I drove from my house to the grocery store and I may as well have teleported because I can’t even recall the route?
I had a conversation with someone and I don’t remember what they said.
I was taking a shower and realized I used body wash on my hair instead of shampoo (I’ve totally been there).
Are any of these examples familiar to you?
If you answered yes, then you’re not alone!
Our mind tends to wander elsewhere, away from the present moment and circumstances. Oftentimes, it isn’t until after we’ve completed a task or had a conversation–either with our self-awareness or someone else letting us know–that we realized we zoned out or were distracted.
It’s not intentional, but there is something else that is taking more priority over the present moment. It doesn’t mean that it’s less important than what is going on now, but for whatever reason, we’ve chosen to place our attention there.
If we continue living in this autopilot, unconscious way, there are issues that may arise…
We might miss out on important information presented, via a friend, family member, boss, colleague or something that we are learning and the list goes on.
This type of distraction can be seen as setting less of a priority on the task, but like I said above, that is not the cause. Rather, our mind is seeing this other thought as something that needs to be solved now. But, is now the time? Or is the proper time only when we make separate time for that other task? The present moment and its circumstance are the only tasks at hand.
What I’ve found is that the time spent in the past, future or elsewhere, resulted in a lack of productivity. Neither the present circumstance nor the one that is distracting you gained valuable time spent on it.
The instance of something like the shower, this time can be seen as therapeutic for some, a time to relax and be in solitude. And for others, it’s a huge task to even get into the shower. Either way, it’s important to stay present.
Here are a few tips to help you stay present for yourself and the people in your life:
- Take care of your own needs. It’s difficult to stay present when you’re exhausted or overwhelmed. That’s why it’s important to:
- Get proper sleep
- Eat meals that fuel you, not drain you
- Stay hydrated
- Do something that brings you joy each day
- Set proper boundaries with people in your life
- Productivity falls if we switch from task to task without a level of completion or a mental pause, in order to move onto the next one. This could be a physical task, a conversation, an activity, etc. Give the present moment your full attention by lessening the distraction of the things outside of it.
- This tip is based around using some of our senses. (This is a helpful exercise if you’re also experiencing anxiety or dissociation).
- Try to find 4 things you can see (e.g. a tree, a painting, a person)
- 3 things you can hear (e.g. a car, air conditioning, your breathing)
- 2 things you can feel (e.g. a chair or feel your own arm if you don’t have any surfaces by you)
- 1 thing you can smell (e.g. food, candles, flowers)
- Since our nervous system takes in information through our senses, we can focus on our surroundings in a mindful way, which will help to regulate the nervous system.
- Pick a specific task in life to practice being present with. (e.g. showering, being in a car, grocery store line).
- First, choose one that you can practice for a while.
- Use your senses (much like the tip above) to help shift your attention away from the wandering mind and into the present moment.
- Keep breathing! Be mindful of this if you are holding your breath.
- By practicing this every day, you will create a habit of staying present.
- If it gets easy, apply it to another task and so on.
We worry about missing the things that we are distracted by, the things that are outside of the present moment. We think to ourselves, “if I don’t try to work it out through my head now, then it won’t work out.” When in fact, the only thing that you’re missing out on is the current experience.
This fleeting time is both greatly narrow and yet, greatly filled with depth. It is unique and there is nothing like it, nor will there ever be again.
So the next time you are aware of yourself veering into another space outside of the present, practice using one of the tools to get you back to the moment that you are in so you don’t miss out on what is happening now in life.
We live in a world where people are trying so hard to connect, to be seen and heard. And the reality is, one of the greatest gifts that you can offer someone is your presence. It is free and it shows the importance that you place on that time and connection.
Macy Cassera is a life coach and freelance writer who helps others rebuild after loss and change so they can create a fulfilling and authentic life full of purpose. To get in touch with Macy, please send her an email or send a message through her official website or Instagram.