How to be more present…
My mind is like my web browser. 19 tabs are open, 3 are frozen, and I have no idea where the music is coming from…
Has the last year simply flown by, time seems to be slipping through your fingers?
Don’t worry, it’s not just you! Many people have experienced it too.
Time is where you focus your attention and, perhaps not surprisingly, over the last year we’ve been focused on the future (How will we cope? What’s going to happen? When will schools go back? When can we go out and meet with friends? Can we book a summer holiday yet? When will life return to ‘normal’?), and also a little on the past as we mourn the loss of our former, freer lifestyles.
We haven’t been focused much on the present, where real life is happening. And that means we aren’t really conscious of the moments as they pass, time slips away…
So how do you start living in your life rather than drifting through it?
Be more mindful, more present in your life
“The act of being present is, in a sense, a meditation without meditating.”
“Being Present means being fully conscious of the moment and free from the noise of internal dialogue. It’s often associated with feelings of stillness and peace.”
“Being present means feeling grounded in your body.”
From these definitions, it all sounds a bit fluffy, doesn’t it? And I tried to find an image that portrayed being present, mindful, more aware of the moment but they call came up like this one… which is probably why it has a bit of a woolly reputation, and why it’s ignored by many.
But being present has some proper, scientific weight behind it.
There are a number of studies into mindfulness (the formal practice of being present) with results showing that people who are more aware of the moments tend to be happier, calmer, more relaxed, and appreciative of what they have. It also increases your self-awareness, your ability to recognise and understand your thoughts, emotions, and body sensations.
In short, it’s about being more alive to each moment and not sleep-walking through life.
So what does ‘being present’ actually mean?
Is it a skill or a state of being, is it all in your head or something physical?
The answer is it’s a bit of all of them. It’s also one of the pillars of resilience, arguably the hardest one to achieve for many of us in our modern, time-poor, noisy lives where stress is celebrated, multitasking is seen as a desirable trait and busy-ness is the norm – and that all before the Corona Virus caught us in a broadside collision.
The Pandemic has made it all worse.
This definition probably sums it up best: “Being present simply means that you’re focused and engaged in the here and now, not distracted or mentally absent”.
So it’s about being wherever you are in mind as well as body – and you know the difference! Those times when you’ve asked your child or partner how their day was and you don’t listen to a word they say, or when you’re in a meeting but you’re thinking about what’s for lunch (or is that just me?), or when you’re out walking your dog but all you’re thinking about is the work you have to get done, the emails waiting to be answered, or what about sitting watching TV whilst scrolling through social media, your mind not engaged in the room you’re in.
We practise to be the person we become… that’s a fundamental truth in how the brain works, based on past patterns of behaviour. In essence we become better at whatever we focus our attention on.
It sounds simple enough, but it takes practise
Through developing the skill of being present, you can begin to:
- Use all your senses, enjoying moments in their entirety
- Develop self-awareness so you’re much more in tune with what’s going on around you and within you
- You’re more accepting of what’s happening now (no more time travelling into the past or future)
- Approach experiences with curiosity and kindness, instead of fear, anger, anxiety from all the overthinking which is mainly done negatively (we all have a bit of a disaster movie constantly playing in our minds, it’s meant to keep us safe but sometimes it can take over and that’s we can feel overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, depressed)
- You understand that your thoughts and feelings as simply transitory mental events, they’re not necessarily ‘true’, it’s just a thought and whatever you’re feeling now, you know it will pass
- You’re responsive to situations instead of automatically reacting, often in a stress mode which makes matters worse!
- You do activities that give you energy, expand your horizons, and make you feel good instead of depleting activities that do the opposite – all that Doomscrolling, compulsive social media browsing, losing time in mindless games, surfing the net…
We have all become rather expert at not being present. We’re so used to juggling tasks, listening with one ear, eating whilst working or watching TV, splitting our attention and never quite living in the moment or being awake to the experiences going on around us.
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