There’s a saying that goes ‘anxiety lives in the future and depression lives in the past.’ Too much time spent worrying about the future or ruminating on the past steals from our enjoyment of the present moment. And if peace is going to be found anywhere, it’s in the here and now.
According to a 2010 Harvard Study, we spend almost half of our waking hours thinking about something other than what we’re doing. That’s half the day spent with your mind and body doing different things! Participants reported they were less happy when their minds and bodies weren’t rallied around the same task.
People that live more in the present, tend to be happier and more relaxed. It’s not that hard to understand why. The ability to let go of heavy over-thinking is a gift. So is the ability to see and experience life and relationships without preconceived ideas (especially negative ones that have NOTHING to do with your current relationships). Being in the Here and Now puts us in touch with openness, creativity, playfulness and positivity.
Don’t get this twisted though. It’s perfectly natural and healthy for your mind to wander. We have to spend some time thinking about the past and planning for the future. The key is to be able to be present when your presence matters. Here are some time-tested techniques for bringing your mind into the ‘here and now.’
1) Set an Intention
An intention is a force – like a magnet – that pulls your attention towards certain things and away from others. If you want to steer your awareness towards being in the present moment and away from rumination and worry, begin by setting an intention to do just that. Try one of these statements on for size and see how it feels: “I am here in the present moment. All that exists is now” or ‘My power is in the present moment.” Repeat it to yourself often to focus your attention, time and energy on what is happening NOW.
2) Adopt a Mantra
Think of your mind like an untamed puppy. Puppies are famous for getting into mischief. They’ll chew up your furniture, get into the garbage and drag it across the floor if you leave them unattended. Give that puppy a bone and it will sit quietly and chew. Using a mantra is like giving your mind a bone to chew on – so IT doesn’t start dragging out the garbage.
Try the mantra ‘Just this’. Anytime you need to bring your mind back into your body and into the present, say ‘Just this… Just this conversation, Just this drive home, Just this paragraph…’
3) Return to Your Senses
Reel your awareness back into your body with this quick mindfulness trick, known as the 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique. Sit quietly. Tune into your surroundings and notice:
5 things you can see: your hands, a tree, a cup
4 things you can physically feel: your feet on the ground, the pen in your hand, clothes against your skin
3 things you can hear: birds singing, your breath, a whirring fan
2 things you can smell: coffee, fresh-cut grass, rain
1 thing you can taste: the air, a mint
This exercise helps to bring your awareness into THE NOW
4) Tune Into Your Beath
Follow your breath in and out. This is a basic mindfulness meditation practice that settles your body and mind. Your breath acts like an anchor that keeps your awareness tied to the present moment. Your breath is always with you and it’s always happening NOW, so you can tune into it anywhere, anytime. When your mind wanders, just return to your breath. This trains your ability to steer and re-focus your attention at will. Here’s how to calm yourself and come back to the present when you get lost in thought:
5) Do Some Balancing Poses
Can you imagine drifting off and forgetting what you’re doing while you’re in Eagle Pose? Me neither. It just doesn’t happen. This is why balance poses are a great tool for getting out of your head and into your body. Try the Warrior III balancing sequence above or create own balance pose sequence using:
6) Take a Mindful Walk
Take a relaxing walk outside. Open up your senses and take in your surroundings – sights, sounds, smells, temperature, feel the sun or breeze on your skin. Observe with an open, curious mind and without making up stories or explanations about your experience. Notice what draws your attention. Whenever you notice that you’re lost in thought, bring yourself back to walking with awareness of your surroundings.
7) Immerse Yourself In A Creative Project
Anything challenging that requires focus, skill and mastery is good for practicing mindful attention. Whether you compose a piece of music, make a floral arrangement or paint a portrait of your cat, creative pursuits can lead you to a flow state where body and mind are fully integrated around the same task. Pick a project. Bring mindful attention to it, and resist the urge to judge the result. It's about the process; not the final product.