7 Simple Ways To Be More Present (And Why You Should)
Have you ever rushed off to run urgent errands only to realize that you left your wallet at home? Lost your keys only to find them in your hand? Have you ever planned a social function and been too busy to enjoy it? Or gotten to the end of a day and wondered where all the time went? We have to ask ourselves if the result may have been different if we had been able to be more present.
Often we sacrifice the moment in our pursuit of a goal – the completion of an urgent to do list, the perfectly planned event. We can find ourselves frustrated, anxious, or worried as a result. This frustration, anxiety, and worry can often stem from being consumed with thinking about the past or the future.
Past focused thinking anchors on to what we could or should have done. Future focused thinking holds on to worries and fears surrounding uncertainty. Both thinking patterns block our ability to enjoy and gain from the present experience.
In the moments that we are present, fear dissipates. We feel more secure in who we are, more grounded in what we are doing, and more resourced to respond to the challenges that we face.
There are many benefits to being present:
- Greater connection with ourselves and those around us
- Improved social skills and communication
- Improved creativity and problem solving
- Greater appreciation
- Stress release
- Less overthinking
- More openness and acceptance
- Greater sense of calm and clarity
- Increased positivity
Here Are 7 Simple Ways to be More Present
1. Slow It Down
Whatever you are doing, slow it down. When we are distracted, we move fast and automatically. Take a moment to slow your actions down, make intentional movements, and put your awareness on to each step of your task.
2. Show Appreciation
How often do you admire something about someone, or appreciation some small action that someone took, and not communicate it? The next time you feel that appreciation, share it. Take a moment to pass on a compliment, say a genuine thank you, write a note to show your appreciation. Don’t let the opportunity pass by. It is impossible to not be present when you are showing genuine appreciation. And as an added bonus, you will allow the same experience for the other person (and probably make their day!).
3. Breathe Deeply
Breathing techniques are widely used by athletes, first responders, police officers, and other professionals who operate in high stress environments. Taking control of your breath calms to mind, and improves the stress response.
Breathe in for a count of 5, hold of 5, breathe out for a count of 5. Complete for 5 breaths. This is difficult to do without being present, so the act alone will force you into a more present state.
4. Set An Intention
Before beginning a task, take a moment to set an intention. What are you wanting to achieve? What is your purpose for doing this? When I cook dinner, my intention might be to create a nourishing meal for my family. When I send an email, my intention might be to clearly communicate and connect with the other person.
By setting an intention we ground ourselves in our purpose, and remind ourselves to be mindful as we go about our task.
5. Wiggle Your Toes!
Do it. Do it now! Scrunch them up tight. Wiggle them about. Stretch them as far as they go. Try moving your big toes without moving the rest.
What happened when to your mind when you did? How present are you now, compared to before? The great thing about this strategy as it is relatively surreptitious, so it can be great for getting yourself more present in a social situation or other public occasions.
6. Turn Off All Non-Essential Notifications
Ask yourself “what impact would it have on me if I did not know about this until later?” and “is knowing about this more important than what I will be doing in the present moment?” Is a facebook notification or an email newsletter worth pulling you out of the present moment? If not, then turn it off.
Smart phones have tapped in to an innate fear of missing out, but as a consequence we risk missing out on something far more important: the present and very real moments in front of us. Try turning off all but essential notifications (or even turning off your phone when you can) for a week and see how you feel.
7. Ask Yourself “For What Purpose?”
A dear friend of my gave me this advice many years ago, and it has remained some of the best advice that I have ever received. In everything that you do, ask yourself “for what purpose?”
Take a moment to step away back from your to-do list, from what you are doing, from how you are feeling, and ask yourself “for what purpose am I doing this?” When we connect with why we are doing something it becomes remarkably easier to prioritize tasks and make decisions.
“For what purpose?” grounds us in the moment and gives us clarity on where our focus should go.
Being present is a habit that can be established over time – it might feel difficult at first, but the more you do it, the easier it will become. It is important to acknowledge that there are times when being past or future focused is beneficial. Identify those times and embrace them, and acknowledge the times when being present is valuable.
Start by picking 2 or 3 strategies that you like and integrating them into your day. It won’t always be easy, and you won’t always be successful. That’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Simply acknowledge that you weren’t present and allow yourself to slip back into the present moment.
What are your favorite strategies to be more present? Share in the comments below.