The benefits of being present in the moment

May 19, 2019

It often amazes me how natural it can be to spend so much energy and focus on things we have no control over. Much of our time and energy can be spent in two eternities we can’t control: the past and the future.

The idea that a person can spend a good duration of their life living in the past or trying to live in the future can be exhausting. When a person lives in the past, the result is often depression.

When a person tries to live in the future, the result is often anxiety. Both anxiety and depression can put a person at risk of mental and physical illness, and both depression and anxiety cause stress.

If only we could just find a way to combat the waste of so much of our energy and put it to good use to enhance our well-being and help us live a more fulfilling lifestyle.

It is very possible that many of us are living very busy lives, constantly trying to find the balance between all the different pieces we juggle daily. Immediately we may be quick to judge that we are unable to avoid thinking about the future or the past.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that planning for the future can be a very helpful and it’s OK to look in the rear-view mirror occasionally, that is often how we stay safe. But if we get stuck looking into that rear-view mirror while driving through life, we are likely to wreck.

So what can we do to stay in the present and why does that do anyone any good? Well, if we think about it the time is always now. We can’t live in the past, because it is behind us, it’s history. We can’t live in the future because it is unknown no matter how hard we try and plan.

How many times have we had the opportunity, or enjoyed something simple but soothing? Ever held a flower in your hands and enjoyed its individual beauty, smell, and the soft feel of its pedals?

Maybe you have had a moment looking at a sunset and enjoying the feel of the soft warm sun on your face while listening and or feeling a calm breeze.

These experiences are examples of being present, and benefits of regular practice include decreased stress, improved mood, slowing the aging process, reduced depression, increased self-esteem, improved attention, and reduced distractibility.

The truth is, there are practices that have been around for a very long time that serve the very purpose of helping persons to live in the present and live more fulfilling and healthy lives.

One of the most credible methods of being present is practicing what is called mindfulness. There are a ton of videos out there explaining the process of being mindful.

The gist of it is this, to invite our senses to really explore the world around us. How often do we take the time to smell, touch, taste, view, and listen to our common everyday experiences and the world around us?

Part of practicing mindfulness includes the practice of bringing our focus back to the present moment if it wanders off. Each time we bring our focus back to the present moment, we are “flexing” our focus muscles and strengthening our ability to be more mindful.

During the process it is also important to be non-judgmental. That is, any time a thought comes into our mind while practicing mindfulness, we don’t judge it good or bad, but rather just acknowledge that it is and pull our thoughts back to the present. This is not always easy when first starting. But that’s OK, allow yourself to be human.

Like being good at anything, it will take time and practice to be proficient. Try practicing anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes to start. The great thing about this type of practice is you can do it anywhere.

This can be done while taking a walk, eating, taking a bath or while you are at a store. Try it out and see how beneficial it can be for you to stop and smell the roses.

Daniel Park with Health West Inc. is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), native to Idaho, and has worked in mental health for over 10 years. He got his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Boise State University.

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