We’ve all heard of how important it is to be present, to not get wrapped up in thinking about the past or future. When we’re present, we listen intently to others, are more productive, and are content in our circumstances. But how do we do it? How do we stay in the present moment?
First, we have to identify what being present means.
What Is Being Present?
According to the writers at Headspace, a mindfulness app, being present means “being focused on one thing — a conversation, a project, a task in hand — without distraction, without wanting to be somewhere else, without being in your head, lost in thought.”
They state that, on a deeper level, being present is the ability to sit with challenging emotions as they arise. You are present with your emotions without being overcome by them.
How do we do this? We spoke with business leaders to learn what tools they implement in their daily lives that help them remain in the present moment.
Meditation is a grounding practice. It gives you the space to sit with yourself without any distractions, allowing thoughts to come and go without holding onto them.
Adam Nadelson, CEO of The IV Doc states, “Meditating is less about learning how to turn your thoughts off and is more about letting them flow. Getting wrapped up in concerns about the future or past regrets keeps us from being present. When you meditate, you can practice observing these thoughts as they arise. Maybe you think of a project you have to get done. Notice how that thought feels in your body and mind, and then let it go. It’s not always easy. None of us do this perfectly. But with regular practice, you’ll find more ease in meditation. You’ll also be able to observe and release your thoughts when you’re not in a meditative state.”
There are many ways to practice meditating. One option that focuses the mind on the present is a body scan.
“When you meditate, try bringing your attention to one body part at a time,” says Melissa Rhodes, CEO of Psychics1on1. “Go in order, starting from the head to the toes or vice versa. You’ll become more aware of how your body is feeling. Sometimes we’re so busy that we become disconnected from how we’re feeling physically. Body scans bring you back into your body, and they let your mind become quiet. When you’re focusing on one thing, your thoughts aren’t racing.”
During meditation, you’re encouraged to focus on your breathing. You can use breathing exercises every day to calm anxiety and become more present. Here Eric Tippetts explains top meditation techniques. Take advantage of them and improve your meditation experience.
Focus on Breathing
Just as we can lose touch with physical sensations in our bodies, we can lose touch with our breathing. Since breathing is automatic, it’s easy to forget that we can be intentional with it.
Ray Leon, CEO of Pet Insurance Review claims, “Breath is our constant companion. Despite changing circumstances and heightened emotions, we can always come back to our breath. If you find yourself lost in either the past or the future, pause and notice your breathing. You can track your breath by repeating inhale and exhale, or you can do a breathing exercise. If your breathing is shallow, try diaphragmatic breathing, in which the abdominals expand while you inhale. If you want to relax, try alternate nostril breathing, which lowers your heart rate.”
Healthline provides a list of breathing exercises, and each one offers specific benefits. Pursed lip breathing, for example, slows the breath and is helpful when your breathing is quick and shallow.
Grounding practices like meditation and breathing exercises bring our focus to the present. They can be included in our daily routines to ensure that we’re spending most of our time in the present moment.
Establishing daily routines creates a sense of normalcy that keeps us present. Headspace describes routines as anchors that help us make decisions throughout the day.
Rio Wolff, Chief Operations Officer of Big Heart Toys claims, “Our work schedules can give us regularity in our days and weeks, but they keep us externally focused. We’re working on projects and trying to meet deadlines. It’s important to create routines, both morning and night routines, that have an internal focus. These routines might include exercising before work or reading before going to bed. Whatever they are, they should be what works best for you. Determine what activities help you stay in the present and make sure to implement them daily.”
If we don’t have routines, we are constantly in flux. We can feel disempowered in our circumstances. When this happens, it’s tempting to ruminate on the past and future.
“If we don’t exercise some control over our schedules, we’ll never want to be in the present moment,” says Jason Reposa, Founder and CEO of Good Feels. “Building healthy habits is the best way to be present. We’re guiding our bodies and minds to live in the here and now.”
Think of the Past and Future in Small Doses
Courtney E. Ackerman, a writer for Positive Psychology, claims that the past and future aren’t our enemies. It’s good to think about both. Looking back at the past, we can learn from our successes and mistakes. Looking toward the future, we can find encouragement and create plans to achieve our goals.
The problem, according to Ackerman, is that we all tend to spend too much time looking back and ahead. Our primary focus should be on the present, and we should balance how much we think about the past and future.
“It’s hard to say what the exact right balance is, but you’ll know you’ve hit it when you worry less, experience less stress on a regular basis, and find yourself living the majority of your life in the present,” Ackerman states.
Cody Candee, Founder and CEO of Bounce explains how we can be intentional when thinking about the past.
They state, “Think of the past with purpose. You can replay an enjoyable memory or identify healthy habits to adopt. Let your thoughts of the past help you in the present. When you notice your thoughts of the past are causing you guilt or regret, or you find yourself wishing to return to the past, that’s when it’s time to bring yourself back to the present.”
Caleb Ulffers, CEO of Haven Athletic agrees and claims the same goes when thinking of the future.
“We all have daily and long-term goals, and we need to consider future circumstances when planning how to achieve them,” Ulffers says. “Planning for the future is good until we become riddled with anxiety. Practice planning and letting go. The steps you take in the present are more important about your thoughts of the past or the future.”
While we’re thinking about the past or the future, if we find ourselves wishing our current situation looked different, we can list the things we are grateful for in the present.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
When we keep a gratitude journal, we’re training our minds to concentrate on what we have. If we’re constantly thinking about what we wish we had, we’ll be living our entire lives out of the present moment.
“Listing what we’re grateful for makes us more content in our circumstances,” says Bryan Alston, Chief Marketing Officer of Greater Than. “It’s a great practice to include at the end of your day. Reflect on what the day has brought to you. Reviewing your day is a mindfulness practice in itself and is also an opportunity to reflect on how you practiced mindfulness.”
You might choose to work on your gratitude journal as part of your nightly routine, which is a great substitute to screen time.
Reduce Screen Time
Most of the time we spend on our phones and other devices takes us away from the present.
Chandler Rogers, CEO of Relay claims, “When we’re scrolling through social media, we’re observing other people’s lives. When we’re watching movies or TV shows, we’re living in characters’ lives. In both cases, it’s difficult to feel connected to ourselves. By reducing our screen time, we can focus on more grounding activities. It’s helpful to avoid screen time in our morning and night routines, when possible.”
Exercises such as yoga bring the practitioner into the present by allowing them to focus on the body and breath.
“To do physical exercise, you have to be in the present moment,” says Chris Vaughn, CEO of Emjay. “You have to focus your mind on the shapes and movements of the workout. You become aware of physical sensations in the body as they arise. Sometimes, when you enter a difficult pose or exercise, you might notice your thoughts come faster and more stress-oriented. Though this seems counterintuitive to mindfulness, it’s training your body and mind to process stress. The more regular your exercise practice, the easier it will be for your mind to remain calm.”
We hope this list has given you activities and tools you can implement in your daily routine to keep you in the present moment.