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Here and now: Discover the benefits of being present

March 10, 2022 - 20 min read

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What does it mean to be present?

Why is being present so important?

How to be more present

How to be more present at work

Why it can be more difficult to live in the now

9 mindfulness resources

Moving forward

To be present is to pay attention. To notice. To appreciate.

Being present might mean seeing the tiredness on your manager's face in your 1:1. You might hear the energy when a normally quiet coworker talks about a new idea. Being present might also mean appreciating the early morning sun on the clouds or savoring the smell of coffee.

It’s common to feel your mind wander, engaged in a cycle of going back to the past and then jumping forward. It's such a habit — many people don't know how to be present.

You might be dreamily thinking about an upcoming vacation while in a project kickoff meeting. Or, you're filled with dread about your career plans while your son tells you about his day. You aren't present and they can tell.

You may find yourself tossing and turning at night as you recall everything you said at a meeting that didn't go well. Or how you acted at a friend's birthday party a couple of days ago.

It's like you can't stop replaying that moment in your head. Then, you roll over and start thinking about the meeting scheduled for next week. You wonder how that will go over and what it will mean for your future work projects. 

These thoughts take you away from your present moment awareness. They destroy your efforts to get rest. They also hurt your relationships and performance. 

Learning how to be present isn’t easy. Focusing on the here and now can feel impossible with so many thoughts taking up your headspace. Yet if you can tune out these ruminations, there are benefits to bringing your full attention to the current moment.

Let’s start by learning why we should bother learning about being present first.

 

What does it mean to be present?

Your body takes you through your daily routine every single day. Waking up in the morning, going to work, and fulfilling your responsibilities might be tasks that you can complete on autopilot.

Being present isn't about successfully showing up to work on time and getting through the day. It's about where your mind is living.

We all spend time in the future and the past. That's natural and healthy. But it should be a visit, not an extended stay.

In each task that you do, your mind should be right beside you. The meaning of being present is that your physical body and mind are focused on your job.

Maybe you sense your mind wandering when you're bored, anxious, or stressed. You could be at a friend's house for a dinner party while your mind is at work because your coworker has been sick and your workload has doubled.

Finding someone who can help you understand the power of now is a great way to value your present. BetterUp can provide the guidance you need to develop skills that make better use of your time. With practice, you can keep yourself grounded in what matters now instead of living in the past or future.

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Why is being present so important?

Living in the present offers many benefits. 

Why is focusing on the present important? Because it contributes to your energy levels and motivation to achieve your goals. Focusing on the present makes you a better listener for your loved ones and increases your awareness of your surroundings. Overall, it can lead to greater happiness in your life. You'll appreciate what's around you and let yourself have fun.

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When we aren't living in the present moment, it takes a toll on our professional and personal lives. Distraction can lead to more mistakes at work, for instance. You also miss valuable cues from others that could help you collaborate or avoid unnecessary conflict.

Eliminating unnecessary worries helps with your mental health. Doing so means more time to focus on present events and your well-being because you aren't stuck thinking about the past or future. It helps your self-esteem grow and become stronger, too.

Research has found many benefits of being mindful of the present, like boosting your self-awareness. When you practice being present, you're building good habits for your future well-being. Present moment awareness over time has also been found to decrease stress and abrupt changes in your mood because you have more control over your thoughts.

Plus, learning how to stay present in the moment helps us absorb more knowledge and improve our skills. When you're in the moment, you aren't dwelling on past failures or paralyzed by fear of the future.

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How to be more present

You're bound to encounter challenges when you commit to teaching yourself how to be more present. After all, ruminations on the past or future are likely an unconscious habit. It's easy to fall into a routine, but there are ways to trade your old habits for new ones that serve you a better purpose.

Here are six tips to help you be more present in your daily life:

1. Focus on your breathing

When you're trying your best to focus but it's just not happening, you might need to recenter yourself. Breathing exercises can help bring you back to your surroundings at the moment. Taking deep breaths makes you focus on your breathing, not whatever's distracting you. Some apps can help you count out your deep breaths to help you feel a sense of grounding. 

2. Try meditation practices

Knowing how to stay present isn't easy, but mindfulness meditation can teach you. Along with breathing exercises, try mindfulness activities like yoga. Meditation requires plenty of patience and dedication.

Plus, meditation, mindfulness, and self-compassion all play key roles in strengthening your well-being. They help you be more open and accepting of present events and encourage positive emotions rather than negative ones.

With time, you'll build a habit of being purposeful with your thoughts and intentional with how you use your time. Your preferred mindfulness or meditation strategy is up to you and is an excellent opportunity to learn the benefits of mindfulness.

3. Limit the time you spend on social media

Social media platforms can be great for connecting and staying updated with news, but they can also be distracting. Staring at photos of the incredible vacation you took five years ago might lead to wistful thoughts of the past.

Seeing someone in our Instagram feed lying on a beach when we’re at work might turn us green with envy. When you have tasks that demand your full attention, turn the notifications for specific apps off to make more room in your headspace.

4. Stay connected with your body

Many people don't do a body scan of themselves as often as they should. Wherever you are, take a moment to evaluate yourself. How's your body doing? Are your hands sweaty? Does your head hurt from thinking about past mistakes? When was the last time you drank some water? Listening to clues from your body can hint that you haven't been staying in the present.

Rather than see it as a failure if you haven’t stayed present with your body, see it as a sign that it's time to enact some change. This could mean that you need to do more mindful eating. Or, maybe you need to break a multitasking habit.

You aren’t a failure if you haven’t been regularly checking in with yourself. We all forget sometimes, but looking at our mistakes as lessons helps us learn for the future.

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5. Keep a gratitude journal

Identifying positive things that happen to us each day that we’re grateful for can help you stay present. A journal is a great way to reflect on something that you appreciate in life or record fun thoughts you've had.

Your journal can include anything, from how bright the sun was shining one day or how you appreciate the new winter boots you just bought. Remembering the good in your life empowers you to continue to find more of it. 

6. Understand that you don't have all the answers

Our minds wander around the past and future because we have questions. We are uncertain. We can't predict the future.

Those questions don’t always have answers, and we can have a hard time digesting that.

Feeling upset that we can’t solve our problems, know the truth, or see the future can consume us. Here’s the good news: you may feel freer once you grow to understand that sometimes things are out of your control.

How to be more present at work

You might be good at staying present in your personal life but struggle at your workplace. Learning how to be present in the moment at work can allow you to be more productive and create better work.

Here are four mindfulness practices to keep in mind to bring with you to work:

  1. Make sure you use your break times mindfully
  2. Process your tasks with some rest before starting something new
  3. Check in with yourself when you're feeling stuck
  4. Learn to save tasks for another day after working too hard

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Why it can be more difficult to live in the now

Are you interested in learning another reason why it is important to focus on the present? You’re always encouraged to think about the future or dwell on the past. They compete with the present for your attention, and sometimes they win.

You can't blame yourself for that. You're trying to set long-term goals or reflect on past mistakes to avoid making them again. You're interrupted a lot, too. There’s always another notification from social media or an idea for a work project next month. From there, something triggers you to think about a former friend or a future promotion. 

The future is full of uncertainty. But that means it’s also full of opportunities and excitement. The past is familiar and might bring you comfort or be traumatic, leading you to dwell on that, too. It’s hard to clear your mind from the past and future to focus on the present when both carry such weight.

Balancing the past, present, and future

You should strive to have a balanced headspace. Living in the present doesn’t mean ignoring the past or future but having a healthy balance. Accept your thoughts but don't let them control you.

There aren't any instructions or simple steps to follow to achieve balance either, because it's personal to you. What works for you might not work for others, but it's about putting in the effort to find your unique balance. 

You might start by working on your mindfulness or creating more set routines to follow. Whatever helps you balance your thoughts, stick with it.

9 mindfulness resources

Mindfulness is something you can practice in many different ways, other than meditation and breathing exercises. Mindfulness practices help you live more in the present while giving you tools to help your future well-being. But the benefits of mindfulness for your future take time. 

One study found that training yourself to be mindful of the present helps reduce your fight-or-flight and knee-jerk reactions. It teaches you to take a breath, take in your surroundings and events, and then react. You'll think before the words come out, positively changing how you engage with yourself, others, and your work.

Here are some resources to help you practice mindfulness and inspire you to live in the present:

Books

  1. How to live in the now: A practical guide to living in the present moment by Ernest Holm Svendsen
  2. Wherever you go, there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life by Jon Kabat-Zinn
  3. Mindful relationships: Build nurturing, meaningful relationships by living in the present by Old Doyle

YouTube videos

  1. Living in the present mindfulness meditation from Great Meditation
  2. Slow living: How I live in the present moment from Malama Life
  3. Happiness is made of these moments from Plum Village

Quotes

  • "Living in the present moment means letting go of the past and not waiting for the future. It means living your life consciously, aware that each moment you breathe is a gift." - Oprah Winfrey
  • "The only time you ever have in which to learn anything or see anything or feel anything, or express any feeling or emotion, or respond to an event, or grow, or heal, is this moment because this is the only moment any of us ever gets. You're only here now; you're only alive at this moment." -J on Kabat-Zinn
  • "The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion." - Thich That Hanh

Moving forward

Every moment in your life has a purpose, full of joy, lessons, and more. When we mentally spend that time somewhere else, we miss so many opportunities.

It's not easy to learn how to be present, but our well-being appreciates it. It leads to fewer regrets and more memories to cherish.

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Published March 10, 2022

Elizabeth Perry

Content Marketing Manager, ACC

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