“Can you put down your phone for one minute?”
“Are you even listening to me?”
“You seem distracted.”
Chances are, we’ve all either heard this before or said this before. And really, what it comes down to, is not being present in the moment.
Whether it’s because we’re on social media, working on something, thinking about the future, the past, our fears, worries, concerns, and plans- the fact remains the same- We are not anywhere near being present in the present moment. Furthermore, this lack of being present can have adverse effects on our mental health by creating stress and exacerbating symptoms of depression and anxiety.
According to a study published in the Journal of Research in Personality, being more present increases stress resilience and effective coping. The study found that present moment awareness allowed the participants to experience what was actually happening right now, rather than trying to predict the future or dwell in the past. As a result, the study was able to find a link between individuals who practiced living the present moment and lower stress levels, lower symptoms of depression and anxiety, and improved mood and feelings of well-being.
In 2010, researchers at Harvard University conducted a study on present-moment awareness and found that people spend nearly half their time (46.7% of it) thinking about something other than what they are actually doing. The study also showed that people were their happiest when they lived ‘in the moment’ and the least happy when they were daydreaming, thinking about the past or the future, lamenting, and ruminating.
So this is all well and good, but how exactly do we become more present in our lives?
Though there are many mindfulness techniques out there that can help bring us into the present moment- a really easy one to start practicing is this: Use Your Senses.
Simply direct your thoughts away from whatever it was you were worrying about, and focus on what you see, smell, hear, and feel.
Listen to the sounds of the room, feel your feet on the ground, take a deep breath and really take in where you are.
By observing and describing where you are, and what you smell, hear, feel, and see, you are focusing on observable facts, moving your thoughts away from worry, judgment, and so on, and into the present moment.
Another way to bring your awareness into the present moment is to focus on a singular activity rather than resorting to multi-tasking.
Switching from task to task uses a lot of mental energy, and can cause all sorts of noise in our heads. However, by focusing on one thing at a time, we are able to tap into a greater level of energy and focus, making you more efficient at the task, and it may even make you enjoy it.
When you’re cooking, just cook. When you’re showering, just shower. And when you’re talking to your partner about their day, just talk to them, listen to them, and be with them at that very moment.
As the spiritual teacher and author Eckhard Tolle says in his best-selling book The Power of Now, “Realise deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.”