This is part 2 in a 2 part blog post series on how to be more present in your life. You can find part 1 here.
In the first part of this blog series on how to be more present in your life, I shared this statistic with you:
People are thinking about something other than what they are doing, on average, 47% of the time.
That means that nearly half the time, we’re not being present!
If we aren’t present, where are we?
Well, usually while our physical bodies are present, our minds are in the past or the future.
Does that resonate with you?
Do you spend a lot of time replaying, regretting, or thinking about the past?
Or planning, anticipating, preparing, and feeling anxious or worried about the future?
Eckhart Tolle says that:
“Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of non-forgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.”
That might sound a little harsh, but if you think about it, it’s hard to deny. Plus, when we’re stuck in the past or the present, we’re missing out on enjoying the moment. Connecting with people. Bringing our best to what we are doing and who we are doing it with. And we may be feeling guilty about all that too.
Being present enables you to enjoy the moment more, feel calmer, and happier, experience more gratitude, have better relationships (because you listen and connect more effectively), and get things done faster, to a better quality. It also helps you to better tune in to how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking.
There’s absolutely a time to think about the past and the future. Learning from mistakes and preparing for the future is important, but we don’t need to spend nearly half our time there.
We can learn how to be more present
Neuroscience tells us that we can train our brains to be more present. So, if you, like many mums out there, find it really difficult to stay present and give your full attention, don’t give up! Because with some intentional practice, you will get better at it!
In my previous blog post, I shared five of 11 ways to practice being more present. Here are the remaining six for you to try. Even if you find just one that works for you, and practice it intentionally, you will be on your way to being more present in your life.
6. Slow down and single task
It’s impossible to be present when you’re multitasking and rushing from one thing to another. Slow down. Do one thing at a time, and give it your full attention.
Now, for anyone who’s thinking that they can’t possibly live without multitasking, there are times when it is absolutely appropriate and helpful. You can read more about that here.
However, to use single-tasking to practice being present, try doing the things that you usually rush through, or that are just a means to an end, more slowly and mindfully. For example, washing your hands or walking between rooms. Another great one to try is eating more slowly, noticing how it looks, tastes, smells, and feels (texture, temperature), and when your stomach starts to feel full. Don’t do anything else while you eat, like reading, watching TV, working or doing chores!
7. Remove and resist distractions
This is key in teaching your brain to be more present.
Sometimes when I’m working, I can feel the pull of distractions – to check social media or email, to look up that dress I wanted to buy, book that class for my son, etc. So, I make it a game. I set a timer on my phone (that’s optional) and challenge myself to make it through 25 mins without giving in to the pull of those distractions. It’s really satisfying when I can!
Electronic devices are often a distraction. Try placing them somewhere out of reach and view.
What else is a distraction for you? Can you eliminate it, reduce it, or challenge yourself to resist it?
Practice removing and resisting distractions when you’re playing with your kids. Playing can be joyous, and truthfully, sometimes it can be boring. That makes it a great opportunity to practice being present with the added bonus of filling up their love tanks! Plan for time to play with your kids and include it in how you define success for the day. Remove distractions as much as possible and set a timer if you need to, to help you practice being totally present for a set amount of time. During this time, follow the lead of your children and be engaged in their play. When a distraction pops into your mind, notice it, let it go, and gently bring yourself back to playing.
8. Listen with the intent to understand, not to reply
I learned this valuable concept many, many years ago from the book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey.
So often, when we listen to others, we’re not really listening. We’re evaluating what they’re saying, interjecting with questions, giving advice (sometimes unwanted), and interpreting what’s being said based on our own worldview. We’re constantly constructing what we’re going to say next, even while the person is still talking.
While these are natural human responses, they do impact our ability to really understand what the other person is trying to communicate. Instead, try to listen with only the intent to understand. Look them in the eyes, and listen not only to the words but what’s not being said. Hear their tone, notice their facial expressions and take in their body language to get a better understanding of what they are really trying to communicate.
9. Create rituals for connection
It’s not only parents who have full schedules these days. Our children also seem to have lots of activities and playdates. We are busy being together, but not always being totally present with each other. This means that we need to be more intentional about making time to be present and really connect. One way to do this is by creating daily connection rituals; regular, meaningful opportunities to be completely present with each other. For example:
- Morning snuggles in bed
- Asking everyone to share one thing they are grateful for before you start eating dinner
- Sharing an afternoon snack and a chat
- Sharing one thing each of you enjoyed as you tuck each child into bed
- Debriefing your day with your partner, after the kids have gone to bed.
Find a connection ritual that is enjoyable and meaningful for you and your loved ones, and allow yourself to be totally present in those moments.
10. Agree to ask for presence
My husband and I find this to be incredibly helpful. If you and your partner often feel like the other person isn’t listening properly, or you find it hard to stop and listen to them, rather than multitasking, this may be worth a try! Simply agree, that if one of you needs to say something important, you will ask for the other’s full attention. Or, if you have already started talking, and whoever is listening starts to get distracted, you will ask for that attention again. This can work really well for kids too. My son is learning to ask for my full attention if I am busy doing something and he wants me to focus on him.
It’s important to note, that once you make this agreement, requests for attention should be made with love. That means saying something like “I have something important to tell you, so could I have your full attention for a few minutes?”, rather than something along the lines of “Can’t you just put the phone down and look at me for a change?”.
11. Create transition rituals
Do you ever walk in the door to work, but can’t stop thinking about things at home, or vice versa?
Or, have you tried to spend some quality time with a friend, but you find yourself constantly thinking about what you need to do when you get home?
Or tried to play with the kids, but can’t stop mentally writing that important email?
When we’re absorbed in a particular activity, or worried about it for some reason, it can be really hard to let it go and be present with something or someone else.
A transition ritual is any action(s) that helps signal to our brain that we are leaving one activity or setting, and moving to another.
There are no right or wrong transition rituals. They can be anything that is meaningful, helpful, and practical for you in the particular transition you are experiencing.
I like to use intention setting. For example, when I’m transitioning from work into family time, I close my books or laptop and move away from my office (this is a physical transition ritual). Then, I say to myself “This is family time. I let go of work and am present for my family”. When I go to bed, I say to myself “I let go of today. It is now time for my body and mind to rest” (because I want to be present in my rest rather than lying there with a racing mind!). When I’m about to see a client, I say “I am completely present for _____. This time is all about her.“
Other examples of transition rituals are:
- Deep breathing
- Mindfulness exercises, such as taking a few minutes to notice how your body feels, or to notice your new environment using all your senses.
- Affirmations, for example, “I live in the present”, “I am focused on the present moment”
- Short meditations or prayers
- A brief reflection on the activity you just completed
- Acknowledging what you are grateful for in the activity you have just completed
- Sitting down to have a cup of tea.
As you can see, lovely, there are plenty of ways you can strengthen your ability to be more present in your life. Why not start practicing now?
- When do you find it most challenging to be present?
- How can you use one of these strategies to practice being present in that situation this week?