In our modern world, it is not always easy to live in the present moment. There are bills to pay, hectic schedules to keep, family responsibilities, and friendships to maintain. In a world that pushes us to be constantly “doing” now more than ever, taking space to live in the “here and now” is vital for our mental, spiritual and physical health. Being fully present can help us to alleviate negative thought patterns that cause us distress, reducing anxiety in the process. Living in the present is also one of the most effective ways to stay connected to yourself, while remaining fully engaged with what is happening around you. But most of all, being present encourages us to fully experience the depth of our daily lives.
In this post, we invite you to be present.
What Is the Science Behind Living in the Present Moment?
According to research, we spend about 47% of our waking hours every day thinking about something other than what we’re doing in the present moment. On a societal and individual level, this kind of brain activity has a negative effect on our mental and physical health. Especially with the following in mind…One of the strongest predictors of overall happiness is whether or not (and how often), our attention is centered upon the present moment. When we are in the present moment, we are focused on the here and now, rather than thinking about next week’s to-do list or compulsively fixating on something that we could have done better in the past, to the detriment of our present self.
Practices that help us to live in the present moment (such as mindfulness) have been shown to reduce anxiety levels by forging healthier neural pathways in our brains. For example, when we meditate daily (even for fifteen minutes) our ability to move through our sensations of anxiety is enhanced as we break old and unhelpful neural connections and create new ones. Meaning that we can recognize and reflect upon these sensations, rather than responding strongly to them in unhealthy ways.
Spending more time in the present moment has also been shown to lower excessive cortisol levels. Cortisol can help your body to deal with stressful situations, but when levels of this hormone remain too high over a long period of time, it can cause serious health issues. Studies have shown that various relaxation techniques, including mindfulness-based stress reduction, have been proven to reduce cortisol levels.
How to Live in the Present Moment
The key is to find your balance by going within. Thinking about both the past and the future isn’t necessarily negative. It is completely healthy to remember our previous successes and failures, necessary to prepare for future events with hope and more confidence. However, do so in measured doses and with a clear purpose. When we spend too much time away from the present moment, our minds start to think and analyze excessively, increasing anxiety levels and lowering overall wellbeing.
Finding the right balance between the past, future, and present will help us to be healthy and happy. There are many techniques that can be worked into our everyday lives as a means to achieve the right balance for us. Yoga, meditation, deep breathing and even interacting with our pets, can bring us back to the present moment.
Grounding is also a helpful coping mechanism for anyone experiencing anxiety or feeling overwhelmed by their daily lives. When our mind begins to race with thoughts that cause us distress, grounding encourages us to consciously draw our attention back to the present moment. We can focus on the experiences of one, or all five of our senses to help us feel more grounded. For example, we can pay attention to what we hear, feel, see, touch or smell. To start with we suggest the “5-4-3-2-1 technique.”
Find somewhere that you can sit comfortably, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths; in through your nose and out through your mouth. Open your eyes again and identify the following in your immediate surroundings:
5 things you can see
4 things you can feel
3 things you can hear
2 things you can smell
1 thing you can taste
Take a final deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth to finish your grounding practice. When under stress, prolonging the exhale and pushing all the air out of your lungs helps give a message to the brain that all is well. Three free apps that have many different guided and silent meditations, both short and long, are Calm, Headspace and Insight Timer.
If you would like to know more about the services offered at Georgetown Counseling and Wellness, please don’t hesitate to reach out on (512) 400-4247.