We admit it: Being present may be simple, but that’s not the same thing as easy. It’s common to get swept up in the past or spend too much time dreaming about the future. And living in the moment can be extra-tough when life gets chaotic or the unexpected happens. Nevertheless, learning to be present is a skill that can help you live a more happy and healthy life, keeping you focused and prepared to seize opportunities that come your way.

A woman gazes out the window of a cafe

1. Observe. What’s happening around you? Training yourself to be a witness can help you stay present, grounded, and focused on the now. Become aware of what’s going on, how you’re feeling, and what you’re personally doing; once you’re able to tap into what it feels like to be in the moment (and what takes you outside of it), you’ll be in a much better spot to bring yourself back when chaos strikes.

2. Ditch distractions. Distractions inherently pull us away from the present, whether yours look like a barrage of emails and push notifications, intense cravings, or unbridled excitement that takes you outside of the current moment. What can you eliminate to make you feel more in each minute? Maybe you’d like to take work email off your phone, block off quiet hours, turn off the TV during dinner, or leave your headphones at home when you go on a nature walk. Are you feeling sleep-deprived, hungry, or unsatisfied? Look to your regular routine to see where you can make some tweaks to simplify your life and take better care of yourself; being present will become easier.

3. Let go. Holding on to past hurts or ruminating on regrets is something many people do, but living in the past makes it impossible to relish the present. Though healing is hard and not every injury deserves forgiveness, practicing acceptance of your past — whatever that means to you — can help you let go of whatever’s holding you back. It could mean forgiving someone who’s atoned, allowing yourself to finally cut ties with someone who hasn’t, or acknowledging that, while you’ve made mistakes, you’ve also learned from them and will do better next time. Once you’re able to move forward, you’ll feel freer to enjoy life as it unfolds.

A smiling woman sits in a backwards-facing chair

4. Be grateful. The act of practicing gratitude will force you to see what’s going right, right now. Are you new to flexing your gratefulness muscle, or have you let it get out of shape? Know that practice doesn’t have to take any special form — it can look like thinking about the good things in your life and being thankful for them, jotting down blessings, writing appreciation-focus affirmations, or saying thank you more often.

5. Smile. Once you’ve reflected about all the great stuff going on and have honed your gratitude practice, you’ll probably find it hard not to smile! Let yourself feel the joy while you continue to appreciate your current circumstances. Not only will this tactic go a long way in helping you maximize each moment, but smiling is often a surefire way to connect with others around you.

6. Breathe. Sometimes, being present is as simple as breathing and being. Sit for a minute for a quick time-out, or try a meditation app to assist you in focusing on being as you are where you are. Learning how to simply be and breathe is an incredible life skill that can help you through stressful, exhilarating, and unexpected situations.

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