Living One Day at a Time

Portrait of tired woman on dark background
© Gladkov – depositphotos.com

At this time of year people tend to spend a lot of energy on resolutions. Planning them, making them, getting started on them, and then feeling discouraged when things don’t go as they’d hoped.

Twelve-step recovery is centered around the concept of living “one day at a time.” The premise is that addicts don’t need to think about living the rest of their lives without specific foods, or alcohol, or other harmful substances or behaviors; they only need to abstain for today.

In eating disorder recovery, it’s about one day at a time, one meal at a time, one moment at a time. You can start fresh every day or at any point during the day. There is no need to wait until the calendar changes to a new year or a new week, or until a holiday or event starts or ends.

Every day is a day to live the life you want. You cannot change everything overnight, but you can take steps towards change from wherever you are, that will bring you closer to where you are going.

Some people wonder where planning fits into this concept. If we’re living in the moment, does that mean we can’t plan at all for the future? Not at all! Planning is an important way to protect your recovery and avoid obsessing about the future.

Living one day at a time keeps us in the present moment and puts the past and future into perspective, instead of us ruminating about either one. Otherwise we miss all the moments and miracles that come up each day and then wonder where the time has gone.

Research has shown that when we sit at the table and eat, and focus only on eating, we remember those meals and feel more satisfied. We’re more capable of registering hunger and fullness.

When we’re out running errands, we can notice and appreciate the world around us. On a sunny day we can admire the beautiful sky. Just as importantly, on a rainy day we can watch our footing so we don’t rush, trip or fall.

There are so many beautiful things available to us in the present moment. Not just what we see, but the sounds we hear and things we feel. We can feel the breeze against our skin, or the soft fur of a pet, and the gentle rumbling of their breath beneath our hand.

The whole goal of recovery is to live happier lives, which comes from having compassion for ourselves and others. If we don’t feel great about something we did yesterday or last week or in the past, we can address that with a counselor or someone supportive, but in the meantime not beat ourselves up.

So living one day at a time helps us let go of the things we don’t feel great about in the past, and release any expectations of future situations or relationships. We can be where we are – I like the concept, “be where your hands are,” in other words to focus on what you are doing in this moment, and only that.

Living in the present is truly living. If you’re having trouble doing this, here are a few things that can help:

  • Quiet time – Realign your compass and get present again, any time you find yourself slipping out of the present moment.
  • Breathwork – Use part of this time for healing breathwork. Breathe deeply and slowly, focusing on each breath.
  • Quick change of scenery – When you shift your location, even for a few moments, you’ll come back with a fresh perspective to be more present with what you’re doing.
  • Tune in to your tasks – For example, when you’re washing your hands, waiting at a traffic light, drawing or doodling, take the opportunity to get centered again and come back to the present.

The holidays can be such a busy time, and January and February can bring more stress and the expectation to change your life overnight. This is a great time to get re-centered. And this will be true no matter when you are reading this article.