Staying Grounded: What does it Mean to Live in the Present?

Many people embarking on their recovery journey tend to fixate on the past or worry about the future. For individuals dealing with legal or family complications, this is especially true. The unresolved issues feel daunting, making it difficult to find peace.

Oftentimes, people in this position are encouraged to “live in the present.” But what does this expression really mean? And how does one shed worry to reclaim a sense of peace?

Finding Acceptance in Recovery

Learning to practice acceptance is a key factor of living in the present. Realizing that one has limited control over what happens in their lives can help free them from anxiety and fear. Regretting past events and dreading future outcomes are ineffective uses of emotional energy. Nobody can change what’s already happened, just like no one can guarantee the outcome of future events.

Their energy is better used asking, “What can I do for my recovery right now?” It can take time and effort to learn how to feel discomfort without immediately responding to it. But when someone can feel their emotions without reacting to or trying to escape them, they are on their way to establishing healthy coping mechanisms.

The Value of Practicing Gratitude

Focusing on gratitude is another useful strategy for living in the present. When someone feels pulled to revisit their past mistakes or stew on things that aren’t unfolding the way they want them to, considering what they’re grateful for can offer a change in perspective.

This practice helps shift their mindset from what they don’t have to what they do have. Along with helping them cope with adversity, gratitude can feed their self-esteem and enhance their mood. There is also growing clinical evidence that practicing gratitude can positively impact physical health, improving sleep, immunity, and blood pressure.

Reach out to Recovery Support

Connecting with peers and loved ones is another helpful tactic for staying in the moment. Sometimes someone even finds that the person they confide in has been through similar issues. Hearing their experience can help relieve concerns and inspire confidence. But even when someone can’t find anyone to provide guidance, spending time with people they care about can still help them focus on experiences outside their own.

This benefits them not only by shifting their attention away from their worries, but also by enhancing their sense of empathy and belonging. When a person in recovery connects with others and shares experiences, it enriches the recovery process and makes them feel less isolated.

Utilize Exercise and Mindfulness

Another effective way to stay in the present is through exercise and mindfulness. This can include going for a jog or a bike ride, activities that remove worry and divert focus toward the action itself. Exercise has practical benefits for recovery, but an activity doesn’t need to be rigorous or intense to help someone stay in the moment. Simple activities like taking a walk, doing yoga, performing breathing exercises, or meditating are great ways to clear the mind and stay grounded.

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) exercises are also helpful for engaging the five senses and staying present. These use a person’s observations to help them focus on their experience and their surroundings. Describing the physical makeup of a tree, counting the number of green objects one can see, or explaining how something feels to the touch are just a few of the DBT exercises that can strengthen someone’s connection to the present.

Focusing on the Now

It can be challenging to simply let go of the past and embrace the uncertainty of the future, but with time and intention, those navigating recovery can learn to stay rooted in their experience from moment to moment. Allowing thoughts to arise without responding to them and focusing on one’s surroundings helps establish a sense of peace and acceptance. With a clear and unburdened mind, life in recovery is a more tranquil experience.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction or co-occurring disorders, call the New England Recovery Center today at 1-877-MyRehab. 

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