What does it mean to be present?
Being present means a mindful awareness and acceptance of the current moment. When you are present you are not thinking about the past or the future, you are living in the now.
Often, we are not living in the moment. In your daily life, are you worrying about work while driving? Are you preparing what you are going to say while someone else is still talking? Are you scrolling through social media while half-watching a movie? It has become so normalized to multitask in our fast-paced world that we almost don’t notice it anymore. Although it produces an underlying anxious energy, we prefer this frantic state to being “bored.”
When you are present you are only focused on one thing, which some might find boring if you’re accustomed to always multitasking.
We adamantly avoid boredom by constantly pairing activities to create more stimulation and dopamine release, like listening to a podcast while driving, cooking with TV in the background, or reading while walking on the treadmill.
Try and think of some activities you do during the day where your full attention is focused on one sole objective. You may realize that you spend most of the day multitasking without ever fully enjoying the moment.
What are the benefits of being present?
As a society, we are spending less and less time being present. But why does this matter? A research study conducted by Harvard psychologists Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert, provides a clear answer:
“Mind-wandering is an excellent predictor of people’s happiness. In fact, how often our minds leave the present and where they tend to go is a better predictor of our happiness than the activities in which we are engaged.”
In other words, the more time you spend being present, the happier you will be.
Besides increasing happiness, the benefits of mindfulness—or being present—include significant improvements to mental, spiritual, and physical well-being. All of the benefits listed below are supported by scientific research.
- Increased happiness
- Scientific studies have established that one of the biggest causes of happiness is simply being focused on what you are doing, whatever it may be. While mind-wandering is associated with decreased levels of happiness.
- More mindfulness = more happiness!
- Better stress management
- Several studies have reported that mindful individuals were better able to regulate stress in their daily lives and had healthier coping strategies.
- As stress affects mental health, the less stressed you are, the better your emotional well-being.
- Increased self-regulated behavior
- Many studies have investigated the role of mindfulness in psychological well-being and have found that mindfulness can predict self-regulated behavior and positive emotional states.
- Improved physical health
- Taking care of your headspace is not only beneficial to your mind but also for your body.
- In one longitudinal study of female college students, researchers found that higher levels of dispositional mindfulness were related to healthier eating, better sleep, and better overall physical wellness.
- Increased partner satisfaction
- Mindfulness has the potential to strengthen relationships with loved ones, as one study on romantic partners showed.
- In these studies, trait mindfulness was related to greater partner acceptance and partner satisfaction.
How do you become present?
While it is a simple concept, being present in daily life can be surprisingly difficult for human beings nowadays. So how can we practice being present in order to live a full and meaningful life, instead of coasting on auto-pilot?
- Develop a mindfulness practice
- The use of mindfulness practices is one of the most important factors in increasing overall presence. The key is to integrate it into your daily routine and to view it as a form of self-care (or other-care if you’re Buddhist) rather than regarding it as a chore.
- Even a 10-minute daily mindfulness practice can impact your day and provide positive long-term effects on mental and physical wellness. There are many different forms of mindfulness practices, the most common being meditation.
- Meditation practices are a great way to let go, notice how the mind wanders, be comfortable with stillness, decrease rumination, and develop self-compassion as well as compassion towards everyone. A common meditation practice that scientists favor is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).
- Other mindfulness practices includes breathing exercises (deep breathing, box breathing, Wim Hof, etc.), body scan check-in, yoga, and mindful eating.
- Avoid multitasking
- Spend time focusing on one sole activity whenever possible. And, if you are worried about decreased productivity, there’s good news: multitasking is only slowing you down. Most people can’t actually multitask, they are only switching back and forth between tasks at a rapid rate that is exhausting and ineffiecent.
- Practice gratitude
- Gratitude is an amazing grounding practice and an open invitation to savor the moment. It is an easy way to generate positive emotions while bringing your focus back to the present.
- One trick is to set a gratitude alarm, if you tend to have your phone nearby anyway. You can set an alarm for every hour to remind yourself to stop and think of three things for which you are grateful. Gratitude journaling and meditating on gratitude are also great options.
- Prioritize your social interactions
- Socializing can be a great source of joy but we often take it for granted by not fully paying attention in social situations.
- Try to be more mindful in your interactions by putting your phone down and turning off your notifications, thinking before you speak, and truly listening to the other person.
Quotes about Being Present
Here are some great quotes about mindfulness and being present from great Buddhist and spiritual teachers.
You can incorporate these quotes into your everyday life by writing them on sticky notes and placing them around your house. Or try using one as a prompt in a gratitude journal. Maybe even make a gratitude quote a screensaver on your phone to remind you not to mindlessly use technology when you could be in the present moment instead!
“Our true home is not in the past. Our true home is not in the future. Our true home is in the here and the now. Life is available only in the here and the now, and it is our true home.”— Thich Nhat Hanh
“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.”— Eckhart Tolle
“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
“Happiness lies not in finding what is missing, but in finding what is present.”— Tara Brach
“The present moment is really all that we have. The only place you can really love another person is in the present. Love in the past is a memory. Love in the future is a fantasy. To be really alive, love – or any other experience – must take place in the present.”— Jack Kornfield
“The premise of mindfulness is simple: if we remain present and aware of what’s going on around us and of our inner mental states we can remain happy, even in the face of difficult experiences.”— Scott Snibbe
“To be mindful means just to know what’s going on when it’s going on, without commenting on it.”— Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo
Disclaimer: This post is not medical advice. Before taking on specific meditation techniques or other treatments for a psychological or health problem, please consult a psychologist or medical professional regarding your specific health conditions.