During the Easter Bank holiday last year, me and my boyfriend took the Eurostar to France for a long weekend away. I had also recently finished my beginner’s French class and I was desperate to test out my new skills. Throughout our trip, we started planning our next holiday and we decided to book a road trip in California…exciting right? The conversation got a bit carried away as we started planning our route and made a note of all the places we would like to visit along the way. As my mind started to drift further and further away I stopped and I thought to myself, maybe this weekend I should just be in France and be present. Shouldn’t I leave holiday planning for after my holiday?
In one way we are always in the present, everything we do is happening right now. When I talk about not being present I’m referring to our attention not being in the current moment. Our minds our often distracted as we replay past memories or try to predict the future.
Planning for the future and remembering the past is something we should all do. It’s healthy as it helps us grow and develop but sometimes I find that I do it too much. Now and then we simply need to stop and just be. We need to enjoy what’s happening right now and stop thinking about what’s happening later or what’s already happened. Here are three ways to be more present and live in the moment.
It amazes me how much some people can remember. They can easily recall people’s names, conversations, events and dates. Unlike me, when I’m having a conversation with someone I sometimes find it challenging to be 100% engaged in what the other person is saying. I can be engrossed by what’s going on around me, preoccupied by my own thoughts which are usually unrelated, or I might even be thinking about what to say next. When you do drift away it’s fairly easy for the speaker to realize that they haven’t got your full attention. This is handy to remember as it can be pretty humiliating if the speaker was to point this out to you, as I have experienced! On the flip side, it’s a sad feeling when you share a story with someone whose mind is elsewhere and your words have fallen onto deaf ears.
To stay in the present and have a mindful conversation, you must concentrate all of your attention to what the speaker is saying. Try to keep eye contact with the person so they know that you are engaged. If you find yourself drifting away tell yourself to “listen” and pull yourself back to the conversation. Doing so will allow you to have more meaningful conversations.
Engage Your Senses
One of my favourite and most memorable meals I have eaten was in a restaurant called Tentazioni in Bermondsey London. The reason I remember this meal so well was because the portion size looked unusually small but tasted amazing. I decided to eat the meal much slower than usual to make it last longer and to taste every bite. As opposed to when I have a large meal and I inhale my food in an effort to eat it all before my stomach realizes I’m full! By eating the meal slower, I was able to engage more of my senses and process the moment much better: absorbing the tantalizing smell of the pasta, feeling the texture of the fresh delicate crab meat, taking in the elegant and effortful appearance and enjoying the unforgettable taste of each flavour.
Whether you are enjoying the taste of a meal, the smell of scented candles, the sound of your favourite music, the touch of the cold side of the pillow, or the beautiful sights of natural wonders. Allow yourself to engage with your senses. Slow down instead of rushing through it and enjoy being in the moment.
Be Mindful and Focus on One Thing at a Time
I love writing to-do lists. They makes me feel super productive and organized, especially when I can cross tasks off! I have a list for my personal errands, a list for my work tasks, a list of goals I want to achieve, a list of places I want to visit and a list of shopping items I need to buy. I will write a list for all sorts of ideas and tasks. Of course I want to get things ticked off my lists quickly so I can feel good about myself, but to do that I usually need to multitask.
I would say that I’m pretty good at multitasking, but I guess what I’m really saying is that I’m good at switching from one task to the next without making too many mistakes! Multitasking is something we all do and we do it a lot.
But does multitasking actually make us more productive? This is debatable, so for now I’ll say that when we do focus on more than one task at a time we don’t fully enjoy the thing in which we are doing. Our mind is elsewhere and we’re probably thinking about the next thing we need to do. Try to take on one task at a time with your full attention and enjoy each thing individually. This is something that I need to remind myself of from time to time.
Stop Missing Out on Life
I have found that when I’m present and enjoying the moment, I feel peaceful. I’m not anxious or worrying for the future, and I’m not dwelling on the past. I’m just happy. These three techniques have proved useful to me for when I want to just be. I hope they can help you too.