Being present in the moment doesn’t come naturally to all of us. In fact, with our busy lives and so many distractions available, it’s tough for most of us to stay present! We get hooked by something that pops up on our screen, or a text that comes in, or a car that cuts us off, or a thought of something that we had forgotten to do! We soon learn the habit of becoming reactive, rather than present and mindful - a place where we can make better choices that align to what we really want.
If it’s not a physical distraction, it’s typically our own thoughts that get in our way. Our minds are usually in one of two places. We’re either in the future, worried about everything we need to get done; or we’re in the past, fretting or regretting what we didn’t get done.
Of course, we have to spend some time in the future - planning, dreaming, visualizing what we want. And it’s good to reflect on the past to learn and grow. But we need to just take quick trips to the future and the past, and then spend most of our time being mindful in the present moment.
In addition to helping us make better choices, being present brings many other benefits:
We listen more fully, which builds trust and much better connections with people.
We have a calmness that spreads positive energy.
We are more productive and effective with our choices and solutions.
We are more creative.
Our memories improve.
We are happier.
We are less stressed - take a look at just one of many articles on the benefits on mindful.org
The good news is we can all improve and be more present in the moment. It just takes practice.
And it really is pretty simple because you can practice being present in the moment on any daily activity, so you don’t even have to build in extra time for this. The hardest part will be to remember to do it. So you may need to set yourself some reminders.
Here are my favorite 3 simple ways to practice being present:
When you’re brushing your teeth, do your best to just be mindful of the act of brushing your teeth. This one can be particularly challenging because most of us have learned to brush our teeth really well and we don’t need to think about it. That’s why it’s a great one to practice with. Every time your mind wanders, just catch it and bring it back. In the 2 minutes you spend brushing, see how long you can stay completely present on brushing. I ground my feet first, and this helps me remember to stay in the moment.
When you’re driving, do your best to stay completely present and mindful. How many of us get to our location and then think “wow, how did I get here?!” We were so deep in thought. This is another good practice opportunity because we’ve learned to drive well and think at the same time. You might also get angry at someone in traffic and create a lot of stress for yourself. Emotions are a great awareness opportunity. When you feel yourself getting angry, frustrated, irritated - turn your thoughts inward and see what’s happening with you, rather than focusing outside on what someone just did. Choose how you want to be.
Find a plant, look at the sky, a pond or a stream - anything in nature. Take a full minute to just be with it - no other thoughts. Every time your mind wanders, just bring it back. If you can’t have the real thing, get a great picture that makes you feel like you’re with nature.
These are just three simple practice suggestions. I’m not saying you need to do this to have better teeth or drive better (although you might!). But if you practice this, you will start to notice yourself being more mindful and present in other areas of your life, without even trying. And just like any exercise, it will get easier and feel more natural.
I’d love to hear other ways that you practice being present in the moment! Please share your best tips in the comments!