The Art of Being Present

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Oftentimes I catch myself constantly worrying about moments of the past and events of the future.  This summer I came to a realization that life would become more bearable if I practiced staying present.  There are certain events in life where you have to think ahead in order to prepare, although you can do so in a healthy way and not overthink yourself to death.  I know this is cliché of me to say, but moments really do pass us by too quickly for us to fully appreciate them.  Practicing mindfulness and being present can help to decrease anxiety and increase the appreciation of big and small moments, both in the moment itself and later on in life.  Being present is easier said than done, but I will share with you some of my own tips and advice from experts.

One of my tips is when you are feeling particularly stressed, if you are able to, first take note of your stress and think about why you are feeling that way.  After that, take a moment to look at your surroundings and immerse yourself into that environment instead of your own mind.  Since we are in college, we know where we are currently staying will not last forever.  Take a moment to appreciate your house/apartment/dorm while you still can.  I know it sounds kind of weird, but there will be a time in life where you will miss those surroundings and wish you could go back.  Also take note of where you are in your current life.  How far into your academic journey are you?  What job do you currently have?  Think of the components that make you you in that current moment.  These aspects of our lives will change before we have even the time to realize it!  Appreciate where you currently are in your stage of life, whether that is a good stage or a bad stage.  The bad parts of life often make you stronger, although you do not realize and fully appreciate that until later down the road.  Remind yourself to appreciate this stage in life.  It will not last forever and you will want to reminisce on this time in the future.

If you are not used to staying present through your mind, no worries!  There are other ways to achieve presentness, for example, through a physical realm.  I have been very much into paint-by-sticker books.  It gives me something to focus on in that particular moment.  Find an activity that requires all of your focus, for example, coloring or cleaning.  This will keep your mind from running in circles and to stay present and focused on your task.  Pro tip: Put your phone on “do not disturb” or turn it off during this time.

College can fly by if we do not stop for a moment to genuinely appreciate it.  If you are somewhere on campus and you are feeling overwhelmed by your workload or college life in general, stop and look up from what you are doing.  Take a couple of minutes to really absorb your surroundings on campus.  Observe the chatter of the students, the colors of the walls, desks, chairs, the structures around you, etc.  I know this sounds silly but this task will aid you in focusing on something else while simultaneously being immersed in your college experience.  This immersion will make you remember your times in school and you will be able to look back on them.  This task also applies to hanging out with your friends or going out to local places around campus.

Those were some things that I do that personally help me.  I realize not everyone operates in the same way, so I researched some tips from experts on how to practice presentness:

Pay attention to your senses

Focusing on aspects of your environment that you can physically sense can help to distract your mind and bring you into the present moment.  You can either pick one of your senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, taste) or go through your senses and take time to focus on each one.  It is a very simple task and going down the list of your senses keeps you preoccupied.

Meditation and/or yoga

I have personally tried meditation and it really helps me direct my thoughts elsewhere and focus more on my bodily sensations.  There are meditation videos for literally anything: anxiety, depression, test anxiety, OCD, eating habits/disorders, self love, intrusive thoughts, sleeping, etc.  I have been working on a YouTube meditation playlist with all of my favorite videos.  Click here if you are unsure of where to start in the meditation world.

Practice mindful breathing

Focusing on your breath can help to focus your attention inward and relieve stress.  I do this when I find myself running from task to task and it is causing me extreme anxiety.  Even if you have a load of tasks to do, you can still take a couple minutes or even seconds to focus on your breath.  This will not throw you off your schedule of getting things done, I promise you.  It may even help you work more efficiently.  One breathing exercise that I have been doing for years now is to take a deep breath in one 1, pause, then exhale on 2, pause, until you reach ten.  You can either count in your head or out loud.  Even visualizing the numbers in your head helps too.

I hope these tips can bring you some peace of mind.  I am going to be honest, practicing presentness takes time.  You will not become a master of this practice when you first begin.  All of your worries will not magically disappear.  It takes time and work, but it is worth it.  I am still on this journey myself, but I can already notice some differences.  Life flies by too fast to be constantly thinking of the past and the future.  The world will not end if you take a few moments to be present.  You can still get everything that you need to get done, done.  Presentness can enhance your performance and increase your appreciation of life in general.  Take it one day at a time.



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