10 Ways To Live In The Present

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“With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now.”  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

20100829IMG 1603   10 Ways To Live In The Present

When I think about my struggles with anxiety, I realize that I live in the future too much. It’s crazy how much I worry about things that haven’t happened yet and probably never will happen. I’ve spent my entire life battling the anxiety monster and I’ve missed out on so many great opportunities due to debilitating fear.

Not knowing what will happen makes me anxious. I like predictability and when I’m in situations without it, I can feel it creeping in.

So what does my mind do with the unknown?

I predict what will happen. And anxiety dictates that it’s mostly negative. This creates more anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle.

Control is an illusion, anyway. I can’t ‘control’ what happens to me, but I can learn how to deal with anxiety in a positive manner. I studied psychology for 7 years in university and I’ve read countless studies about the effectiveness of therapy. I’m a believer in it, but I’ve never taken the time to really apply it to myself as much as I could. I can learn coping mechanisms, countering thoughts, breathing techniques, mantras, and visualizations to help. I can work with a Cognitive Behavioural psychologist to work on changing my thought processes. I can talk to people about it. I can write. I can be creative. I can run. I can do yoga. I can be honest about how I feel.

I can laugh about it with Eric when I tell him what I’m anxious about and the look on his face makes me burst into laughter, realizing how ridiculous my worries sound out loud.

Insanity can be defined as repeating the same behaviour over and over and expecting a different outcome. Well, lock me up and throw away the key! If we don’t change our behaviours, thoughts, and actions, we will never grow. If I keep doing what I’m doing now, my anxiety will never get better. However, when we’re struggling with something, we can always open other doors and explore other avenues…

That’s why my goal for July is simple:

To live in the present as much as possible.

I want to get out of my own head, fears, and negative stories on loop. I want to stop losing so much time to the future (and past) and be present in the moment. Of course, it’s good to think about the future and past sometimes- that’s part of the excitement of life- but I also think being present is something that I must work on.

As someone whose mind is always spinning constantly about the past and future, I’ve never had a clue how to go about living in the present. After some research, I’ve come up with an action plan. I’m going to print this list off and put it in a couple places where I will see it daily- my bathroom mirror and my desk.

How I will live in the present:

1) BREATHE

Breathing fully and deeply does not come natural to me. Well, I’m sure it did at one point, but somewhere along the line I became a shallow breather. The more wound up I get, the less I breathe. I’m trying to be mindful of my breath, especially in those moments when I need it the most. Before entering an anxiety provoking situation, I try to stop and take at least 3 deep breaths before proceeding. I used to do this when I gave many presentations in grad school and it really helped calm me before jumping in.

2) Be a Minimalist

Remove your unneeded possessions. We just did this last weekend and Eric and I both felt a huge sense of calmness when we parted with half of the things we own. Physical clutter turns into mind clutter and removing everything but the essentials restores a feeling of tranquility and reminds us what is truly important in life. It sure isn’t material things. Minimalism doesn’t just happen overnight, but the more I approach this lifestyle, the more mindful I am when I make every purchase. This also applies to grocery shopping. Lately, I’ve been more mindful not to bring in new food before the food in the house is used up!

3) Smile

Throughout my life, I’ve been known for being a smiling, happy girl. My teachers even used to write that on my report cards. However, when I let my anxieties weigh me down, my face turns into an anxiety monster. Sometimes I catch myself thinking about something and I notice that I have a huge frown on my face just due to a mere thought. Thoughts are very powerful, but they don’t define who we are and we shouldn’t allow them to change our mood so instantly. Acknowledge your thoughts whatever they may be and then smile. One of my favourite things to do is to smile at a complete stranger because you never know how it will impact their day.

4) Forgive the past

I’ve been through some crappy things in my life and no matter how long ago these past hurts occurred, I will catch myself thinking about it as if it is happening to me now. Sometimes memories are so vivid and real. By failing to forgive things that have happened in my past, I fail to move forward and to be present in the moment. Forgiveness is a personal choice, but when I chose to forgive the past, I feel more free.

5) Dream big, but work hard today.

There is no better moment to accomplish your goals than right now. Planning is motivating, but it’s important to focus on what we can do in the moment and not get too caught up in the future. As we know, things don’t always happen as we predict. All we have is this moment right now.

6) Do one thing at a time.

I’m a chronic multi-tasker like many women. Sure, I make to-do lists occasionally, but that doesn’t stop me from tackling 8 things at once. Due to multi-tasking, I feel like my attention is never 100% where it should be. I may decide to work on a writing project for a certain amount of time, but I’m often composing emails, responding to comments, editing photos, shipping orders, and writing a blog post at the same time. I don’t think that all multi-tasking is negative, but I need to focus on being in the moment for the task at hand. If I tried to do one thing at a time, I think my goal for mindfulness would be easier and I would feel less frazzled.

7) Do less.

It seems like society is always encouraging is to do more, and more, and more. To fill our days to the absolute brim. Where does it get us in the end? Feeling frazzled with half-assed accomplishments? Doing less could mean that you accomplish goals with better concentration and better quality. Rushing things rarely leads to mindfulness. Sometimes, I like to start a writing blog post (like this one) and chip away at it over the course of 2-3 days. When I take it slow, ideas will often come to me over time. Had I hit publish on my first draft, I never would have fully developed my ideas.

8.) Add space

Along the same lines of ‘do less’, add space between your tasks. Don’t schedule things super close together for 12 hours straight. Give yourself a little wiggle room to breathe. If you write a to-do list, leave a few blanks so you can fill them in as things pop up during your day. Things ALWAYS pop up!

9) Cleaning as meditation

I tend to look at cleaning tasks as one dreaded chore after another. There never seems to be enough time for cleaning and when we tackle the list, it’s always a mad rush to bust through it. Cleaning can be a form of mindfulness though and rituals are often calming. Next time you clean, put your full attention into each task, concentrate, and do them slowly. Look at cleaning (and exercise!) as a stress relief in your day rather than a chore.

10) Spread the love

Do something nice for someone everyday. Smile at strangers. Hold the door open. Buy someone a coffee. Give to the needy. Call a loved one. Give someone your seat on the train. Compliment someone. Say ‘I appreciate you’. It just feels so damn good.

[For my research, I used one of my all-time favourite blogs Zen Habits. If you aren’t already reading this blog, you must check it out!]

~~~~~

After I wrote my ‘We Are Never Alone’ post and talked about going back into therapy, I felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. And then I read your beautiful comments and emails, and I was overcome with gratitude. I will never second guess posting something that is so much a part of who I am. Once we remove the shame from how we feel, true healing can begin.

And I must say, while writing this post I was really living in the moment. Writing is a great release!

 

“If you worry about what might be, and wonder what might have been, you will ignore what is.” -Unknown

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{ 196 comments… read them below or add one }

Ashley July 9, 2011

As a fellow anxiety-sufferer, I am right there with you about living-in-the-moment. These are wonderful ways of overcoming anxiety– especially the cleaning and decluttering. I’m getting ready to move soon, and that is always a good time to get rid of stuff.
I think I’m going to print this out as well– I’ve had a rough couple of days, and this was a really uplifting post :) Thank you!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) July 9, 2011

I hope your weekend is better Ashley!

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Ashley July 9, 2011

Thanks! Have a good weekend also:) I’m heading off to go shopping at farmer’s markets!

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Krysta July 9, 2011

I love your July goal! I also think it is incredibly brave to talk about your anxiety in such a public manner, but, as I am sure you know, there are so many other people out there feeling the same way. I don’t think that I necessarily suffer from anxiety but I often fall into patterns of control and perfectionism which turn into feelings of being overwhelmed and negative thoughts about myself.

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Jennie July 9, 2011

Angela, this is a great post and a great goal. I feel like I can totally relate to you. I also suffer from anxiety and am constantly worrying. I am taking your advice and going to use it to my advantage. I wish you the best with your goal. I’m sure you will acheive it! <3

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cathy July 9, 2011

Another stellar post, anglea. I found myself nodding as I read each tip. Thank you for sharing your own thoughts and situation – I can sooo relate, and it really helps to know someone else feels like I feel, often. We shall keep growing and striving!
My goal for july is to relax – for me, that includes living in the moment. This is the best time of year – we should enjoy it fully!
Hugs to you and thanks again for your heartfelt words.

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Angela (Oh She Glows) July 9, 2011

I agree…Summer is the perfect time to relax and live in the moment!

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Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table July 9, 2011

These are great reminder. I especially need to work on #6 – I’m terrible about multi-tasking and not putting my whole-self into things as a result.

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Sarah July 9, 2011

Thank you for this post! Lately I have been finding myself so pre-occupied with insignificant stuff like what I’m having to dinner, what time I have to leave the house to get somewhere etc. that I have become an air-headed baffoon.
I love your tips, in particular doing less and doing one thing at a time. I used to be really good at doing those things, but somehow I’ve lost the habit and I seem like I’m always rushing.

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Hayley @ Oat Couture July 9, 2011

I love this post and it’s just what I needed today so thank you! :)

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Sarah @ veggie-kids.blogspot.com/ July 9, 2011

I love your honesty with these posts! Why is it so hard to live in the moment? Such a great thing to strive for though. I work on that one daily.

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Cait's Plate July 9, 2011

I’m so glad that getting it off your chest helped you. It ALWAYS helps me to do so too. And I couldn’t agree more about the importance of writing in the healing process. It’s such a wonderful release.

I hope you continue to live in the moment and employ all those things that help you most – remember that we’re always hear to listen and help wherever we can!! :)

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Lynne July 9, 2011

Another wonderful post – thank you. :) I suffer from anxiety too, and will definitely be using your tips. Thanks again, Angela.

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Kat July 9, 2011

This is an amazing post. I am a very anxious person so I need to make sure to try out some of these tips

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Amber K July 9, 2011

I totally feel like I could have written the first part of this post! The way you described the anxiety monster is spot on with what I deal with on a daily basis. I really want to not have this affect so much of my life, so I’m checking out Zen Habits and I think I’m going to read your 10 tips again so that I can fully digest them and take them to heart.

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Samantha @ Health, Happiness & Skinny Jeans July 9, 2011

I too suffer from anxiety and these tips are very helpful. Thank you so much for sharing this personal journey with us.

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Sarah July 9, 2011

Good for you Angela! I like the minimalist goal…it makes living in the moment so rewarding to find value in the simple things. Good luck :)

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lindsay July 9, 2011

one day at a time, one hour at a time, one moment at a time. Being present. Great tips Angela. Anxiety can be the minds worst enemy and this advice can totally help overcome and conquer it!

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Eat Hike Sleep Repeat July 9, 2011

Very nicely written. I think we all get caught up in the future, not wanting to be unprepared or unaware. However, after losing both my parents when they were fairly young, I realized that we have no idea what our future will look like, or how long our future might be. I still get caught in the multitasking trap you spoke of, which diminishes from the simply beauty of what you are doing at the moment and can disrespect the people you may be with at the time. My mantra now, which I learned clinging to the side of a mountain is “Fully Present”. You might enjoy my post on this discovery. Have a great, fully present, weekend!
http://eathikesleeprepeat.blogspot.com/2011/05/fully-present-lessons-from-mountain.html

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Laura@mypurposefullife July 9, 2011

What a beautiful post, Angela. I appreciate your honesty about discussing your anxiety. I also have a lot of anxiety, especially when I start worrying about and trying to plan for the future. Just this week, a friend asked about what I plan on doing in a year after my boyfriend finishes his Master’s at NYU (I’m out here living with him and working while I figure out my life), and that question alone sent me into a week of worry, stress, and even slipping back into bad habits of poor body image and disordered eating. Just today I am feeling more positive about the whole situation, and this post coincidentally came at a perfect time for me. I too need to work on living in the present and not worrying so much about what may or may not happen in the future. You are a true inspiration. Best of luck working on these goals. Even though I do not know you, just thinking that you are out there working through similar anxiety issues as me makes me encouraged to work that much harder to stay in the present. Have a fabulous weekend!

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Grace July 9, 2011

First of all, thank you so much Angela for this wonderful post. I’ve been needing these reminders a lot lately. Also Laura, thank you for sharing some of your story, it really reminds me of mine. I just finished my first year of college and decided that it wasn’t the right place for me, nor the right time to be in college. I decided to take some time off and I’m happy with that choice, but lately my days are filled with anxiety about the future. I don’t know where I’m going to apply to college when and if I go back. There is so much unknown in my life. But, as you said Angela, the key is to spend as much time as possible in the present, and then just take small steps to move forward in taking the next big step.

Like you said, Laura, knowing that others out their are struggling with the same things is very comforting. We can all find strength in the fact that we are never alone. I wish you both the absolute best!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) July 9, 2011

Thanks for sharing your own experience Laura. I can relate to the post-school anxiety issues…it can be a big transition period, but also, a new and exciting chapter in your life to begin. Goodluck!

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Lauren @ What Lauren Likes July 9, 2011

These posts are so uplifting and calming. I am always excited to read them and apply them to my life :) thanks!!

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Nicki July 9, 2011

This post was exactly what I needed this morning- thank you!

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Jaime July 9, 2011

Thank you for this post. I needed this just at this very moment.

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kaila @ healthy helper! July 9, 2011

I love this! Living in the present is something I think most people struggle with and all these tips will definitely be helpful. Thank you for sharing !

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Hilliary @ Happily Ever Healthy July 9, 2011

This is a great post, thank you! I am a person who is constantly worrying about the future and I sometimes forget to live in the present. I forget to enjoy the opportunities and experiences I am having in the now! These are great tips!

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Nikita July 9, 2011

Beautiful post as usual, Angela! You give some great tips and goals that anyone dealing with anxiety can benefit from.
Thank you!

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Kristen July 9, 2011

Amazing post Angela! Very relevant for me right now. Have you read “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle? It is all about living in the present and very thought provoking.

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Shannon ~ My Place In The Race July 9, 2011

I love this post! The unknown certainly can be scary at times.

Have a great weekend!

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Carol July 9, 2011

Loved this post. Living in the present is something I am working on also. Life is too short.

Eric sounds a lot like my hubby whenever I tell him what’s bothering me. His reaction almost always cheers me up:)

I hope you are able to find comfort from him being by your side!

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Miranda July 9, 2011

Thank you for writing this. I definitely needed this reminder in my life right now. I’m finding that I’m getting wrapped up in all the wrong things and then wondering why I feel so stressed out! Ugh. You are amazing. =)

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Jessica @ Dairy Free Betty July 9, 2011

As much as I would never wish anxiety on anyone, it’s so nice to hear that I’m not the only one (I feel like it sometimes). I worry about the future and what might happen often. I dramatize everything in my head and as a result spend so much time in the future that I don’t appreciate the now.

Thanks for this post Angela!

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Laura July 9, 2011

Beautiful post! Brought tears to my eyes.
You are such an inspiration to me as a sufferer of an eating disorder and anxiety.
You are truly an amazing person! <3

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Angela (Oh She Glows) July 9, 2011

All the best with your recovery Laura :)

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Jennifer July 9, 2011

What a beautiful post! I can almost feel the relief you felt pouring from my computer monitor (the release you had must have been REALLY powerful!). I love the honestly you have always brought to your blog. I also wanted to pass along to you one of my favorite websites that helps me take a deep breath and live in the moment:
http://www.thedailylove.com
It’s worth checking out if you haven’t already done so.

Have a fantastic weekend!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) July 9, 2011

Thanks going to check it out now!

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Mary ( What's Cookin' with Mary) July 9, 2011

“I can laugh about it with Eric when I tell him what I’m anxious about and the look on his face makes me burst into laughter, realizing how ridiculous my worries sound out loud.” – Brian provides this same thing for me… sometimes just telling him how I feel (when I’m feeling anxious) and watching his face change as I speak, I realize how silly I am being. I’m so grateful to have a husband that ‘balances me out’ and reminds me to stop (as he calls it) ‘death spiraling’… meaning: don’t get stuck in my head?! TALK about it and get it out there so I can stop worrying about it or realize I’m just over thinking things… Thank you for writing this Ange. It helps remind me that I’m not the only one out there who struggles with these things. :)

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Angela (Oh She Glows) July 9, 2011

Death spiriling….I love that term! It made me laugh. I will be using that, thank you :)
Eric is my calm ocean breeze. I’ve also learned that the more I voice my anxieties to others, the more easy the can be disproven. Even writing it down on paper and looking at it helps!

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Andrea @ Vegvacious July 9, 2011

This is a wonderful post Angela! I can relate to this so much ~ in fact I swear you were talking about me! My husband often says that I worry so much about what ‘might’ happen that I miss what actually IS happening!! I’ve been making a true effort to change the way I think and to live in the present and it is amazing to me how much more I enjoy life when I do!

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Lindsey July 9, 2011

Like you and many that have posted, I suffer from anxiety and depression. Not a constant, all day every day anxiety and depression–but it comes in seasons. It is nice to read that others deal with such issues and have the same thoughts. Thank you for the post!

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Maria July 9, 2011

Anxiety + I are always having constant battles. Sometimes I keep myself up at night over the most ridiculous scenarios that I put in my head (what if someone’s car breaks down on the way to my wedding for instance). Its crazy!
I love your ideas for coping with anxiety though. I totally believe that cleaning and yoga are the biggest help for me. Whenever I organize something in my apartment or finish up laundry, I feel amazing. Granted the tasks at hand aren’t very glamorous, but the end result makes me appreciate the effort and most importantly, clears my head.

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Lindsay Loves Veggies July 9, 2011

Wow Angela! This is a beautiful post! I also deal with anxiety regularly, and it’s something that I’ve really been trying to deal with lately, especially since it really does impact how happy I am on a daily basis. Thank you for the amazing tips, and I really hope that you’re able to tackle that anxiety monster. :)

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Therese July 9, 2011

I’ve never been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder but I’m right there with you in that I live in a world of past/future and it’s done nothing good for me. It’s also been a goal of mine recently to really make a concerted effort to live in the present. I’m better than I used to be but still have to constantly get my mind out of that trap. I’m implementing daily meditation and yoga twice a week to help change these nasty behaviours!

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Andrea July 9, 2011

What a poignant post.. I love it! I, too, find myself struggling to live in the present at times, and a reminder like this is sometimes so necessary! I can relate to everything you said, particularly the need to do less! It’s so hard sometimes with society’s pressure to do more and more :)

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Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga July 9, 2011

Angela this list is beautiful. Thank you for sharing it all!

I concur with every single thing and this jumped out at me, especially:
“I’m a chronic multi-tasker like many women.”

Yes. And it makes me feel like I am never doing 1 thing great, but am doing 4 things ok, 3 things so-so and 1 thing is subpar but I deal with it. If you ever have a baby, the whole multi tasking even goes to new levels and the anxiety then goes to, but am I doing enough for my child…it’s such a vicious web!

And I am soooo glad you shared what you did about therapy. And that the comments encouraged you to post those types of things in the future, too. I have found my most…omg why am I posting this posts generate the most reader love :)

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Angela (Oh She Glows) July 9, 2011

Biggest risks tend to get the biggest rewards right?

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zoe (and the beatles) July 9, 2011

i LOVE zen habits! leo seriously makes me life. love your list. i definitely need to draw up one of my own!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) July 9, 2011

same :) its relaxing just reading it!

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Lisa July 9, 2011

Great post and so much for your readers to contemplate. If you are really searching for ways to leave the past and quit worrying about your future, consider reading some of the books written by Thich Nhat Hahn. His writings and teachings on the subject of mindfulness and being present in the here and now, are beautiful. Look up the story of eating the tangerine…..amazing! And, best wishes for a happy July!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) July 9, 2011

Thanks will look the author up :)

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