Stay present to what is happening with you now. All power is in the present moment. — Gary Zukav
It’s a complicated world out there, isn’t it? More than ever, people juggle work and home demands while trying to keep current with social media and manage all the technology that runs our life. It’s no wonder we are tired, stressed, and unable to focus! There is one effective way to cut through the clutter and truly live our lives with meaning, and that is to be present. That means we are fully in our lives, experiencing each moment as it happens. Research has shown the benefits of staying present (or mindfulness) to our health, our productivity, and our well-being.
Ready to reclaim your life, lower your stress, and increase your focus? Here are some proven ways to stay in the present moment.
1. Stop multitasking and start single-tasking.
Our brains are not equipped to focus on more than one thing at a time effectively. Research has shown that multitasking is actually just switching from on thing to another very rapidly. The result is increased stress and reduced quality. When we focus on one thing at a time, our brains can make better sense of what is happening; we can receive more information and make better decisions.
2. Breathe and get back into your body.
There is something almost magical about taking slow, deliberate, whole-belly breaths. It lowers heart rate and blood pressure; it stops the release of stress chemicals in our bodies; and it brings you to what is happening right now. To stay present (or return to the present), stop what you are doing. Take a slow, full breath. Inhale and exhale fully. Feel your feet on the floor or the ground. That simple exercise takes you “out of your head” and back to where you physically are at the present moment.
3. Notice what you are doing, where you are, and what you are thinking about.
What task are you engaged with? Are you truly “there” or present physically but thinking about something else? If you notice your mind is elsewhere, gently let go of what you were thinking about. If it’s important, make a note for later…and return to the present moment. Notice also what is going on around you. What sights, sounds, smells, and sensations are happening in your body and in your environment? Take a moment to look around once in a while, to tune in to your present environment.
4. Tell yourself “Right now, I am ____.”
This verbal exercise is a great way to stay present. It helps you focus on what you are really doing. For example, if you are feeding your dog, say out loud: “Right now, I am feeding the dog.” Verbalizing what you are doing is a powerful way to hone in on your present activity.
5. Choose your focus. Sometimes, your focus will look at life through a wide lens.
One example of this is when you are out for a walk in your neighborhood. Your focus is a general awareness of the scenery, the activities, the sights and sounds that make for an enjoyable walk. Other times, you need a laser-sharp focus. In either case, staying present brings the full range of information and resources to you.
6. Release judgment when you notice that you have drifted away.
It happens to all of us! Simply notice that you have drifted, breathe to release, and re-engage with the present. Consider it practice, a kind of training. Be kind to yourself through the process, especially when you are just beginning mindfulness work.
This important step is often neglected, and it is a great way to notice patterns and progress. At the end of the day, take a few quiet moments to reflect on your progress in staying present. As you think back over your day, ask yourself:
- When did I stay most present?
- When did I notice myself drifting away?
- What was the cause?
- What will I do tomorrow to stay present?
Again, it is important to be honest and nonjudgmental with yourself. Do not beat yourself up over instances where you strayed from the present. It takes time, and practice, and humor to retrain your brain after years of multitasking. Simply reflect on how the day went and be grateful for the times when you were present to the richness of your life.
Accept and claim the gifts of staying present. Awaken to the unique opportunities each moment brings to you.