If you value creativity and productivity it’s important to learn to “live in the moment”. Many philosophical traditions teach that living in the moment increases your awareness of what’s happening around you— and your ability to choose to relate to it or not — and being focused on whatever you choose makes life easier and more fulfilling. And it increases happiness

Living in the moment is also not being overly reactive or overwhelmed. While this awareness might not be available to us all of the time, it’s available enough to support us being more creative and productive more of the time. Living in the moment can certainly include learning from the past or planning for the future; it just means not being stuck there. And even in times of terrible world news, living in the moment will support greater degrees of happiness.

Most of us, though, think that our busy lives won’t allow us to develop any kind of practice, such as yoga or meditation, or to keep up with a regularly scheduled class.

But paradoxically, it does take some focused attention to begin to live in the moment. A recent psychiatric study reported in the journal of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) tells us that we spend about 50% of our time in unfocused mind-wandering, and that the active brain areas dedicated to this are called the “default mode network”. And here’s the kicker: most of the time spent in this mode involves feeling unhappy.

The default mode network is firing when we are busy re-working the past or re-fighting earlier battles, especially the ones we wish had turned out differently. It’s where we imagine different outcomes by taking missed opportunities, re-doing old relationships, and trying out other career paths. It’s also where we experience nostalgia, reminisce about favorite past events, or even repetitively re-experience past traumas.

For sure, living in the moment means developing a habit of attention, a willingness to notice when the past beckons or the future tempts, and the ability to refocus on your here-and-now. One way to cultivate this is in the process of learning, which requires attention in the moment. Yet another reason to consider becoming a lifelong learner.

Finally, spiritual awareness requires being able to focus clearly on this very specific moment, the here-and-now. Indeed, this ability may be the essence of any spiritual practice. So clearly, living in the moment creates possibilities for personal growth and moments of spiritual discovery.