Most of us tend to zone out, get distracted and struggle to keep our minds focused in one place. In fact, while writing this article, we too zoned out multiple times. Wondering how to be present and in the moment? Are you missing out on life’s precious memories?
Imagine this: You’re meeting friends over coffee and everyone is having a good time. Suddenly, your phone pings to remind you of a work deadline tomorrow. Your mind now thinks about the office, that work desk, and the impending dread of finishing that task. “Hey, come back! Where did you wander off to?” your friend calls. You zoned out and missed a funny moment – your friend with a coffee foam moustache.
Let’s find out.
What does it mean to ‘be present’?
You may wonder what it means to ‘be present’. Simply put, it’s being aware of where you are, what you are thinking and feeling, who you are with at a specific moment. Multitasking, getting sidetracked by stresses and worries can all distract you from being in the moment. Being present can help you feel more connected to the world around you and feel more calm.
Why do I struggle to be present?
It may sound simple but being present in the moment is not always easy. It’s completely natural to occasionally “zone out” or not pay attention if something distracts you. Let’s take a look at what prevents us from being present.
Some of the more common reasons are listed below:
Stress and anxiety
If you are someone who constantly feels anxious, worried and stressed, then you are more likely to zone out. In fact, research shows that some people respond to stress by shutting themselves down completely, which as you can guess, can affect our ability to be in the moment.
Use of drugs or alcohol, in particular, may interfere with how the brain works. You may notice you lose focus and become distracted easily. Other detrimental outcomes from substance abuse include poor judgement and memory issues.
How to be present: 6 ways to live in the moment
Now that we understand what causes us to zone out, let’s take a look at the ways in which we can prevent it.
The top tips for how to be present and live in the moment are:
1. Keep track
No, we don’t mean tracking your steps or heart rate, rather noticing when you zone out. Additionally, finding the reason behind your distraction can help you self diagnose and reduce the frequency of it.
2. Practising mindfulness
Studies have shown that even a brief session of mindfulness can improve attention span in people. An increased attention span can result in less instances of “mind-wandering” which is beneficial. Breathing exercises such as bee breathing (involves deep breathing via nose and slowly exhaling it with a bee like hum/buzz) and belly breathing (involves slow breathing via the nose and mouth respectively, while observing belly movement) can improve focus and reduce stress.
3. Try active listening
Active listening is a way when you reassure someone that you are interested in the conversation and paying full attention, by your gestures and body movement. Nodding your head while listening, asking relevant questions based on their statements can help you to stay engaged in the conversation.
4. Prioritise sleep
Sleep is beneficial for optimal cognitive functioning. And while you may think it’s okay to sleep 4 hours then head off to work, your body may feel otherwise. Focus on winding down before bed and getting good quality rest, for example, making sure your room is as dark as possible, and is cool and comfortable. You can also try to avoid blue light for an hour before bed.
We know, we know, exercise makes it to almost every list, but in this case, regular exercise can improve blood flow to the brain which can help your brain function optimally. The result? Improved focus, attention span and logical thinking. Simple exercises like light jog, brisk walking, yoga, bicycling all can help you get moving.
6. Reduce stress
Stress has a negative affect on our brain function and overall body. While we may not realise it, stress can affect our focus too. Finding ways to reduce stress and giving yourself proper rest can improve attention span. Try engaging in things you love doing or spend time with friends and family to de-stress.
Still struggling to pay attention and be present?
If it bothers you that you are struggling to stay present and our tips haven’t helped, it’s probably the time to seek professional help. A medical practitioner can investigate any underlying issues, and can provide you with personalised advice. Remember, it’s quite natural to lose focus occasionally, but with the right guidance, everything can be put into place.