Did you know that according to a study conducted by Harvard in 2010, people spend 47% of their waking hours thinking of something other than the activity that they are actually doing? That means half of our day and half of our lives we are zoned-out, living in our minds, as opposed to experiencing life and enjoying the things and the people that surround us. What if we were able to change that? What if we were able to condition our mind to be present, and we were able to learn to be in the moment? The answer is that we would find greater happiness, be less stressed, and find the joys in the small things in life.
“A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.”
-2010 Harvard Study by Killingsworth and Gilbert
Video: Learn to Be In the Moment and Live a Happier Life
I’m sure everyone has experienced a scenario such as this: You go on vacation or to some type of an event, and while it is happening, you run into some problems. While there were some enjoyable activities that happened during your time, there were also a lot of stresses, inconveniences, less-than-stellar service, etc. During the trip, you found yourself complaining and thinking to yourself, “This isn’t exactly what I had in mind.” Much of your time was spent trying to figure out what to do, make plans for the family, get directions, pay to park, drag your luggage throughout the city, etc. However, as time goes on and you begin to reflect and tell stories about your adventures, your memory takes on a life of its own. All-of-a-sudden, that mediocre trip has now turned into the greatest time you have ever had. As humans, we tend to view past experiences as being more grandiose and glamorous than they really were. It’s a false sense of happiness, and a missed opportunity to actually enjoy the moment. What if we were able to brush aside the inconveniences, and the events that brought about stress?
Nobody enjoys doing the dishes, the laundry, paying bills and doing menial tasks and chores all day. However, if you choose (yes, it’s a choice) to find something about it that is enjoyable, you wouldn’t imagine the change you will feel. When you’re folding your clothes after you have pulled them from the dryer, be in that moment. Stop thinking about what you are going to do for dinner, what has to get done before bed, and what you need to accomplish tomorrow. Find a peace of mind and feel good about what you are doing. If you can do this with something you despise, think about how much you can change by being completely present with the things and people you enjoy. Let’s not lie and say that we don’t often “check out” even when we are surrounded by our closest friends and family.
How Can You Learn to be More Present?
Train Your Mind: Each time you feel like your mind starts to wander away from the activity that you are currently engaged in, force yourself to pull yourself back in. At first, this will seem like a daunting task because we are so conditioned to multi-task, daydream, and allow our mind to wander. With so much technology at our fingertips, it’s harder than ever to stay focused and present. If you do this long enough, you WILL begin to notice the difference. It’s just like going to the gym or breaking a bad habit. It takes practice, resilience, and dedication. Nobody is going to change for you. This is a choice you must make on your own.
Put the Technology Away For Awhile: Our phones have become an extension of us, and without it, we start to feel that panic stirring up in our gut, and begin to get all crazy like somebody is ripping our child from our hands. Trust me, this is not easy! You can start slow by putting all technology away for an hour or two, and then build up to an entire day. Get outside, take a walk, or go to the coffee shop to do some people watching. Don’t worry, your Facebook friends and Instagram followers probably won’t notice that you disappeared for half of a day. As you are out, soak in the moments, get engaged, and truly examine what is happening around you. Listen to the sounds, smell the air, and find pleasure in your surroundings.
Deep Breathing: Whether praying, meditating, or taking walks is your way of relaxing, learn to deep breathe as a way of letting go of your thoughts. Concentrate on breathing in, and then exhaling out the thoughts that crowd your mind. One technique that can help you focus on your breathing includes counting your breath. Just by counting your breath, up to the number 10 and then repeating has been proven through research to increase your ability to pay attention.
Be in the Moment and Escape Your Mind
If we spend too much time thinking about the things we have to do, or about the things that we have already done, we will never learn to truly enjoy the things right in front of us. Not everything in life has to be documented, so if you see something truly remarkable, try to refrain from pulling out your phone to capture a picture (chances are, your photos won’t be that amazing, anyway). If you do decide to take some photos, take a few, and then put the phone back in your pocket and enjoy what’s in front of you. Be in that moment, feel the satisfaction, and be grateful of what and who appears right in front of you.