Feeling distracted? Learning to be more present can help you savor the world around you.
Imagine this: you’re sitting on your couch, watching a movie while eating popcorn, scrolling through Instagram, and half-heartedly listening to your partner talk about their work day. All the while, you’re thinking about a task that you need to do next week.
Later, when you’re lying in bed, you realize you didn’t quite understand the movie, enjoy your popcorn, or hear what your partner said. What’s worse is that you don’t feel relaxed or rejuvenated.
We’re constantly surrounded by distractions, making it difficult to focus on just one thing at a time. Stress, anxiety, and regret can also make it difficult to focus on the present moment. But living in the moment, although difficult, can benefit your relationships, productivity, and, most importantly, overall wellness.
Living in the moment is about paying attention to the here and now. Instead of letting your mind wander, you’re focused on your current actions, sensations, and surroundings.
Being attentive can be difficult, but it’s a skill that you can sharpen with practice. Certain exercises and routines can help you live in the moment.
Most of us engage in multitasking some or most of the time. While you’re reading this, you might be eating, half-watching a series or movie, or listening to music.
Although multitasking is difficult to avoid entirely, it’s a good idea to be thoughtful about how we multitask.
You might think you can hold a conversation while studying or updating a spreadsheet. However, research suggests that multitasking makes it more difficult to focus, regulate your emotions, and
In some cases, multitasking is fine — for example, you might find your morning commute more pleasant if you listen to a podcast while driving.
But you might benefit from trying to monotask from time to time. Monotasking — when you focus on one task at a time — can benefit you when you’re studying or working. Because you’re not frantically shifting your attention from one task to another, monotasking can help you be more present and attentive.
Breathwork can teach you to pay attention to your bodily sensations. It often involves focusing on the feeling of inhaling and exhaling, the sound of your breath, and the way your body responds to your breath.
If you’re interested in mindful breathing, try these five deep-breathing techniques.
It’s nearly impossible to talk about living in the moment without mentioning meditation. After all, meditation is about learning to be present in your body and mind.
There are many ways to practice meditation, but one of the simplest methods is to sit in a quiet space with your eyes closed. Let your thoughts come and go, but focus on your breath instead of getting caught up in your thoughts.
Meditation gets easier with practice. Consider doing it for five or ten minutes every day. Over time, you’ll begin to notice the benefits.
Mindful-based stress reduction (MBSR)
If you want to take your mindfulness practice to the next level, consider trying mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR).
In 1979, Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, developed a mindfulness program based on traditional Buddhist practices of mindfulness and meditation. This program later became MBSR.
Nowadays, you can take an 8-week MBSR course. It generally involves weekly classes, homework, and daily at-home meditation sessions. If you’d like to try it for yourself, take a look at the UMass Memorial Health MBSR and Palouse Mindfulness MBSR websites.
Exercise often requires us to pause and focus on our bodies and breathing. Mindful movement can help you feel more present and connected to your body.
While all workouts can be done mindfully, certain forms of movement emphasize focusing on your breath and the sensations within your body.
These exercises include:
If the above exercise forms aren’t your style, try going on a slow, mindful walk. Instead of thinking about your to-do list or an argument you had with a loved one, gently turn your attention to your walk. Try to pay attention to your breath, your posture, and your surroundings.
Distractions are not always bad. When you’re angry, sad, or anxious, a quick distraction might help you soothe racing thoughts before you sit down and process your emotions.
However, if you notice that something is making it difficult to stay present, try to reduce it. For example, if listening to your favorite podcast makes it hard to savor your breakfast, try a silent breakfast. If it’s too tempting to reach over to your phone while reviewing your day with your partner, put the phone in another room.
It sounds simple, but reducing distractions can make it easier to focus on the “here and now,” especially when your willpower is low.
Free writing, also known as stream-of-consciousness writing, is where you write whatever pops into your head, as it pops into your head.
When you start free writing, you might notice that you have a lot of thoughts – so much that it’s difficult to write them all down before you’re onto the next thought. This can teach you to slow your thoughts down and pay more attention to them.
If free-writing isn’t your thing, try using journal prompts.
Living in the moment means you pay attention to your present experiences instead of letting your mind get caught up in stressful and upsetting thoughts.
Research shows that mindfulness, which is about being aware of your surroundings and body in the present, can have a range of benefits.
The benefits of mindfulness include:
- improving your
relationships with others reducing stress
- improving your
ability to focus
- helping to manage anxiety
In addition, being present can help you:
- savor enjoyable experiences
- pay attention when you’re with your loved ones
- focus fully on tasks or chores
- think deeply when enjoying a book or movie
- soothe racing thoughts or overthinking
Living in the moment isn’t always easy. But there are many ways to increase your mindfulness. Mindfulness-based exercises and activities can help you feel more grounded in the present moment, which can benefit your overall well-being and improve relationships.