Daily Habits to Develop for Less Stress

women on deck in yoga pose

“As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out the present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love, even the most simple action.”- Eckhart Tolle

(This article is not intended as medical advice or expertise on the topic if needed please contact your personal doctor if you need further assistance. This article is only general suggestions to encourage thought.)

The Checklist and Worksheet are linked at the bottom of the article.

We live in an age of constant doing, thinking, planning, worrying, and fear. There’s always something that needs to be done, we need to prepare for or anticipate. It’s easy to get lost in the past or worrying about the future. But, as Spiritual teacher and author Eckhart Tolle, wrote in his inspiring book, The Power of Now, learning to live in the present moment allows us to experience “a way out of suffering and into peace.”

Are there things you can do every day to help you stay in the present moment? After all, living mindfully is key to less stress. You’ve probably heard it said many times that it’s important to live and stay in the present moment. Or maybe you’ve heard similar pieces of advice like:

  • “Be present in your own life.”
  • “Don’t get caught thinking about the past or the future -live in the now!”
  • “All you have is this moment. Don’t let it slip away.” 

But given the fast pace and hectic schedules most people have, anxiety, stress, and unhappiness are our new normal. It’s possible you don’t even realize it’s leaving you worn out and out of touch with yourself.

How often have you eaten a meal, and not even tasted it? You gulped it down and then went back to work. Or you completed a project without paying attention to it. Maybe you drove to work, arrived at your destination, and don’t remember the drive getting there.

Many people experience this multiple times every day, life passing us by while our minds are focused on something else. The solution is conscious awareness by living in the moment. This is also known as mindfulness, the foundation of Zen Buddhism. It’s not necessarily about meditating all day long. It’s more about being aware and in tune with your thoughts and actions, being aware of what your senses notice in your daily routine.

Living in the present moment sounds great but how do you actually put it into practice every day so that it becomes your new reality?

In this guide, we’re going to take a look at the many different habits you can develop to put living in the moment into practice every day.

women in blue flowed dress kneeling in garden with a straw hat and string beans in her lap

Examples of Living in The Moment

Before we get to the habits you want to develop for living in the moment daily, let’s delve into some examples of what living in the moment looks like. Living in the moment takes practice. You have to develop daily habits to help you stay in the present moment When you do that you have less stress and anxiety.

First, let’s experience what it’s like to be in the moment. Close your eyes. Now concentrate on your breathing. Feel the sensation of the air as it enters through your nose and fills your lungs. Now notice how it feels as it flows back out again through your mouth. Be aware of any thoughts that come up, acknowledge them then let them float away. Then return your focus to your breathing.

This will be hard, especially the first few times you do it. But it’s the basic foundation for enjoying and being in the moment.

Here are 4 examples of living in the moment.

  1. Watch children as they play. They are masters at being in the present. For example, watch your preschooler play. He’s not thinking about yesterday or what he wants to do after he’s done playing. He’s simply Superman, rescuing those in need. Nothing else exists at the moment.
  2. Someone savoring dessert. Have you ever watched someone really enjoy a decadent slice of tiramisu? Instead of gobbling it down, they enjoy it completely. They close their eyes. Slowly they put a spoonful in their mouth. They savor the flavor, the sweet chocolatey cheesiness, the sponginess texture of the cake, the coffee, and the smoothness of the brandy. The next time you take a bite of your food, try to clear your mind of everything, no reading, texting, or talking to anyone else. Instead, just experience your food.
  3. Watch your cat. Cats have big attitudes. They think they are bigger than they are, great hunters like a lion. Watch as they stealthily stalk a bug or mouse. They think they are hidden in the tall grasses of the Savanna. They sneak up on it then pounce and attack. That cat isn’t thinking about what he had for his last meal or what they can claw to shreds later. They are just in the now being a cat.
  4. When you are absorbed in something. Think about it. There have been times when you’ve been so focused on what you were doing that you were lost to everything going on around you. Not so much as lost in thought but lost in doing the task. Maybe it’s’ when you were creating something or when you were playing sports or fixing something or when you were in the flow at work. Remember those times and try to replicate it.

There are examples of being in the moment all around you. Begin studying others who have achieved this state and start implementing it into your daily life.

Developing Daily Habits of Flow

“Stop acting like life is a dress rehearsal. The past is gone, and the future is not guaranteed.”-Unknown

Developing habits to stay in the present moment with less stress begins by learning how to live in the moment. Get started by overcoming worry. You can do this by calming your mind and focusing on the solution, instead of the problem. That means putting into practice mindfulness practices.

Choose the mindfulness habits that appeal to you and work with your lifestyle.

  1. Meditation. To do this, all you really need to do is find a place to sit quietly. Then follow your breathing. Notice how your lungs expand and contract with each breath. Let your breathing be relaxed and natural. When your mind wanders, bring it back to your breathing.

Meditation doesn’t have to be done for any specific length of time. It can be done sitting or while you do your daily walk.  Start with 5 minutes and work your way up to longer.

2. Mindful breathing. This is related to meditation but is for short periods. Take short breaks occasionally, say 15 seconds, to observe your breathing. Then go back to whatever you were doing.

Mindful breathing can be done anytime and anywhere. It interrupts the busyness of your mind, sort of like lifting your foot off the accelerator when driving.

3. Walking mindfully. This activity involves being aware of your walking. Pay attention to each step. Notice the different motions of your arms, your torso, and your legs. Bring your mind back to your legs when it begins to wander.

This is a good activity to train yourself to be in the moment. Instead of texting or calling someone when you are walking, focus on the walk itself. While focusing on your walking, notice the trees, sunshine, critters, and other sensory objects when you walk outside.

4. Eating mindfully. Most of us eat mindlessly. We gulp down our food, not tasting it as our attention is focused on texting, watching TV, reading, or holding a meeting. The problem with this is we tend to eat things that aren’t what our body and mind need. We eat unhealthy foods, or we end up eating too much.

5. Mindful eating helps with food cravings, better digestion, and weight loss. To eat mindfully, slow down and avoid distractions from other activities. Contemplate on your choice of food. Think about the nutrients your body needs. Ask if this is what your body and mind need to be healthy or if this is the optimal portion size to be sufficient and not too much. Focus on choosing the portion you are putting in your mouth. Notice the smell, the texture, and the flavor as you chew. Swallow it.

6. Being mindful with activities. As you perform regular activities like washing dishes, focus your total attention on the activity. Resist letting your mind wander or getting distracted. If your mind wanders, bring it back to the task at hand.

Notice your movements or the sensations of washing the dishes like how the soap feels on your hands or the water sliding down your hand as your rinse.

These activities help you begin training your mind to be in the moment. Practicing some or all of these helps you develop the habit of staying in the present moment.

women in blue flowered dress in rose garden with straw hat

Tips for Being Present Daily

Being present means creating attention and creating awareness. The problem with being present daily is that it’s easier said than done. Implementing these habits into your daily routine can be a struggle. Here are 10 ideas to being cultivating more awareness daily.

  1. Celebrate the small joys. What is a small joy you see? Flowers? Finding an extra dollar in your purse? Running into a friend? Whatever it is celebrate it every day.
  2. Check-in with yourself. Identify with the moment you’re in. Notice the noises you hear, your surroundings, and how you feel, smell and are grateful for.
  3. Listen. Be engaged in conversation by listening intently and with curiosity.
  4. It’s okay not to know all the answers. We get caught up in future worries because we want to know all the answers immediately to our problems.
  5. Listen to your body. Stay in the present in your life by listening to what your body tells you it needs.
  6. Let your feelings come. Feel into your feelings and observe them instead of trying to over-analyze and change them.
  7. Reduce distractions. Being continually distracted keeps you from being fully present in your life. Instead, fully focus on one thing.
  8. Savor daily rituals. Maybe it’s a cup of tea and cookies in the afternoon. Maybe it’s a short walk each evening before bed. Whatever it is try doing it slowly, in peace and without distractions every day.
  9. Reflect on your day. Journal and create a list of things you’re grateful for or telling a love one about your day, it’s important to reflect on what went well that day.
  10. Step away from the digital world. Turn off the phone, computer, and other digital devices that distract you. Do something daily that doesn’t require being connected to the internet.

Do these things daily to be more present in your life.

boy and girl watering a garden with a white watering can

Daily Habits to Connect with the Present Moment

“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you will ever have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.”- Eckhart Tolle

Let’s look at some different types of activities and habits you can implement into your day to help begin developing living in the moment.

  • Yoga. It’s probably not surprising to hear that yoga is an excellent habit to get into to connect with the present moment with less stress. Yoga helps you practice mindfulness by having your focus on your breath. When you focus on your breath you are forced to be in the present.
  • Laugh as much as possible. Laughter releases tension and relaxes our muscles. Can’t find anything humorous in your situation? Try to remember something your kid told you that made you laugh or a funny movie you have watched. Keep a small notebook handy with funny jokes. Call a friend for a good laugh. Laugh at yourself when you make a mistake or do something clumsy.
  • Shrug it off if you can. Not everything will be in our control. Life happens. Change what you can and do your best with the rest.
  • Relax. Take off your shoes and wiggle your toes. Meditate for one minute. Close your eyes and count to a million. When you relax your mind calms and your body releases the tensions from those pesky things that worry you throughout the day.
  • Be grateful. Count your blessings and ask for grace to get through the day. Feel gratitude for what you have and for the stress in your life. After all, if you didn’t have stress, you aren’t living.
  • Smile. You’ll be surprised by how just changing your expression can change your whole attitude. A smile helps you change your attitude, giving you a positive outlook. This leaves you calmer and better able to deal with life’s little annoyances. Negativity only brings you more negative actions.
  • Sit quietly in the morning. Morning is the perfect time to begin your day with mindfulness. Instead of rushing through your morning routine take a few minutes to sit and be thankful for the day. Journal, meditate, or just concentrate on breathing.
  • Spend time outside whenever possible. A simple walk around your neighborhood, visiting a local park, or take a hike on a nice trail. These are all great environments for getting in touch with nature. Connecting with nature helps you ground yourself and get in the present moment. Observe what you see, smell, feel, and hear while clearing your mind.
  • Focus on a single task at a time. Many of us have been taught to multitask to get things done. But when you divide your attention among several things, you end up making mistakes, rather than the best job, or not finishing everything. Instead, focus on the one task at hand. When you are done with it, take a short break, and then move onto the next one. It’s a more relaxing and mindful way to do your activities.
  • Feel your feelings. Part of being in the present moment means being in touch with how you feel. Whether you feel excited, happy, sad, angry, jealous, or some other feeling, allow yourself to feel it. Then be mindful of how you react to the feelings.
  • Get creative. Do something every day that uses your creativity. Spending time doing what you enjoy helps you stay in the present moment. And creative outlets are great at helping relieve stress. Draw, paint, build or take photographs or whatever gets you being creative.
  • Take part in physical activities you enjoy. Being active in activities you are passionate about puts you in a state of mindfulness. Include some kind of physical activity you are passionate about in your plans, daily if possible. It could be a game of basketball, soccer, surfing, or cycling. It could be baseball, handball, or a round of golf.
  • One habit to develop to stay in the present moment with stress is to take time for yourself on every day. That time you spend on yourself helps you return to the stresses with a more relaxed and positive mindset.
  • Take a break regularly. Sometimes we get so busy we forget to take a break. Step away from whatever you’re doing throughout the day. Grab a cup of coffee or tea, or ice-cold water, and take a few minutes for yourself.
  • Count your blessings. Be grateful for something every day. Showing gratitude about what you have puts in you in a positive vibe and in the present moment.
  • Sing a song that makes you feel good. Even a silly song will reduce stress and put you in the moment. You might even be surprised when others join in.
  • Perform simple Acts of Kindness to others. Hold open a door, let another in line ahead of you at the grocery store. Buy flowers for a friend. Send an encouraging card or letter. None of these will take much time, but each makes you feel good and more aware of others.
  • Eat healthy– fruit, some cheese every day. Drink Green Tea or ice-cold water.
  • Dance to some lively music. Dancing relaxes your body while having the added benefit of loosening your muscles and helping you release stress. Feel into the motions, the beat of the music, and how it makes you feel. Can’t dance? Just move your body. No one is judging so let go of your inhibitions and boogie.
  • Do Nothing. This may be the hardest thing to do. But try it. Just sit quietly for five minutes. Try to clear your mind. Watch kids play. Doodle. Just don’t make lists of what you need to do. This is a great exercise to do to help clear your thoughts and just be in the moment.
  • Act like a kid and play. Do something silly. Color in a coloring book. Play with your daughter’s dolls or your son’s monster toys. Make mud pies or a snowman. Jump rope. Be a child again and enjoy doing something simple. Notice how it feels to just be open and in the moment.
  • A way to reduce stress is to relax. It’s important to find your own time to unwind with your own way of relaxing. Try deep breathing, yoga, meditating, whatever helps you relax.
  • If you can’t do any of these things, just sit and listen to soothing music for a few minutes. Or read a few pages of your favorite fiction book.
  • Keep a journal. Write down what is bothering you as well as what you are grateful for. Journaling can be a great way to get yourself back into the present. It helps you organize your thoughts and feelings. It’s a great way to keep track of what’s causing your stress and to work through the issues.
  • Spend time working on a hobby you enjoy. Try knitting, photography, scrapbooking, gardening, fishing, or painting. Take-up baking or gourmet cooking. Whatever you want to explore, make sure it’s something you enjoy and not something that will add more stress to your life.
  • Get a pet. Studies have shown pets are great companions. They don’t argue, aren’t rude and are always there when you need them.  They keep in you in the present moment by just being with you and looking for nothing but your attention
  • Take a long bath. Fill the tub with scented essential oils surrounded by lit candles and your favorite soothing music. Let your mind wander. Afterward, wrap yourself in fluffy towels, moisturize all over, and blow-dry your hair. Give yourself a manicure and a facial. You’ll emerge a totally relaxed diva.
  • Be of service and help others. Helping others helps us get our minds off our own troubles and puts us into the moment. Help an elderly neighbor, volunteer in your community, or find some way to help those in need.
  • Set limits and plan your time. Figure out what you can really do in a certain amount of time. Set limits with yourself and others. Say NO when you have to.
  • Plan your day with a flexible to-do list. Do the most important things first. Plan time to pray, to play with your kids, to relax, to eat well, and to exercise.

Whether you participate in meditation, a fun new hobby like belly dancing, or spend a few minutes organizing your day, implementing some of these daily habits into your day helps you stay in the present moment. And there will be less stress as well.

womens lap with notebook pen coffee cup and phone on side table.

Do This Next

When you begin developing daily habits that help you stay in the present moment, you begin to feel more relaxed, in focus, and in tune with yourself and the world around you.

Each day take time to implement something that helps you stop and focus on the moment. When you are more mindful and present, you will feel like you have more control over your life.

Be sure to implement self-care as a part of your mindfulness habits. The first step in any plan to be more in the present moment begins with a better, healthier you. This can include relaxing in an essential oil bath, reading motivational books or simply renewing your spiritual connection daily.

Try to find time to fit in exercise every day. This can be as simple as a short walk around the block or working in your garden. Join the gym, take-up a team sport, or begin dancing. The important thing is the find a way to get movement into your day that allows you to focus on the moment.

Choose healthy foods that your body wants. Before you reach for something, take note of how your body feels. Is it craving a big juicy apple or are you just needing water? Be aware of what your body craves, not what you think you want.

No matter what new daily habits you develop to stay in the present moment you will begin to notice less stress. Your body, mind, and emotions will be more relaxed, and you’ll begin to notice how enjoyable your life is.

Daily Habits Checklist.

Daily Habits Worksheet.