Are you present?
How often can you say that you are fully present in the moment? It’s a hard question to answer, especially if you haven’t asked what that actually means. The ability to be in the moment involves attention and presence to experience a moment with all its fullness. That is, your mind, your body, and all your senses are focused in that moment. This is what we call mindful awareness.
Let’s try an exercise to see what mindfulness entails. Pick up a small sized object such as a pen or candle and begin by looking at the object. Observe the colors, shapes and imperfections. How big/small is the object? Does it fit in your hand? What else do you notice? Next, touch the object; feel the different textures. Is it soft? Are there any bumps? What is the temperature of the object? Place the object near your nose and smell the object. Does it have a scent? Does this scent remind you of anything? Now, put the object near your ear. Shake it. Does it make a sound? Is it silent? Lastly, (and if you dare), place the object in your mouth. What does it feel like in your mouth? What is the sensation like? Is there any taste? If you engaged in this exercise, then you just had a mindful experience. You focused all five senses on one object and paid full attention to its parts. Easy enough, right?
The reality is that most of us are not fully entrenched in the present. With so much stimulation in the world—smartphones, iPads, etc., multitasking is no longer a skill, it’s a function of society. We “Facebook” while we watch TV, text as we engage in conversations, play a game on our phones while waiting for an appointment. Being in the moment isn’t really easy anymore. It almost feels like doing “nothing” makes one weird. But sometimes, doing nothing is exactly what is needed to experience full awareness. Being in the moment is an art; a skill we must practice. This awareness can help relieve anxiety, decrease depression, improve mood, along with other positive effects.
Here are some suggestions to start practicing being in the moment more:
· Make a commitment to practice mindfulness everyday. Start small. Dedicate 10-15 minutes a day where you will actively practice mindfulness.
· Be patient. Do not expect to be skilled in being in the now after one day of practice. The ability to experience true moment-to-moment presence takes time to build.
· Take a walk. Yes, take a walk. But, take a walk and do nothing else except for focus on your walk. Activate the five senses during your walk. Pay attention to what you see, hear, smell, feel, touch, taste.
· Stop multitasking all the time. When you notice you are doing three things at once, stop yourself. Focus on one item at a time.
· Check in with your body. Take five minutes everyday to check in with your body parts. For instance, if you are at work, take a break and see how different parts of your body feel. When you stop to check in, ask yourself, what would my hands say if they could talk? What would my stomach say if it could speak? What would my legs say if they had a voice? You might be surprised to see how much you have been neglecting your body.
· Try relaxation techniques. Do some deep breathing. True deep breathing means your diaphragm expands each time you inhale. Inhaling occurs through your nose, while exhaling is done out of your mouth. Your exhale should last longer than your inhale.
· Practice mindful eating. That is, eat a meal without doing anything else except for eating your meal. Again, you would engage your five senses in this activity. What does the food taste like? What are the colors, textures, sounds when your chew, smells, etc.? Try to focus on your meal without any interruptions or without engaging in other activities like watching TV, reading, etc.
· Listen to music and give your full attention to it. Lie down and close your eyes. Pay attention to the different sounds, instruments, beats, etc. Do nothing else except for listen to the music.
· Take a mindful shower or bath. Focus on the sensations during your shower. Again, engage all five senses. What does the soap smell like? What does the water feel like on the different parts of your body? What is the temperature of the water? What does the sensation of the water feel like on the different parts of your body?
Mindful activities are really limitless. Start by practicing a few of the suggestions above, and see where else you can expand them too. You will notice in time a happier and healthier you.