughts will naturally come into your mind.
All that’s needed is short regular moments throughout the day, of maybe just a minute, where you bring your attention to the present moment.
Try it now. Don’t just take my word for it.
As you’re reading this draw your attention to the sounds that are around you. Can you hear anything? Notice the silence between the noises. Can you hear the silence? If you have a mug on your table, pick it up and really feel how it feels in your hands. When was the last time you took notice when you drank a cup of tea or coffee, instead of being on your phone or writing emails?
Here’s some more examples…
–When you wake up, don’t just get up. Feel the sheets, listen to the sounds outside. Open a window and smell the fresh air coming in.
–When you have your first coffee or tea, focus on what the first sip tastes like. Focus on the feel of the mug in your hand, even if just for a second. Don’t just automatically check emails or go straight to admin. Pause for a moment.
–When you have your breakfast, focus on the flavours.
–When you have a shower, focus on how the hot water feels. Hear the sounds of the water, focus on what the water droplets looks like in your hand. How many showers have you actually paid attention to without thinking about the past or future?
–When doing laundry, focus on the smells, the sounds, the feel of the clothes in your hands.
–When you work notice any worries or negatives when an email pops up. Pause to look out the window and watch the clouds. When you have a coffee break, focus on drinking the coffee, don’t think about the email you need to write.
Thoughts will come into your mind. That’s okay. When you realise, just put your attention back into the present moment. If you spend a day, or even a moment doing this you’ll get glimpses of calm and peace. Don’t plan to do this in the future, do it now, because now is all you have.
This is something I try and bring my attention to everyday. Sometimes I forget/my mind takes over and thoughts come rushing back, I’m not perfect and I still have a lot to learn. Knowing how to soothe the anxiety and relieve negative feelings really helps though. It’s brought more joy and calm into my days than I could ever have imagined.
If you’ve not yet read the Power of Now, I highly recommend it!
Pop me an email and let me know how you got on!
My email – firstname.lastname@example.org