It’s easy not to be present these days, with so many things pulling us in all different directions, each demanding a piece of our attention. Being present essentially means focusing on just one thing at a time, whether it’s a task, a conversation, or personal well-being, without distraction or wanting to be somewhere else.
With all that’s going on all around us, no wonder this state of mindfulness is so hard to come by lately. However, it’s not as out of reach as you might think.
Wondering why it’s so hard to live in the moment lately? Look no further than that small glowing rectangle in front of your face right now. Smartphones are designed to distract us, and keep us distracted, for as long as possible.
If you want to be more present, first and foremost you should make a conscious effort to reduce your phone usage. These devices are so addictive that some people find it easiest to go cold turkey. You’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to be present in your life when you’re no longer spending it scrolling and tapping on that tiny screen.
Be honest — when you’re engaged in conversation, do you spend more time thinking about what you’re going to say next than actually hearing what the other person is saying to you? Try listening without intending to respond. Most people just want to be heard, so being a good listener is one of the best ways to be present for the people you care about.
Simple once-daily rituals, like enjoying a hot cup of coffee on the front porch at sunrise, can anchor your days in a way that brings meaning to your life.
Research suggests that it takes about 66 days on average to form a new habit that sticks. Start by devoting a set amount of time to one small thing every day that brings you joy, and add more as you see fit.
When we’re caught up in our day-to-day routines, it’s all too easy to get tunnel vision and go through the motions without a second thought. If you feel like you're living on autopilot, take a moment to stop and tap into each of your five senses.
Concentrate on the sights, scents, sensations, and sounds of your environment, one by one. This will snap you back into the present moment. It’s also a great way to ease anxiety and regain a more balanced perspective on your place in the world.
Most of us wear all sorts of "hats" throughout the day. The problems start when we try to pile all those hats on at once. If you're dividing your attention between work and family, neither is getting your full focus. Establish your "busy" hours and make sure everyone you live with is aware of them. Then, when you’re done for the day, take your “work hat” off (and leave it off) so you can be fully present for yourself and others again.
If you’re a parent, it’s also important to set a firm bedtime for your kids each night. This ensures you'll have enough time to recharge and reflect before the hats go on again the next morning.
Whether you prefer to write in a journal, sketch, take photos, or jot down the things you’re grateful for, looking back at how your day went at the end of it forces you to pause and make sense of what’s working — and not working — in your life. Daily reflection also helps prevent each day from blurring into the next in your memory, making it easier to find meaning in the present moment.
Grabbing food to go and eating on the run might streamline your day, but it makes eating — one of life’s simplest pleasures — just another thing to cross off your to-do list. Whether we eat to live or live to eat has more of an effect on our quality of life than most people think. One study found that fast-food culture can hinder our ability to experience happiness.
Outside the U.S., you’ll rarely catch people strolling down the street eating burgers or sipping coffee as they're staring at their phones. They embrace mealtime with mindfulness, allowing themselves to slow down and savor good food with friends and family around the table.
Mindless munching also leads to mindless overeating. Anyone who has ever finished an entire party-sized bag of chips while watching a movie knows this firsthand.
Multitasking is a myth. Although we may be able to do several tasks in quick succession, studies show that constantly switching gears makes us less efficient because we end up making more mistakes.
If you’re worried about getting things done, use a timer to divide your tasks into 10, 15, or 25-minute blocks. You’ll be amazed at how much you can get done in short order when you channel all of your focus into just one thing at a time.
We live in a much louder world than our ancestors ever evolved to tolerate — traffic, pets, streaming media, construction, yard work, and the endless hum of various electronics. Constantly having to block out this background buzz adds an undercurrent of stress to our days that makes it hard to be present for ourselves and others.
Eliminate as many sources of these noises as possible and you'll be amazed at how much more tuned-in to the world you'll feel.
As the old saying goes, “comparison is the thief of joy.” Social media certainly fans the flames of FOMO by making everyone else’s life look amazing, but don’t compare your behind-the-scenes to their highlight reels. It’s all an illusion.
Stop (or set a hard limit on) looking at these fake, filtered realities and focus on what you have now. We only get one life to live, and there are so many things to love about being alive. Being present is all about making the most of each moment, as perfectly imperfect as it may be.
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