I think it’s safe to say that we are all aware that we should be more present in our daily lives. However, the execution of being present is where the lines get blurred. How do we stay connected while being present? How do we observe while staying informed? How do we unplug without becoming unreachable? These are all challenging questions, here are my top 9 ways to stay more present in your everyday life.
Accept that presence is hard
Not many people wake up each day and think to themselves “right, I’m going to be present today!” The reason they don’t do this is because they think that it’s a given – our natural way. The truth is that presence is hard. Really hard. Sure, it can become your default, but that takes a lot of practice – particularly in today’s world when we’re constantly bombarded with emails, text messages, social events, work projects and the list goes on. So then, the first step is acknowledging it’s hard. Real hard. Once we acknowledge this, we allow ourselves more effort to practice it and achieve it.
Practice every day
Unfortunately, there is no switch for presence. We can’t turn it on and off as we please. Our mind learns behaviors and thought patterns over time and it takes a lot of practice to train the mind to be still. To be present. Most of us don’t even notice when our mind is in the past or the future so the first step is paying attention. Notice when your mind wanders – where is going? How is this making you feel? And then practice bringing it back into the present moment. Don’t worry if you don’t catch it every time and don’t worry if you don’t reel it back every time. The key is to work on it little by little each day.
And sometimes it’s ok for your mind to wonder
At times, mind wandering can be healthy and even the source of creativity. If we are constantly in the here and now, when will we allow our imagination to run wild? It is during these times that we can find a job, peace and often creativity. So then, when is it ok for your mind to wander? Again, it comes back to being mindful. If your mind is wandering into a place of regret associated to the past or anxiety associated to the future, then this will not serve you and it is important to find a strategy (more on this soon) to real it back. If your mind is wandering to a place of unicorns and rainbows, let it run free.
Find what works for you
There are plenty of different strategies you can use to stay present. The one I like is very simple. When I find myself mulling over the past or making assumptions about the future, I use my five senses and find something in my immediate environment to bring me back. Maybe it’s the smell of the neighbors baking that I didn’t even notice, or a beautiful bird that I almost walked straight by because I wasn’t paying attention. When our mind is elsewhere, we miss out on beautiful things around us and it can be helpful to use those beautiful things as anchors to draw you back.
Of course, this isn’t for everyone. Other people might like to take five deep breaths so that their mind comes back to the hear and now. There are many many different tools and strategies online (a quick google search is all you need). My advice would be to try a few different things and see what works best for you.
Own your technology (don’t let it own you)
Technology has taken over many of us. It’s time to take it back. Be intentional about which notifications you allow and when. Be intentional about when you take out your phone (and when you don’t!) Sometimes we are so caught up in emails and social media that we miss out on the real world around us. One way to take back ownership is to not let technology start your day.
A while ago, I did an interview with Sarah McClean who stressed the importance of not sleeping with your phone, and starting your day focused on YOU – whether that be a morning walk, mediation or just spending 10 minutes drinking your coffee before looking at your phone. Be doing this, you send yourself a message that you own your day; that your phone is not your master.
Notice how it makes you feel
As you practice being present, notice the impact it is having on you. Journaling is a great way to do this. Are you feeling less anxiety? Are you feeling more peace of mind? What are you noticing that you had never noticed before? When we see the positive impact that a new habit is having, it motivates us to keep practicing it.
Notice how it makes others feel
Just as important is the impact that being present has on others. Have you ever been out with someone and they’ve had their head in their phone the whole time? How did it make you feel? What about when you’re with someone who’s truly listening to everything you’re saying? How did it make you feel? Being present is not just a self-serving habit… it strengthens connections and nurtures relationships. Start noticing how your presence impacts the people you love.
Define your different roles – then play them fully
One theme that came up during the month is the idea of playing different roles in different domains in life. Most people wear many hats – they might be an employee, a sister, a mother, a wife, and a friend. How do you know who to be when? What if you’re being present as an employee but it’s actually time to be a friend. In any given moment, ask yourself “what is the most important role I need to play right now and how can I be fully present in that role?”
Not being present hurts. Deeply.
So why is all of this so important? When we’re not present, we hurt ourselves and the people around us. We become more anxious because our mind is worrying about the future. We might feel more guilt because our mind is wallowing in the past. We miss out on the beauty around us because we are too distracted to notice it. We underperform at work because we’re not paying full attention. We hurt our loves ones because we’re not showing them that we care and that we are fully there for them. When we don’t fully show up, we let ourselves –and others –down. Presence changes everything – personally, professionally, emotionally and spiritually. It’s hard and it won’t happen overnight, but day by day, little by little, eventually it will become your new way of life. And what a more beautiful life that will be.
Being present isn’t an overnight achievement. It takes time to become a present person. I started small, by picking one of these tips to practice daily, then I slowed added more in. So, what’s the first tip you’re going to practice?