You hear the words ‘present’ and ‘mindfulness’ used in everyday vernacular. From news anchors to spiritual coaches, the concept of ‘living in the present’ seems to be the ticket to happiness, more time and the elusive balance. But what does it actually mean and how can you begin to practice being more present in your daily routines and relationships.
What Does It Mean To Be Present
One way to define being present is by explaining what it isn’t – something we can describe as autopilot; that is, times in our day when we moving without conscious thought. The easiest example of this is driving home from work. You get in your car, turn on the radio, get on the freeway, sit in traffic, get off (or maybe miss it), get home. Every day, rinse and repeat, without a major awareness or consciousness involved.
Being present, however, is the opposite. It is being acutely aware. It’s being conscious, which doesn’t necessarily mean thinking, but feeling. Being present in the moment means feeling the wind blow across your face, hearing the birds chirp in the trees, smelling the fresh cut grass below your feet, and all while not holding your phone or mentally scrolling through your to-do list.
Why Is Being Present So Important
Wake up and drink water (or coffee if that’s your routine), but whatever it is do it with consciousness. And though a routine is good for somethings, mindlessly moving throughout your day without a present thought isn’t.
You become disconnected from your needs and behave according to habit. Being present allows you to tap into what your physical and emotional bodies are saying — are you actually hungry or are you just eating because you should or usually do? Are you tired, but staying awake to finish a show because it’s what you do every night?
Being present stops this behavior and re-calibrates your brain to not act out of habit, but intention, and can then improve your overall quality of life.
Being Present At Work
For most of us, we spend 40+ hours a week at work. It is where the bulk of our time is spent, so being fully mindful and mentally aware of your work is beneficial for both you, your work and your employer.
Here are examples of such benefits of being present at work:
• Sharper focus and attention to detail
• Improved time management skills
• An improved ability to decipher what is most important
• Better decision-making skills
• Effective and clear communication
Developing Healthy, Mindful Practices At Home
Practicing presence at home can have positive effects on your relationships, health, and overall well-being. Whether it is making your meals or listening more to your body about what type of exercise your body truly wants, being present in all aspects of your home life can help you make deeply impactful changes that last.
Practicing Presence: Food
If you are looking to lose weight, eat better, or improve your relationship with food, practicing presence may the ticket. It helps you listen to your body and begin to recognize how your body reacts to certain foods. It creates acute observations of how you feel over a period of time, which can help you meet your health goals.
Here are some ways to practice presence with your food and why they are valuable:
• Making food with your own hands creates a more intimate relationship with your meal and will inspire you to slow down while you eat because of the time it took to prepare it.
• Eating slower will help tell the brain when you are full, deterring you from overeating
• Sitting down at a table, not in front of a TV and with your cell phone, will bring more presence to the act of eating and will eliminate all distractions, creating a more grateful relationship with your food
• You will be more satiated after meals because you will be eating the food your body desires, not acting mindlessly snacking on lower-nutritional foods
Practicing Presence: Relationships
Just how being present with yourself is dependent on listening to your body, practicing being present with others is founded on the basis of authentic listening and strong communication skills. The best way of bringing this into your life is by eliminating distractions, namely cell phones, TV, and social media.
Here are other, simple ways to begin practicing presence with those in your life:
• Leave cell phones at home or in the car on date nights
• No cell phones at the dinner table during family meals
• Dedicate 1-2 nights a week to no TV, instead go on a walk, play cards or read a book together
• Pick up a hobby or craft to do together, you never know what new skills you or your partner may have!
Practicing Presence: Exercise and Health
And finally, similar to the way practicing presence with your food can increase your overall well-being and help you accomplish your health goals, bringing the practice of presence into your workouts can too. How? By listening to your body you can give it movement it craves and responds to versus forcing into workouts that are less than ideal.
Here are ways that listening to your body can help you accomplish your health goals:
• Thank your body for the exercise it can perform and focus on gratitude for each minute you add to your treadmill workout or each additional rep you can do.
• Be aware of your breath — when does it become labored, when does it flow more freely? Then focus on those times and work accordingly.
• Feel into your body and give it the exercise it needs. Sometimes after a long, arduous day, your body would be a simple walk or gentle yoga class, not the HIIT class you had in mind. Develop a more intimate relationship with your body knowing that your emotional and mental well-being is just as important as the physical.
• Find a workout that you enjoy! Your body will crave movement it finds pleasurable.
These are all just a few ways you can begin to develop a more present mindset. From traffic to email, social media to the news, we are hit from the moment we wake up to the moment we turn off the lights at night with distractions. Committing to being more present will help you cut these distractions and be more productive at work, more grateful for the food and relationships you have at home, more attentive to the health of your body, and, more than anything, it will create a better, more balanced relationship with yourself.