Man walking at sunset

3 ways to be more mindful and present every day

14 December 2020

Sometimes, especially when times are tough, it can be very easy to lose sight of the present. If you’re dwelling on past troubles or worrying about uncertainty in the future, you’re at risk of forgetting to live in the moment and before you know it, life simply passes you by.

Andy Puddicombe, co-founder of the mindfulness and meditation app Headspace, says that being present means being focused on one thing without distraction. 

“Whether it’s a conversation, a project, a task in hand, being present is being focused without wanting to be somewhere else, without being in your head, lost in thought. It is about being present with a particularly strong emotion, without getting caught up in it.”

So, to avoid getting swept away in the chaos of life, here are three little things you can do every day to help yourself be more mindful and present.

1. Do a body scan and count your breaths

If you want to be present in what is going on around you, you first need to be present in yourself. How often do you take a few minutes to stop and really think about how you are feeling beyond a high-level emotion like stressed, or tired or excited? 

Doing a body scan involves sitting quietly by yourself, ideally somewhere where you feel comfortable closing your eyes and won’t be interrupted, but it can also be done with your eyes open at your desk or on public transport if you don’t have space to yourself. Start at the top of your head and mentally scan through your entire body and notice every feeling, whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, tense or relaxed, uncomfortable or comfortable. Then, try counting your breaths, just up to a count of 10, and focus solely on the rising and falling sensation. Notice where you feel it – whether it’s in your chest, throat, nose or stomach.

The important thing to understand is that you are not actively trying to change anything about how you’re feeling or breathing, you’re simply paying attention to everything about the moment, which is the first step to being more present and mindful.

Man staring at a sunrise at the beach

2. Eat your meals mindfully

If you’re the sort of person that is guilty of shovelling in a sandwich as you run between meetings, or absentmindedly snacking as you prepare dinner for other people, then mindful eating will be a game-changer for you. Mindful eating is all about savouring your food and taking time to really smell, taste, see and appreciate what you’re eating. It doesn’t mean you have to behave like a restaurant critic over an apple, but engaging all your senses to notice the colour of the apple, the crisp texture and sweet smell and flavour will help you become more present as you eat it.

Any activity that you do every day can quickly become quite mindless, so making the effort to be present every time you eat a meal will not only help you be more mindful but will likely have other benefits – like reducing the risk of mindlessly overeating or eating even when you aren’t hungry.

Man meditating at the Taj Mahal

3. Take some time to digital detox

If 2020 has shown us anything, it’s that a rise in video calls, emailing and Netflix binging can be overwhelming, even if they are great ways to stay connected to people you’re physically apart from. Research from Deloitte’s annual Mobile Consumer Survey report shows that 44 per cent of people in Australia think their phone use is a problem and are trying to reduce how much time they spend on it.

Push notifications for emails and other work messaging channels can (and really should!) be turned off on your phone outside of work hours, so you spend time doing something else away from a screen. Maybe it’s making sure you take some time to go for a walk and get some fresh air or committing to shutting your laptop at a certain time. Wherever possible, you should set a routine for yourself to ensure you’re living your life in the present moment, not just letting it pass you by.

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