A study was conducted at Harvard in which an app would ping a group of people’s iPhones at different times of the day to ask them what they were thinking about, and what they were doing while these thoughts were occurring. The results were that nearly 50% of the time, people were thinking about something completely unrelated to what they were doing.
It’s a common theme for people to be going about their day when the realization hits, “what have I been doing for the last hour?”
This is when the thought kicks in; you have been inside of your head, daydreaming or reliving situations, instead of focusing on what you’re currently doing, feeling, or even saying.
So how do we rewire ourselves to recognize when we are in our head, rather than being with our present selves?
Today, we will learn how to stay out of our heads to be able to fully enjoy each moment that we live. I will talk about what being in the present moment truly is, why this is important, as well as several different ways to release this pattern in yourself of overthinking about what could happen, and instead, focus on what IS happening right now.
What is Being in the Present Really About?
Being in the present has to do with being aware and mindful of what is happening in each moment, while it’s happening. Take a second to take a deep breath, and truly appreciate your surroundings, who you’re with, and what people are saying. By doing this, you will be able to maintain a moment-by-moment awareness of your thoughts.
Why Should You Practice Being in the Moment?
Make Stress Easier to Manage
Research has shown that people that live in the present are more aware of their values, which directly translates to an increase in their stress resistance.
Being stressed can impact your mental and physical health in a multitude of ways, so finding ways to manage your stress can get greatly impact your quality of life. By practicing being in the present, you will notice that many of the stressors in your life aren’t necessarily impacting you in that current moment.
Improve Social Skills
Being present in social situations brings on a whole new calmness to your interactions. Instead of contemplating what you’re going to say, or what they’re going to say, you instead focus on the current moment and allow things to flow naturally. Your head will be clear of your own, racing thoughts, and be able to direct your attention outwards to the person that you’re interacting with.
You’re Losing Your Own Time
Time goes by in your daily life regardless of if you choose to live in the present moment or not. How many times have you been on a vacation, having so much fun on, but you can’t stop thinking about how much time is left until you return to normal life? By doing this, you are dulling the great moments and memories that you could be making, just by dreading the future.
This can also be true in your everyday work life. You start every morning, looking at your clock, minute by minute, waiting for a lunch break. After the lunch break, you’re looking at the clock, minute by minute, waiting for the time to go home, and repeat the next day until the weekend, to just hit replay again every week.
By constantly waiting for something to happen, you’re losing minutes, hours, and days of your life, which already goes by so quickly.
Allows You to Find Your Inspiration
When you allow yourself to live moment by moment, you are allowing yourself to feel the feelings that arise, based on what you’re doing right then, therefore allowing yourself to know what activities spark joy, and what activities bring about negative emotions. By living in your head, you are experiencing emotions based on what you are thinking about, giving you a potentially false narrative about whatever it is that you’re doing at that moment.
Think about it; say you’re in an art class that your friend begged you to take with her. You’re painting what the instructor is telling you to paint, but in your head, all that you’re thinking about is when you’re going to tell your partner that you aren’t ready to meet his parents. When you later think back to your experience of painting, you’re going to have negative emotions connected to it, because you were thinking about something that you’re dreading the entire time. This could have potentially caused you to miss out on the realization that painting is your life’s passion that brings you more joy than you could ever imagine, all from thinking about a future event, instead of living in that present moment.
Tips to Practice Being Present
Exercise 1: Become Aware of the Feeling of Your Mind Wandering
To be able to pull your mind back to the present while it’s thinking of other responsibilities, exciting events, or something that brings you dread, you first have to be able to recognize what it feels like to be on autopilot.
This will take some practice, so don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t come naturally to you.
The key to beginning the practice of feeling your mind wander is to simply check in with yourself several times per day. You may have to do this often when you first start, but eventually, you will begin to recognize a drifting mind without much thought at all.
Exercise 2: Breath Work
Breathwork is one of my personal favorite exercises to bring me back to the present moment. There are several different variations of breathwork, which you can experiment with to find the best one for you.
What breathwork does, is gives your body a chance to reset. You are forced to be in the present moment by focusing solely on the inhalation and exhalation of your breath.
Exercise 3: Reduce Screen Time
Scrolling mindlessly on your phone is one of the easiest ways to escape the present moment. You are thinking about different topics every 60 seconds when you scroll to read another post. This completely distracts your mind from all of your thoughts, and suddenly two hours have gone by.
There are several ways to reduce the amount of time that you’re on your phone every day. You can turn off your notifications, or allow for only specific notifications to come through. You can make it a routine to put down your phone and read a book 30-45 minutes before bed. You can even plug your phone up across the room from you, making it more difficult for you to pick it up and start scrolling without thinking twice.
Don’t Get Overwhelmed
It’s understandable that after reading this, you could be feeling fearful, confused, or simply unsure of where to begin. If you’re finding yourself in that situation, I want to assure you that you aren’t alone. I’m here to assist you in your new journey of living in the present moment. Schedule a meeting with me to start building your new path forward.