In our fast-paced lives, it can be challenging to stay present, and the thought of adding something to an already busy schedule may seem daunting especially now. But what if I tell you that by learning to be more mindful in what you are already doing, you will begin to see, feel and experience things in a very different way, and may even be happier? Research suggests happiness has less to do with what we have nor what we do, but more about being more present in our lives.
So, let’s explore five ways to be more present:
1. Where are your hands and feet?
I know it sounds silly; but I really want you to check and see where your hands and feet are in this moment: look at them, feel into them. What sensations do you notice? Are your hands warm or cold or are they perhaps tingling? Can you feel the socks on your feet or the bare floor beneath them? Be an inquisitive gentle observer, a scientist on an expedition to explore your own experience; that is mindfulness.
2. Follow your breath.
Take a moment to notice your breath: Where is it most apparent to you? At the nostrils, chest or belly? Is the breath slow/rapid/deep/ shallow? Can you notice the rise and fall of your chest/belly? Allow your eyes to close and follow a few cycles of breath.
Now, follow the breath in and then notice the small pause where the in-breath ends and the out-breath begins. Can you notice the slight pause between breaths? If your breath were a color, what color would it be? If you could see it, would it be transparent or opaque?
As you follow the breath a bit longer, do you notice the breath change in length or depth? No need to alter the breath – merely notice and ride the waves of the breath in and out. Be a witness to the breath. Watch it like you would watch those silly little birds that run sideways on the beach.
And when your mind wanders, and it will, just bring back the focus to the “in or out,” wherever you may be.
3. Using your senses, notice your surroundings
This is a lovely one to use in a park where sights and sounds abound (it is equally effective waiting in a long line at the supermarket). It is an easy bridge back to the now using all five senses. Begin by finding 5 objects you see, 4 sounds you hear, 3 to touch, 2 to smell, and one to taste.
4. Savor the first bite.
Do you know how the first and last bite of anything always tastes the best? It is because we pause and savor it. If you are fan of cheesecake (like me), take that first bite and put the fork down and savor the taste. We often miss the wonderful taste because we are off planning the future or trying to rework the past neither of which works. The only place we can make a change is in the now.
5. Keep a journal.
Robin Sharma suggests, “The mind makes a wonderful servant but a poor master.”
We all have what we call a negativity bias. If your boss says 3 good things to you and 1 bad you will remember that bad; and it will take 7 more good things to override the one bad unless we do some rewiring of your brain.
Keep a journal by your bedside and write down three things you are grateful for each night before you close your eyes at night. Research suggests by keeping a gratitude journal, writing a gratitude letter to someone who made a difference to us, or by just noticing the neutral things in our lives, we are happier.|
If it all seems pretty simple … it’s because it is.
“Dr. Deb” Romberger is a qualified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Instructor as well as a Licensed Professional Counselor. She has taught Mindfulness and MBSR at Lehigh Carbon Community College, The Institute for Retirement at Cedar Crest College, West End Yoga, South Whitehall Parks and Recreation, and in her local community.