Over the last 18 months I have watched my son grow from a newborn to a toddler. What a rollercoaster ride it has been! With each new milestone, I have chosen to be present in the moment. It was critical for me to allow myself to slow down and watch him develop and grow, to be available for him and guide his steps, emotionally and physically. I want to encourage you today, if you are struggling with slowing down and being present in the moment because you want to jump to the next thing, such as the next task or the next social media update then please pause, take a breath and stay in the moment. You won’t regret it.
Being in the moment over the last year-and-a-half has taught me that things actually can wait. You really don’t have to fill up your whole calendar and you really don’t have to say yes to all the social activities (such a hard thing for me to do as a very social being and an extrovert). It is likely that you will be able to…
- See that you will be able to see that update later on in the day.
- Respond to that email in the next hour rather than right now.
- Respond to respond to that message from your family tomorrow
It is more likely that these things can wait and will be waiting for you then than it is that you will get another moment to stay present while your toddler learns his or her first words, while your friend who is speaking to you over dinner will have the courage to tell you they are not ok, or that you will get another chance to smile at and hug your partner for a moment. It is more likely that the other things will be there for you when you get back to them. It is less likely, however, that the moment you need to take deep breaths and sit quietly will still be there later. If we don’t take a hold of our moments and be present in them, then the world around us will take control of them instead.
“What is the meaning of the Present Moment? Being in the present moment, or the “here and now,” means that we are aware and mindful of what is happening at this very moment. We are not distracted by ruminations on the past or worries about the future, but centered in the here and now.” (https://positivepsychology.com/present-moment/#:~:text=to%2Dday%20life.-,What%20is%20the%20Meaning%20of%20the%20Present%20Moment%3F,in%20the%20here%20and%20now.)
As a go-getter and someone who loves to try new things, start new activities, making new friends and being entertained by the next new reality show (my favourite is The Kardashians haha), being present in the moment has definitely been a learnt behaviour. Here are the things that I have learnt to help me stay present in the moment:
- Notice your surroundings. What does it look like, feel like, smell like and sound like?
- Turn off notifications on your phone while in the moment.
- Actively listen to the person speaking to you. Staying present in the moment during a conversation helps you remain calm and centred (also helps the person you are listening to understand that you truly do care).
- Show gratitude in the moment by saying things like, “I am grateful I get to spend this time with my child” or “I am grateful I get to take a moment to sit in the sunshine”. When your brain hears you say these things out loud, it believes them.
- Take a deep breath and picture the colour that makes you feel most happy. Think about breathing in that colour and then with every breath that you breathe out, think about the colour that you associate with toxicity. Breathe that colour out. This tricks your brain to think you are breathing in positive things and with every breath out, you are breathing out toxic things.
- Smile. Even a fake smile can make your brain think you are happy. (https://www.cnbc.com/2020/08/21/simple-trick-that-can-make-you-happier-according-to-research.html)
The moments this week that I have chosen to stay in the moment include:
- Listening to my friend on the other end of the phone talk rather than reading my notifications or watching a tv show at the same time.
- Sitting in the sunshine for 10 minutes without my phone.
- Laying on the grass in my back garden and looking at the clouds while putting my phone on silent.
- Enjoying my hot chocolate at a cafe without also reading my phone. It was delicious and I took a moment to enjoy every sip.
- When I saw some new flowers blossoming on a tree, I stopped and inspected them further and took in the beauty that they were (without rushing to the next activity or answering incoming phone calls).
- When I took a walk, I didn’t look at my phone at the same time. I stayed present as I walked, thinking about my surroundings and taking in the sunlight. The trees and the beautiful environment of lush green foliage on the sidewalk was so peaceful.
All of these things helped in some small way for me to be calm and alert. Each small moment that you take to pause and be present helps in re-training yourself to appreciate joy. Each little pause that I had in the moment contributed to my overall wellbeing and mental health. It left capacity when the unexpectedly arose during the week and helped me have some room for any bad stress. The bad stress did not overtake. Instead, I was able to respond slowly and in a way that didn’t overwhelm or take me over the edge that day/week. Stress will always come and go; however, if we leave room in our emotional tanks for that stress, then we will always be better able to deal with it at the time.
Harvard Medical School gives a basic mindfulness meditation below that you can do right now to stay present (https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/take-a-moment-to-be-mindful):
Basic mindfulness meditation
- Sit on a straight-backed chair or cross-legged on the floor.
- Focus on an aspect of your breathing, such as the sensation of air flowing into your nostrils and out of your mouth, or your belly rising and falling as you inhale and exhale.
- Once you’ve narrowed your concentration in this way, begin to widen your focus. Become aware of sounds, sensations, and ideas.
- Embrace and consider each thought or sensation without judging it as good or bad. If your mind starts to race, return your focus to your breathing. Then expand your awareness again
Staying present in the moment is a practice that I am continuing to do each day. With a now 18-month-old toddler that demands my attention most of the day, it has become increasingly difficult to do; however, with practice I am sure that I will master it someday! Why don’t you try and give it a go today?