How Living in the Present Moment Keeps your Mind Calm & Focused
It happens to all of us. Our brains take control and start to wander off somewhere we don’t want it to be. It’s partly due to how we live our lives and how we deal with all the stress, anxiety, loss, regret, doubts and fear it entails.
It’s also partly due to human nature. We find the ‘what ifs’ insufferable. So, we dwell on them tirelessly. Regret takes over the ‘what ifs’ of the past; apprehension occupies the ‘what ifs’ of the future.
So since wandering off and daydreaming is so unpleasant, why can’t we just gear our brains into focus once again? We all know how annoying it can be.
Scientific studies show that it’s easier to get swept up with our worries, thoughts, future plans and past memories. But it’s not healthy; our mental abilities diminish when we lack focus and clarity.
And it’s unproductive because we lose a tremendous amount of time daydreaming when, in fact, we should be concentrating on whatever task that needs to be turned in by the end of the day.
Let’s begin by differentiating between creative daydreaming that’s a result of some task or other you’re working on and the aimless, negative mind drifting that ends in guilt and self-sabotage.
The first one is the good kind that often ends in a breakthrough and innovative discovery.
The second one, on the other hand, is the one you have regained control of. Through practice, you can discover how to organize your thoughts and manage your ability to focus on the here and now.
If your mind keeps wistfully drifting off, rather than focusing on the present, read the following tips to help keep you focused on the present.
It’s actually harder than it sounds, because studies show that we’re used to take in shallow breaths rather than the long, belly breaths we should be taking in. Breathing forces you to focus on the present because it’s here with you.
You have to mentally tell yourself to breathe in through your nose, feel your lungs fill in with clean air, then exhale through your mouth and let it all out.
This technique lowers stress hormones, calms you down when you’re anxious or agitated, and helps you focus on the present with more clarity and attentiveness.
The best part: it can be done anywhere and at any time.
Forget about time
Have you noticed how fast time flies when you have a deadline coming up? And how it slows down when you’re working on something boring and tedious? It’s safe to say that during both instances you’re not focusing on the present at all because you’re too busy looking at the clock. The only time that really matters is the now, and you can give it your full attention by forgetting about time and not looking at the clock at all. Just get your head in the game and be grateful. Trust me, that’s when the creative juices start flowing.
Get in touch with nature
Nature is an amazing therapist. Just walk barefoot on the grass or gaze at the branches of a tree and you’ll feel it. Interacting with nature does a lot for your mental health, even if you only take a walk once around the park. It inspires positive emotions, boosts your mood and makes you aware of your place in the here and now.
Be in the present
Just savoring the things, you usually do in a hurry, like drinking a cup of coffee, commuting to work, or brushing your teeth, makes you happier because you tune out all the nagging that your brain imposes on you about the future and all its unknowns, or the past and its regrets. Instead, just by using your senses to capture everything going around you in the present moment, your worries melt away.
Mindfulness also curbs your anger, so you have better self-control. It provides you with the ability to respond in a thoughtful manner, rather than emotionally lashing out or cringing in fear.
See things for the first time
It’s easy to get momentary blackouts when you’re driving down the same road, or reading something uneventful. But these lapses in time are due to the fact that your brain stops paying attention when you’re carrying out monotonous tasks, like take the same route to work every day or have the same daily routine.
So, what to do?
First thing you should try is to change some things around. If you can move furniture in your house, that’s a great start. Then switch things around in your routine. Finally, look at everything around you with fresh eyes.
Try to take in the sensations and emotions as you pass, as well as the buildings, people and sounds - noticing the little things puts you in the here and now.
Get some exercise
Choose your most comfortable venue and go for it. Running, kickboxing, swimming, strength training, group fitness classes - the choices are endless. Opt for a workout that keeps you challenged enough so that you’re focused on the different moves.
Push yourself a little bit further each time. Yoga is a great example of combining physical activity with meditation to help you become grounded in your breathing and the movements.