Have you ever listened to a favourite song of yours and then missed your favourite part because you were lost in thought, then you have to start your song again? This is a great example of how we can miss out on what is happening right now, right in front of us, when we are not in the present moment. We can often be unconscious or aware of our thoughts and we either wonder off into the future or get caught up thinking about the past. It’s important to pull ourselves up and be aware of what is happening now, because, A. it’s good for our health, and B. we were designed that way, A.K.A Human Beings, not Human Doings.
Let me bring your attention to yourself reading this article right now. You are quite obviously doing something. Now think back on your day. You may have driven somewhere thinking about where you are going, or walked from A to B always with the destination or what you are doing in mind. But I challenge you to bring yourself into the present moment. When you’re walking to the bathroom next time or up the stairs to get your phone charger, instead of doing that, be in the moment. Notice your feet as they hit the ground, notice your heart rate possibly increase as you move or your muscles work so well without you telling them to. This can bring you out of your head and shift your thoughts to really enjoy what is happening in the moment.
I went on school camp not long ago and I went sight seeing with some students. In front of each amazing land mark students were taking photos of themselves, as you do. I sat back and observed curiously, until the tour was almost over and I couldn’t bare it any longer. I asked them to put their phones away and began to explain what I had noticed. When they put their phones away they began to marvel in the sights that we were seeing. That is what I mean by being in the present moment. If I hadn’t of brought it to their attention, they would have missed it. Even though they were there, they weren’t really experiencing it or feeling the positive emotion of seeing something beautiful because they were too busy being Human Doings.
What being in the present moment can do for our health…
Being focused on the now or the present moment can help with anxiety and depression, and can also increase your appreciation of beautiful things around you, making you feel more positive emotions.
Anxiety is commonly known for not trusting the flow of life, looking into the future and being worried about what is to come. Depression, on the other hand, is the opposite. It comes from past experiences or having feelings of hopelessness that we feel we don’t deserve to have. Both dis-eases often come hand in hand, and can both be relieved by practicing bringing ourselves back to the present moment.
Give me some proof, please.
In a 2015 study, Deakin University, Insight SRC, Young and Well CRC and Smiling Mind collaborated to survey 12 schools, 104 educators and 1,853 students to assess the impact of our mindfulness programs (bringing ourselves into the present moment). They monitored students’ stress, fatigue levels and wellbeing over eight weeks and found that those who participated in our program reported significant improvements in sleep, engagement with school, and reductions in classroom disruptions and bullying. They also noted improvements in emotional wellbeing and marked reductions in psychological distress, especially for those students who were more at-risk for anxiety. The results confirm the findings of similar studies undertaken by UCLA, Harvard, Oxford, Monash and Johns Hopkins universities.
There is great power in bringing our attention back to the present moment. Not only does it make changes with our emotions and behaviour, it literally reshapes our brains to be happier. Read more about this in my blog post ‘Neuroplasticity: you can teach an old dog new tricks’.
Do you have a problem right this second?
When I feel myself overwhelmed with thoughts of what will happen in the future, or replay the past in my head a thousand times and think about how I wish I did it differently, I practice bringing myself back to the present moment. There are a couple of ways I like to do this.
- Ask myself, what are five things I can hear right now/feel on my skin? Our sensors are ALWAYS in the present moment and can be a great help
- Counting my breath. ‘One’ as I breath in, ‘two’ as I breath out. Then I start again when I get to ten
- Asking myself, do I have a problem right this second? Nope. I’m lying in my bed which is quite comfortable. So is it helpful to waste my energy thinking about tomorrow? Nope, because I can’t tell the future, so I don’t even know if I will have a problem yet. I can deal with it when it comes. Right now, in this moment, I am OK.
The research comes from Smiling Minds, you can read more by clicking here.