“Mindfulness” Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
“Being Present” aka “Mindfulness”- How do we get out of our head and start living more in the moment? Here are some strategies that can help us stay present and enjoy the depth and feeling of a life worth living. By practicing mindfulness strategies on a daily basis, a natural state of gratitude and appreciation will begin to grow like the proverbial rose blossoming through a concrete sidewalk.
When you hear people mention “living in the moment” or “being present”, they are primarily referring to a state of “mindfulness”, or that state of being the active non-judgemental observer, who is experiencing life moment by
moment. This type of mindful living keeps us present and out of our head, and stops us from obsessing and ruminating on things that went wrong in the past, and lessens the amount of time you spend worrying about what could go wrong in the future. Engaging in rumination or worry has all sorts of negative repercussions on our well-being, making fight or flight our nervous system’s default.
When we get stuck in our heads our ability to notice beneficial things that are right in front of us becomes impaired. Therefore, mindfulness interventions have been shown to provide positive outcomes for depression and anxiety, allowing us a way to find a depth of meaning and greater fulfilment in life.
However, like any new skill-set, learning how to be more present isn’t always easy. If we are the kind of person whose mind likes to wander, always imagining one scenario or another, thinking about this or that, etc. How do we snatch ourselves back to the present moment?
Here are some strategies and techniques to try.
Guided mindfulness meditations can help you build the skills that make it easier to live in the present moment. They do this by teaching you to focus on your bodily sensations as you breathe deeply into your belly. By practicing attentive deep belly breathing, you are really practicing focusing on the present moment and calming your nervous system down.
2. Become An Active Observer Of Your Mind
To try to stop your mind from wandering is like trying to stop a runaway freight train. By disengaging yourself from your thoughts and just observing them as a second person, you actually remove the emotions that are attached to them.
When our minds wander we are less present at that moment. Maybe we are reviewing our ‘To-do’ list in our minds, thinking about what exactly a colleague meant when he/she said “You’re cute” or maybe we’re just off somewhere in a world or wish I should’ve/could’ve because life in the present moment is boring, depressing, or bothersome.
Although we might think our mind wandering is helping us, the research shows mind wandering almost always makes us less happy. So next time you find yourself off somewhere, detach yourself from the internal dialogue and just observe the inner dialogue as if you were listening to someone else’s conversation in the café. We’re actually better off being in the present moment, fully engaged in a multi-sensory experience of the ‘now’.
3. Try The Raisin Exercise
The “Raisin Exercise”, which involves using all five senses to explore a raisin. First, observe its appearance, noticing each crevice. Then notice how it feels in your hand. Then put it up to your nose and notice its smell. Then put the raisin on your tongue and pay attention to how it feels. Then bite into it and notice how it tastes. Finally, chew and swallow it noticing how it feels going into your body. This exercise can help you become more aware of your senses you’re your physical experiences. This is mindfulness.
You can extend this skill to other things in your life to help yourself be more present with your spouse, children, colleagues, etc.
4. Practice Gratitude
Gratitude is thought to be an orientation towards noticing and appreciating the positive things in the world. Gratitude is strongly related to well-being and it can’t exist without first living in the present moment. That’s because if we’re not present, we won’t notice all the things around us that we might be grateful for—things like the smell of freshly cut grass, the feel of the wind on our cheeks, or the sight of a flower growing through the pavement in the middle of a city. By working to practice gratitude, we’ll help cultivate our “awareness” skills and remind ourselves of the positivity that can come from staying present.
5. Forgive Yourself and Others
Forgiveness is not an easy thing to do, but if we want to be more present, it can be helpful. All resentments do is keep us mentally trapped in the past instead of being able to be present in the now of each moment because there is a fraction of our attention resenting, regretting and rehashing which is stopping us from moving toward a better future, a life well-lived. By harbouring these things, we are not being present. We are not living in the moment.
In one study, a group of participants underwent a forgiveness intervention. The intervention focused on:
- Taking less personal offence
- Blaming the offender less
- Offering more understanding of the offender and
- Offering more understanding of oneself.
These practices resulted in significant decreases in anger, suggesting that by forgiving, we can let go of the anger that keeps us mentally stuck in the past and corrupting our present.
Living In The Moment – Start Now!
There is no time like the present to make a change for the better. These five simple techniques can have a huge impact on your mental health and your life. Mindfulness is often thought of as a bit of a buzzword these days, but it can’t hurt to try. You never know, it could have a bigger impact than you ever imagined! Happiness is something we all desire, so don’t put it off any longer!
If I am not for myself, who will be for me?Rabbi Hillel
If I am not for others, what am I?
And if not now, when?