How to Find Peace in the Present Moment

peace sign photo

As tranquil as the title of this post may sound, “finding peace” is often anything but peaceful.

And honestly, I’ve titled this post a little misleadingly…

You see, similar to my post about finding yourself, you don’t just simply “find” peace. Peace is something you have to actively cultivate on a regular basis. Between the impact of the past, worries about the future, and other distractions life throws at us on a daily basis, it feels almost impossible to ever feel at peace with the present moment.

Most of us know the typical “how-to” tips for finding peace: breathe in and out deeply, meditate, journal, drink lots of water, etc. However, no tip will give you peace until you first address what’s holding you back from it in the first place.

What do you still struggle with from your past? What are you nervously anticipating in your near or distant future? Do you find yourself comparing your life to all of the glamorous ones you see on social media? These are just a few of the things that keep us from fully immersing ourselves in the present moment and enjoying it.

The truth is, even though finding peace isn’t always a peaceful process, trying to avoid all of that uncomfortable stuff isn’t so peaceful either. Wouldn’t you at least rather try to work through it than avoid it and never actually get rid of it?

Although the list of specific reasons is endless, there are five general categories those reasons can fall under. Let’s see if any of these sound familiar…

Are you stuck in the Past?

Being stuck in the past doesn’t mean you’re constantly reminiscing on good or bad memories. It means your current perspective on life is skewed because of how you perceive those past experiences. This shapes how you understand and react to your present experiences. Not only can this keep us repeating the same insane patterns, it keeps us from appreciating the present moment for what it is.

Although our natural inclination is to respond the way we have learned from our past, it is up to us to change that narrative. Instead of letting our past make us bitter, let’s focus on what we learned from it and become better. By paying attention to our thoughts and identifying where they’re coming from, we can end the cycle of allowing our past to ruin our present.

It’s important to note that peace doesn’t require perfection. You don’t have to have your past completely resolved to enjoy the present. Simply learning to accept it for what it is and focus forward is what you need most. Give yourself some credit, and be patient with yourself. Every moment is a new beginning.

Instead of letting our past make us bitter, let's focus on what we learned from it and become better. Click To Tweet

Are you thinking of the future?

It’s almost impossible to not think of the future, especially in the fast-paced culture we live in. We’re always working towards a future event or milestone, whether it’s small weekend plans or big life achievements. It’s easy to find our minds drifting to those plans no matter how much we want to be present.

Really, it’s healthy to think of our future, because it provides us with direction to guide our present choices. The main problem with thinking of the future is when we allow it to consume us. The fear of the unknown of what will happen is daunting, I admit. However, we can’t let that fear govern our lives.

One of the most comforting bit of advice a counselor once shared with me is this: “You seem to think of everything that could possibly go wrong…but what if you started thinking of everything that could possibly go right?” Simply shifting how we think about the future can remove a lot of the fear that we usually attach to it.

You seem to think of everything that could possibly go wrong...but what if you started thinking of everything that could possibly go right? Click To Tweet

Are you focused on someone else’s present moment?

It’s hard to be fully immersed in the present moment if you’re also checking Facebook or Instagram every few minutes. Not only does this take away from being engaged in the world around you, it can make you feel less satisfied with that world too. Social media tends to give us everyone’s “highlight reel” of moments in their life, making it seem like everyone is having a jolly good time constantly. Comparing these picture-perfect moments with your own may leave you feeling a little inadequate, because comparison truly is the thief of joy.

By paying attention to what content you’re focusing on throughout your day, you may realize where some of your discontent comes from. Every now and then I take inventory of which accounts I’m following and how they make me feel. Doing this may seem small, but it has had a drastic impact on my happiness, and it can with yours too.

Are you unhappy with the present moment?

Most of the time, the reason we’re unhappy with the present moment is because of one of the above reasons. We’re either comparing it to the past, impatient for the future “better” present, or comparing ourselves to others. All of these things can really dull the shine of your current experience. And then sometimes the present moment just truly does suck, and there’s nothing we can do about it…so why make it worse by dwelling on that unhappiness?

It’s okay to not be thrilled with your current situation. Trying to force happiness can actually be more disturbing than just accepting your unhappiness in the first place. Instead of dwelling on your discontent, just accept it for what it is and know “this too shall pass.” That in itself will bring you peace in its own way. What you focus on expands; be mindful of how your focus is affecting your mood.

Are you unhappy with yourself?

Sometimes the reason we aren’t satisfied with our present moment is really because we aren’t satisfied with ourselves. Have you ever felt extremely uncomfortable at a pool party or float trip because all you can think about is how much you hate your body? Or maybe you love being artsy, yet you can’t enjoy it because you’re criticizing your performance the entire time. It completely ruins our present moment because we are so stuck in our thoughts instead of the living, breathing experience around us. These thoughts are the source of our discontent…but thankfully, our thoughts are under our control.

This can be one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome, but it is by no means impossible. When we catch ourselves thinking harshly about ourselves, it’s up to us to reprogram those thoughts. If this is an area you struggle with (like so many of us do!) you may find my post on learning to love yourself helpful.

Where is your peace?

Did any of the above categories resonate with you?

Peace isn’t a “happily ever after” of unending bliss. It’s a mindset that is always available to us depending on how we choose to view each moment. Once we let go of our preconceived notion of this ideal “finding peace” moment, we realize how much it’s been at our fingertips all along. Peace is not a feeling of perfection, but an acceptance and appreciation for what is.

Every moment is an opportunity to choose peace. By becoming aware of the things that keep you from feeling it, you can begin the process of finding it. This knowledge in itself can be a source of peace, because it empowers you to control the mood you hold throughout your days.

Energy flows where attention goes…It’s up to us to control what thoughts and content we focus on with each moment. Be mindful, be patient, and be kind to yourself…but most importantly:

Be here now.