In this chaotic world where our minds are constantly multi-tasking, how often do we really mentally live in the present? We are surrounded by cellphones, hectic schedules, media, meetings and so much more, it is so easy for our minds to slip in and out of the present. For instance, how many times during a work meeting or a class do you find your mind wandering? I know a boring situation, but what if you had been fully mentally present? Would you of had a new idea, a different perspective, a better understanding of an ongoing project?
What does being present mean? It is more than just being physically there it is also being connected emotionally and mentally to your surroundings. Knowing what is going on around you and what you are doing right now.
A lot of performers are calling for cellphones to be banned from their shows. They want to encourage people to interact and live in the moment, create a concert experience the way it was twenty years ago before technology. They put a lot of effort planning and rehearsing tours, only to be greeted with a sea of cellphones recording their shows. It has become such an issue that they have had to create cellphone lock cases for concerts.
Can you think of the last time you were completely present? Completely emerged in the situation around you. Can you recall small details of that event? How it made you feel? Who did you meet? Why were you there? What did you learn?
Why should you make an effort to be present?
When you are mentally engaged in a situation you remember details, learn more, and feel more of a connection to what is happening around you. Being present gives you:
Appreciation: How often do you walk by flowers and not smell them? When you are living in the moment, you notice the smaller things in life, things that make you happy, sad or full of emotions. Being present allows you to observe the world around you with a fresh view on life, like a child discovering things for the first time, you find yourself rediscovering many things.
When you appreciate the world around you, you often stop over-analyzing and labelling thing/people things that don’t matter. You put less effort into judging others and being upset over stuff that doesn’t matter.
Boost Creativity: Be inspired by the details, you often overlook, this will spark imagination and ignite your creativity. When you are on your way to work, you can drive the same route every day, but notice something new each time. That new store or mural you saw may provoke the thought you needed to finish a project or start a new one.
Social skills: We are unintentionally hiding behind social media, most of the time planning, typing and re-typing what we want to say. When you’re present there are no rehearsals this is you, and this is happening now. Confidence and conversation start to flow more naturally and being shy starts to become a thing of the past. You start to notice things you have in common with people, making conversation and connecting easier.
Reduces Stress: Knowing what is going on around you can reduce stress. When you mentally present in a lecture you remember more and can better prepare yourself for an exam. Also, if you are thinking in the moment you are not focusing on events in the future or past that could be making you nervous, like job interviews or exams.
Emotional Connections: When you go through an experience with someone it creates a bond. You may not be friends, it could be a stranger, but you have lived through an experience that only you and those people could share.
A great example of creating emotional connections is by going to a concert, how did you feel when they played your favourite song? Did you cry, laugh, sing along? Who was there with you? Did you meet someone new?
Mental Health: Feeling connected to others creates a sense of belonging, community and confidence. When you are thinking about the present, you don’t dwell on past mistakes or embracing encounters your mind is free and in the now. Being mentally present can do wonders for your mental health, you put less pressure on yourself, judge yourself and others less. It helps you discover who you are as a person and can give you new confidence in your abilities.
Small Changes to Help be More Present
Ditch the phone: As amazing as technology is when it comes to socializing and being present it can make it harder for us to leave our shells. Awkward situations may have you reaching for your phone resist the urge and make the best out of the moment. People survived awkward encounters before cell phones you can too!
In an experiment called “The iPhone Effect” 200 hundred people were asked to have conversations, meaningful or casual with and without a phone present. Any time a phone was visible the quality of the conversation was rated as less fulfilling than when the phone was removed from the scenario.
Why was this? Did the phone possibly act as a distraction even though it was not being used? Likely, the person was probably thinking about checking their phone and not giving their full attention to the conversation.
When you are trying to be fully aware of your surroundings and mentally present, place you somewhere out of site. It may seem weird at first, but you will feel more relaxed and at the moment once you are used to it.
Talk to people: Talk to the people around you and listen! Everyone can learn something from anyone. It can be pretty easy to spot someone else that is “present” talk to them. This could lead to interesting conversations, friendship or even a job the possibilities are endless.
Breathing is key: Are you feeling nervous about your surroundings? Start to keep track of your breathing. Try to have strong deep breaths think about where you are right now and how you are feeling? Notice your body, where are your hands placed, are you hot or cold?
Sometimes we become lost in our minds because we are in an uncomfortable situation. Like a large crowd or a workplace meeting, and our minds are trying to calm us down by not thinking about anything but the present. Think of these situations as challenges. We don’t personally evolve unless we are put into situations we aren’t familiar with. Breathing will ground you, release stress and give you the little boost you need to get through and grow in the moment.
Yoga is a great practice to help you become more present and intuned with your body and your environment. Also, yoga can be done anywhere, Gaiam is a great website for beginners who want to start yoga at home.