I needed to do a ‘re-set’ recently. I’d started to feel a bit blah and ‘on the treadmill-ish’. I’m sure you can relate.
The one thing that has made the biggest difference is choosing to be present. Yeah – I know, what does that really mean and how do you do it?! It sounds like such an unattainable state, and it’s also become a bit of a cliché. “Be present”. “Stay present.” Let’s delve just a little into this age-old wisdom and demystify it.
STATING THE OBVIOUS
First things first – when you’re ‘present’ you’re not ruminating on the past, rehashing events and circumstances. You’re also not thinking about the future, catastrophizing, worrying, obsessively trying to control imagined future events with over-planning and over-thinking.
So how are you occupying your mind instead? You’re focusing fully on what you’re choosing to do now. You’re completely involved in the experience of it. Notice the word ‘choose’ here. It’s intentional. It’s clear. It’s uncluttered by imagined futures, distractions or the reliving or manipulations of past memories.
It’s also not multitasking. You’re doing one thing, and one thing only, at any given time.
Apart from the fact that feeling overwhelmed is an unpleasant sensation, here are some more reasons why learning the discipline of being present is so important to your quality of life.
- You’ll have SO MUCH more energy! You’ll drop oh so much of the fatigue!
- You’ll have the capacity for increased creativity.
- You’ll be ‘in flow’ much more often, and things will get done with more ease and less force and stress.
- You’ll be less stressed – and we all know now that stress is a higher risk factor for heart disease and cancer than even smoking or a fatty diet.
- Your general health and wellbeing will improve. You’ll be safeguarding your mental health.
- Your relationships will improve. Your time with family, employees, friends will be quality time, not fractured and interrupted and unsatisfying.
- You’ll lose some of the guilt you now feel over too little time with kids, parents, spouse, because quality time counts for much more than time when you’re not fully present with someone.
- You’ll be more efficient and will get a surprising amount more done.
- You’ll feel fewer physical aches and pains, because much of the mental tension will have disappeared. Mental tension = physical tension.
- You’ll become much more aware of your knee-jerk reactions to things. You’ll choose to respond rather than react, and you’ll naturally become more mindful of your tendencies which don’t serve you. Think procrastination, comfort eating or drinking, distracting yourself (social media, Netflix), dulling yourself with drugs of your choice (coffee, alcohol etc).
You see – there are a few good reasons to make the effort here! There’s no down side to becoming more present. It just takes a bit of effort, and the benefits of the effort you put in snowball very quickly, in turn naturally increasing your motivation to do it (or I should say, “be it”).
SOUND EASIER SAID THAN DONE?
Of course! It’s much easier said than done. That’s no reason not to do it.
Have patience with yourself. No self-bullying here.
The mind is the tricky factor. It needs to be addressed. You’ve most likely been letting it run wild and uncontrolled for quite a long time. It needs a bit of taming. You need to take control and give it something else to focus on than past ruminations or future possibilities. The whole “empty mind” thing is a more advanced state of being than we’re talking about. Instead, let’s talk smaller, attainable steps and consider more positive ways to keep the mind occupied than its usual blabber and plapper.
If you’re really good at fully focusing on the one thing you’re doing, and you have the awareness that you’re doing it, great! Stick with it. Keep bringing yourself back when you notice you’re off somewhere other than here and now, or when you’re in your mind rather than your body. (More about that in a sec.)
We’re usually running on autopilot whilst our mind thinks whatever it wants to, according to the molecules of emotion and neural networks you’ve made it addicted to. (Yes – you’ve allowed it to become an addict. You probably did it unconsciously and unintentionally, but if you take responsibility for it, you also take your power back to help it get addicted to much more useful and constructive emotion molecules and neural networks.
2 BIG SIMPLE ‘TOOLS’
There are two very simple, powerful ‘tools’ I’ll mention which will be a massive help in staying present.
- The Breath! Heard it before? Well, frankly, there’s a reason for that, and that’s because it works! Keep bringing your awareness back to your breath and how you’re breathing. Right here you have an inbuilt tool to help you be present. And related to that…
- Be aware of how your body’s feeling. Be in your body. It’s almost like you’re aware that your consciousness is looking out from your body, watching your activities, noticing the physical sensations you’re experiencing.
Sometimes we just need help remembering to be present, right? If you need some ways to help you remember to breath fully and be in an awareness of your body, here are a few.
HELP YOURSELF TO REMEMBER
- Set an alarm every hour, or whatever works for you, to remind you to come back to Now.
- Decide on an activity, place or occurrence that happens many times daily, and mentally ‘set’ this as a reminder to be present. In other words, you’re setting a positive trigger for yourself. This could be a noise, like the sound of your dog barking, or a place like doorways – every time you walk through a doorway it’s a ‘be present’ reminder, or going to the loo, or standing up. You’ll come up with your own.
- Use your feelings as your remembrance prompt. If you notice you’re feeling bad, tense, getting a bit of brain fog or irritated, use that as your trigger to come back to Now!
In this article I’m talking less about concentrated times of meditation, and more about staying present as you go about your busy daily life. It’s important to make that distinction. We can cover meditation practices another time!
I know – the best intentions and best laid plans can fall apart. It happens to everyone at some point or other. Still, if you’ve planned your day and know what you’re going to accomplish and when you’re going to do it, you’ll also be able to eliminate much of the mental chatter and to-do list, and be more present. Of course, we need to be a bit flexible and not beat ourselves up if plans need to change. There’s something mind-calming about clarity, structure and knowing when necessary activities and tasks will get done.
Be realistic! If you plan impossibilities you’ll reap frustration, lower self-esteem and give your mind fodder to keep it obsessing on the old and unwanted. Only plan to do one day’s work in any given day, not tomorrow’s or next week’s!
This is the tip of the iceberg in terms of being fully present, but it’s a start, and starts are important. How about committing to experimenting with this? Play around with it and treat it as a game. It doesn’t need to be serious and dry. On the contrary, it’s a rich, fun, rewarding approach to how you live your life. Give it a go!