Wellbeing

The Importance of Being ‘Present’: No Purchase Necessary

I’m afraid, despite the similarity in the title, this post isn’t related to the Oscar Wilde play ‘The Importance of Being Earnest!

This particular blog post regards the importance of being in the present moment, in the ‘here and now’.

You may have heard of the concept of being ‘present’, being ‘mindful’, or ‘mindfulness’. Within social media circles it’s certainly turned into a bit of a buzzword, and is often hashtagged underneath a picture of someone – usually a woman, viewed from the back – in a yoga pose while looking out over an idyllic view or a clifftop; and let’s not forget the filter for that finished touch. Probably a little something like the picture below.

But for many of us, our lives cannot accommodate expensive (albeit beautiful) yoga retreats, daily sun salutations, and spare hours to spend contemplating life, the universe, and everything in it. (This also brings me on to the point of ‘real life versus social media’, but this will be a topic of another blog post). Instead of greeting the sun on the horizon to start our day with a sense of peace and wellbeing, we are usually crawling out of our beds to the scream of our alarms before the sun has even risen, running around trying to get the kids ready for nursery or school (how do they keep losing their shoes?), and wondering how many hours are left until bedtime.

But this simple act of ‘wondering how many hours are left until bedtime’ has already taken us into the future – and out of the present moment. And we do this repeatedly throughout the day, whether things are going well or not.

Have you ever been really enjoying yourself, and you suddenly start thinking “I’m having such an amazing time, but it’s back to work tomorrow”? Or in anticipation of an exciting upcoming event, thought “I can’t wait to go to on holiday, I need to think of all of the fun things I’m doing to do there!” Or even when thinking of somewhere you don’t want to go, thought “I have to go to the dentist next week for that filling… I’m absolutely dreading it. I can’t get it out of my head…”?

It’s human nature to do this. But when we do, we are taking ourselves out of the present moment, and into the future (or becoming stuck in the past). If we are wishing the time away before an exciting holiday, before we know it the holiday has been and gone – and our satisfaction doesn’t hang around as long as if it were built up over a longer period. We don’t savour what’s truly going on right now, as we are too busy thinking about the “what if’s” and the “I must’s”, and miss what could be happening right in front of us. What about the “Right now’s”? Can we look at right now?

Don’t let the future steal your present

Source unknown

Because of the popularity of social media, when people talk about ‘mindfulness’ and ‘being in the moment’, many people assume that being in the moment is something that is not within their reach. But savouring the present moment is something you can do whenever and wherever you are: No Purchase Necessary.

What is Mindfulness, and how can it help me?

Mindfulness is the simple act of being in the present moment; being aware of your breath, and of what is going on both in and around you. It allows you to not become so focussed on the goal ahead that you lose touch with what you’re doing right now to get there; and helps to prevent the inattentiveness that can sometimes stop you from reaching the goal altogether. It’s about being in the moment(s) leading up to an event or goal, rather than wishing the time away before you get there.

Practicing mindfulness allows people to become learn to become more in-tune with their body sensations and emotions (which can help you communicate how you’re feeling to others), and to lead happier, calmer, and more relaxing lives.

The present is where calmness and peace live. Depression lives in the past, and anxiety lives in the future. Why would we want to be there if we don’t have to?

So how can you practice ‘being present’ in your everyday life? Below are a few things you can do to start.

Slowing your breathing. A deeply relaxed person breathes around 7 times per minute. Slowing down your breathing down can automatically calm you down, especially if your out-breath is longer than your in-breath.
Breathe in for 6
Hold for 2
Breathe out for 8
Repeat

Being aware of how you behave towards other people. When engaging in conversation, try to avoid letting your mind wander or think ahead to what you may say next. Concentrate on listening and engaging in the moment; you’ll be surprised how much better the communication will be.

Listen to your inner voice. Your intuition is one of the most valuable parts of you – allow it to be heard. When we are acting in times of crisis we often act instinctively – allow that instinct to guide you through everyday life as well.

Go for a walk. Aside from being a proven stress-reliever and mood-booster, even a short walk can allow you to practice being mindful. Try and take in everything around you – colours, light, sights, smells, textures, humidity – whether good or bad. Every time your mind wanders, guide your mind back to the present moment again. You don’t have to wait until it’s sunny out, and it doesn’t have to be a long walk – a 5-minute walk around your place of work in the rain could arguably stimulate your mind more than a long walk in the sunshine on a Sunday morning.

Observe your thoughts. This 5-minute exercise is similar to meditation, and helps to quiet a busy mind. It can be done anywhere that you can sit alone with a straight back! Practice this for just 5 minutes at first, at some point every day, increasing to longer periods where possible.
Find a time and place where you won’t be interrupted, and switch off your phone
Sit down comfortably. This can be on a chair or on the floor, and not leaning against anything
Close your eyes, and observe your breathing. You don’t need to change anything about your breathing, just be aware of how each breath is coming in and leaving your body
Observe the thoughts that are trying to grab your attention, and let them go. Practice accepting that your mind is trying to wander, and return to focussing on your breathing.

This post is merely an introduction to the importance of mindfulness being in the present moment, but I hope you have been able to take some ways of integrating this into your day to day life. Life is for living – so let’s do it!

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