Staying focused in the present moment is not something that comes naturally to most of us. It is something that can be a struggle to learn how to do, especially when we have so much to do and multitasking is hailed as the most important skill to possess. When it comes to mental health, being focused on the present moment is imperative. There is a quote that I love that says, " anxiety is living in the present and depression is living in the past" and I couldn't agree with that more. Anytime that we aren't focusing on the present, we make room for anxiety and depression to creep in.
One of the things that I talk to my clients about most is non judgmental present focused awareness. It's a mouthful, so I'll explain what it means. Non-judgement is about allowing ourselves to have thoughts, feelings, and emotions and not judging them as they occur. It happens when we simply acknowledge the thoughts, feelings, and emotions we have without judging ourselves for having them. Present focused relates to what is happening in the moment...not what happened 5 minutes ago and not what will happen in 4 years from now. And awareness simply means incorporating all that together to have an idea of what is going on in your mind and body at one moment or another.
That's a lot to incorporate and often the first step in being present focused is just being aware. If you're someone who goes "a mile a minute" like I do, it can mean that you have to intentionally choose to be present focused in your day to day life. If you are planning the next thing or worrying about the comment someone left on your last Instagram post, you aren't being present focused. When you are constantly thinking about what will happen or what did happen, you rob yourself of being able to soak up the goodness in the current moment.
How often do you walk your dog with your phone in your hand? (I saw this Or scroll Instagram when you are with a friend or family member? Or tune someone out because you're running your to-do list through your head. Most people are guilty of all of those at some point in time. And most of us like to humbly brag about how good we are at multi tasking...without realizing that multi-tasking actually means not being present focused.
When we try to do ten things at once, we end up not doing any of them well. Take for example the time that I sent 10 of the wrong prints to a customer...yikes! Or the time that I mailed something to the wrong address, even though I had written down the right one. Those both happened within the same week, because I was distracted and not focused on what I was doing. Multi-tasking in and of itself implies you are doing several things, but none at full capacity. Multi-tasking is spreading yourself thin and then creating panic to "get it all done"...can you relate to that?
You may have heard that deep breathes help with being in the present or that finding a grounding item or object helps...and they may, but they also simply transfer anxiety to something else without really figuring out the root of the problem.
One thing that we do that actively keeps us from being present focused is setting goals. Before you jump up and down and tell me how dare I say that, hear me out. Goals in and of themselves are great, but it's the idea of setting them and focusing on them that keeps us from being in the present moment. When we set goals, we don't allow ourselves to enjoy what is happening now. We look forward to what will be, and can miss out on lots of great moments as a result. For example, you may be planning for the future of your life or business and as a result, miss out on the beautiful things happen right in front of you.
I don't know about you, but as much as I think I can multi-task, I always end up missing something or doing something not as effectively as a result. The things I miss are not worth the chaos I create in order to get more things done in a short amount of time.
Some easy ways to start to stay present focused:
1) Practice! One of the best ways to practice present focused awareness is to pick an object in the room you're in and look at the object and only think about that object for an entire minute. Maybe a minute is too much for you to begin with, so start with even 30 seconds. Each time your mind wanders or you become distracted, bring your focus back to the object. Right now I have a La Croix on my desk, so I am going to do that for my exercise today. Maybe you can only get 5-10 seconds at first, but that's okay. Being present is like anything else, practice makes it easier!
2) Eliminate distractions and overcommitments. One of the reasons it is so hard to stay focused for most of us is because we have so much going on. I cannot focus on my job and work if I am spending the day thinking about what I will do after work or an errand I need to run. It can be helpful to jot down notes and write down what you have to get down, so it's out of your head and onto paper.
3) Figuring out what you are avoiding. If you are distracting yourself intentionally as a way to not deal with what is currently happen...why? What are you trying to avoid? You may not realize it, but being busy is a distraction from something we are actively trying to avoid. It can happen unconsciously, but think for a minute about WHY you don't allow yourself to be present.
4) Work on grounding. Grounding is the idea of pulling yourself back into the present moment when your thoughts may feel more out of control. One way to do this is to touch something hot or cold, like a cup of coffee or glass of water. By touching something or holding something in your hand, it works on bringing you back into the present moment as you go through the physical sensations of what it is you're touching/holding.
It's harder than ever to stay focused when there are hundreds and thousands of things vying for your attention at all times. Try a few of these and share what works best for you!
A few additional things to think about when practicing staying present focused...
1) When do I find myself unable to stay present focused?
2) What is distracting me?
3) Am I avoiding anything?
4) How can I stay grounded in this moment?
5) What am I missing out by not being present?
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