Not long ago, I was meeting a few friends at a coffee shop to work on our respective projects. The conversation turned to how difficult it can be to really live in the moment and appreciate what we have in our lives at this very moment. We lamented that our to-do lists are long but our time is so short.
Our world is a rushed world. Often we find ourselves, from the moment we wake up to the moment our heads hit the pillow, rushing from one meeting to another, racing through our to-do and errand lists, and rushing from one social obligation to another. And that’s not just a problem on weekdays. Weekends can be just as hectic. Our experience can be one of racing through life at a breakneck speed without having the opportunity to just slow down and appreciate the present moment.
Life moves so quickly and it can become easy to have a “what’s next?” mentality in which we barely finish one experience before we dive right into another one. We don’t press pause to rest, process, and gather our thoughts. Rushing through our days robs us of the chance to stop and appreciate the present moment. We never get to appreciate the gifts that each day brings. Remember how God appeared to Elijah (1 Kings 19:11-12) not in the wind, not in an earthquake, and not in the fire but as a whisper? When you rush through your day without reflection or pause, you miss out on the presence of God in everyday moments.
How can you press pause to appreciate what is happening in the here and now when life is so busy? Try these seven tips to help you begin intentionally looking for God’s presence in the present.
1) Schedule Mini-Breaks Throughout Your Day
If you typically rush from one obligation to the next, you aren’t giving yourself even the opportunity to appreciate God’s presence in everyday moments. The first step towards making a shift to being intentionally aware of each present moment is to schedule non-negotiable breaks throughout your day. They don’t need to be long, even a ten minute break scheduled a few times a day can give you the mental breather you need from the busyness of life. Put these breaks on your calendar and treat them as written in stone. As tempting as it may be to squeeze in a quick phone call instead of taking ten minutes for yourself, resist the urge to override your scheduled break, and remind yourself why you scheduled the break in the first place.
What should you do during these short breaks? It’s up to you, but you might consider practicing mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or simply observing your environment using all five senses. What do you see, hear, feel, smell, and taste where you are right now? These breaks force you to hop off the hamster wheel you are on and give yourself the mental space to hear God in the whispers of your everyday life.
2) Set Reminders
This is a very practical and simple tip but it’s incredibly effective. Give yourself reminders throughout the day to pause and be present. Setting recurring notifications on your phone is a great way to do this. For example, I set a reminder on my phone to show up at 11 every day as my day is starting to get hectic. Other helpful reminders might include sticky notes placed where you will see them (on your mirror, on your computer, in your car, etc.) or adding “take a break” to your to-do list. Reminders are an incredibly useful tool to help jolt you out of your rushed mindset and call you to be present.
3) Practice Gratitude
Practicing gratitude is a great way to help you be aware of the present. Keep a gratitude journal to help you record what you are grateful for that day. A gratitude journal can be as simple as a running list of what you are grateful for. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or time-consuming. Research shows that people who practice gratitude are more likely to be optimistic and to feel better about their lives. Keeping a gratitude journal can also be a way for you to recognize the beautiful and wonderful things that God has placed in your life each day. It’s a way to recognize God’s presence amidst the rush of everyday life.
4) Live Prayerfully
It can also be helpful to think of living your life as a continuous prayer. When you see each moment as an opportunity to acknowledge God’s presence, you are less likely to see your day as just something to get through as quickly as possible. You’ll be more apt to engage with the world around you and see opportunities to practice gratitude, ask for God’s guidance, or connect with another person. Putting reminders in place can be helpful with this strategy, especially when you are first starting out.
5) Bookend Your Day with Reflections
Try to start and end your day with prayerful reflections. Not only will this help you set the tone for the day in the morning but it will also help you reflect and process your day when it is over. Even just spending a few moments in prayer before you begin the day and right before you go to bed will make a difference. Prayerfully reflecting will help prime you to recognize God’s presence throughout the day. You might even want to try writing down any ideas or observations that occur during your reflections.
6) Elevate the Everyday
Similar to practicing gratitude, it can be helpful to make additions to your environment that can help you appreciate the present moment. For example, a plant can help brighten an office or home, a hot cup of coffee can make paying bills less painful, and looking forward to a good book can help you take a break from the frenzy of the day. They may seem like simple changes to make but they can have a significant effect on your day. Try to make just one simple change to your environment and see what happens.
7) Make Time for Leisure
When your to-do list is long and the days seem too short to get it all done, spending time engaging in leisure activities might be the last thing on your mind. When you measure your days by productivity, leisure activities just don’t seem to make sense at first glance. But, if you choose to measure your days by intentionally engaging in the present and looking for signs of God’s presence in your life, leisure activities like spending time in nature, reading, journaling, listening to music, and spending time with family and friends make sense. Leisure activities like these allow you to slow down the pace of life and give yourself the quiet you need to hear God’s voice. If your days are jam-packed from sunup to sundown, you’ll drown out God’s voice by all the noise of your busy life.
It won’t happen overnight, but making small changes over time will help you to live more fully in the present instead of worrying about the future or the past. You appreciate all the present moment has to offer and you’ll learn better and better how to recognize God’s presence in your life.