“If you want to be happy, do not dwell in the past, do not worry about the future, focus on living fully in the present.” ~ Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
Last week, we wrapped up Pillar #3 of “The Year of the Best You” – Sleep is Essential to Success. Today, we will start on Pillar #4 – Live in the Present Moment. As before, we will discuss this pillar a bit more below, provide a printable PDF worksheet for the month and then recap how we made out on April 30th.
This pillar is arguably one of the most important when it comes to our thoughts, emotional well-being and how we react to the world around us. Another way to label ‘living in the moment’ would be ‘mindfulness’ or ‘paying attention’. It does not negate the fact that life requires a certain level of planning and foresight – in fact, we can plan for the future and set goals more effectively if we are in the present moment.
What is meant by mindfulness?
Two descriptions of mindfulness from pioneers in this field include the following:
“When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love.” ~ Thích Nhất Hạnh
“Mindfulness practice means that we commit fully in each moment to be present; inviting ourselves to interface with this moment in full awareness, with the intention to embody as best we can an orientation of calmness, mindfulness, and equanimity right here and right now.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn
I have written about mindfulness in prior posts and will continue to do so since it is becoming increasingly important in stress management, in particular, for healthcare providers as it relates to physician burnout and patient care.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
The benefits are both well-documented and extensive. I have included just a few from the Greater Good Science Center, University of California, Berkeley below:
- boosts our immune system
- improves mental health – increases positive emotions while reducing negative emotions such as anxiety & stress
- it literally changes our brains – research indicates that it increases the density of gray matter in brain regions linked to learning, memory, emotion regulation, & empathy
- improves relationships – makes couples more satisfied & accepting of one another
- helps health care professionals cope with stress & connect with their patients
How can we become more mindful?
1) Pay attention – With ever competing distractions and tasks, it is easy to lose sight of what is around us and not pay attention. How often have you driven your usual route home and almost didn’t remember it happening? How often have we had a conversation and not really been fully present in what the other person was saying?
I have mentioned and referenced podcasts numerous times and I actually think they are an excellent tool to train ourselves to pay attention and to be mindful. To bring these two points together, I was driving yesterday listening to an interview with Dan Harris and singer/songwriter Jewel on the 10% Happier podcast and really dialed in to what they were saying.
Jewel had a very difficult childhood, and as a teenager experienced a lot of anxiety. Even when she was homeless, parentless, she realized that she had all of the answers she needed within herself and committed to ‘paying attention’ through being the observer of her thoughts. She also taught herself to manage panic attacks through visualization exercises, which is now a common type of guided meditation.
Today, Jewel is doing some great work around emotional fitness and other aspects of being a ‘whole human’ on her site Never Broken.
I gained insight and perspective by paying attention to the message from the podcast.
2) Meditation – Through meditation, we can essentially train our minds to live more in the present, or mindful, during everyday activities such as eating, walking and driving. Meditation has already come up in the Year of the Best You as it is a scientifically proven way to manage our emotions and live more fully. We often refer to the ‘practice’ of meditation and mindfulness, as living in the present moment does not come naturally to us. Instead, we are programmed to always be thinking of the past and the future.
No one right way exists to meditate, nor do you need to take classes. Many types of meditation practice are available in various formats – pick the one that suits your needs best. For me, the easier and more accessible, the better. I have included some resources below as well as in the worksheet to get you started.
Living in the present moment can transform all aspects of your life! Please print off the worksheet to join in this month’s activity. I will do the same and we will recap on April 30th. Remember, the greatest gift you can give yourself is the ‘present’.