Present Moment Awareness: Why Living in the Present is Important
In recent years, the benefits of “mindfulness” - or mindfulness meditation practice - have gained a lot of attention. But what does this really mean, and why is mindfulness so important? Mindfulness is the practice of shifting awareness to what is happening in the present moment, without making judgment about our observations. The concept has origins in Buddhist philosophies, and there is a great deal of evidence that it can be helpful in managing a variety of conditions, including anxiety and depression.
Why is it so beneficial to live in the present? In our busy and demanding 21st century world, many of us often get caught up in thinking, planning and worrying about the future. While some attention to the future is necessary to function and attain our goals, hyper-focus on the future can leave us preoccupied with things that are unpredictable and out of our control. It is when we are too absorbed with thoughts of the future that anxiety tends to grow. Likewise, preoccupation with past events that we cannot change can leave us feeling helpless, frustrated, and sometimes depressed.
What is happening in the present moment is the only thing we know for certain in our lives, and it is in the present moment that we are able to exercise full choice and awareness. Living in the present allows us to feel grounded, peaceful and calm. Connecting to the present moment often involves focusing on our sensory experience instead of what is going on in our minds. By practicing mindfulness in our day-to-day lives, we can actually train our brains to become more adept at focusing on the present. Read below for some examples of how to incorporate mindfulness techniques into your daily routine.
Mindfulness Techniques: Examples of Living in the Moment
- Go for a mindful walk - instead of making a phone call or listening to a podcast on your evening walk, try to focus on your sensory experience. Focus on taking in the sights, smells, noises and feelings around you - like the breeze on your skin, smell of flowers, or leaves crunching under your feet. Even practicing this for a few short minutes can make a difference. Many people find natural settings as one of the easiest places to be present and mindful.
- Practice mindful chores - one example is while folding the laundry, focus on the feel of the fabric on your skin, the way your hands and arms move to create each fold, the thickness of the fabric, etc.
- Cook mindfully - Instead of letting your mind wander while cooking (which can actually be quite dangerous!) try to focus on the feel of the ingredients in your hands, smell of the food while it is cooking, sound of vegetables while they are being chopped, and so on. Another way to be present (and practice gratitude) with food is to connect to how it nurtures your body, and all of your nutritional needs that it meets.
- Mindful eating - rather than rushing through your meal, focus on taking one bite at a time. Put your fork down in between bites to experience what the food feels like being chewed in your mouth, and savor the complex tastes and temperature of the food.