Just this morning I was working with a client of mine, helping her focus inward to notice pleasant sensations of warmth and joy. These feelings arose spontaneously as she was reflecting on one very satisfying friendship. After about 3 seconds, her mind drifted to worries. If she felt such positive feelings right now, might she be disappointed in the future?
We spend most of our time worried about bad things happening in the future, most of which will never happen. Or we become consumed by past events that went wrong even though they are long gone. It’s very human to move into worry. But then we forget to pay attention to the fact that we are ok and nothing bad is happening now.
So, it is a beneficial practice being in the present moment for as long as we can stand it. I have come to use the present moment as a rest stop, a refuge from the unknowable future and the traumatic past. When I am upset and I return to the present moment, I feel calmer.
Here are some tips for staying present:
- Grounding your feet on the floor. It is really as simple as it sounds. But you will need to steal at least five minutes of quiet time. Find a calm place and a comfortable chair. Place both feet firmly on the floor. Focus your attention on the sole of your feet. And finally allow yourself to slow down, breathe, and just be here now.
- Name what you see and hear in your surroundings. Look around your room right now and name three colors, three textures, and three sounds.Then find three more colors, textures, and sounds. Now do it one more time.
- Find a gadget or toy to play with and notice how it feels in your hands. Feel the texture of the gadget, play with it slowly as you notice the experience of your hands moving around. Is it cold or hot? Does it feel smooth or rough? Is the movement easy or does it stretch your fingers? Just notice and play.
- Practice deep belly breathing. This is a special technique to “massage” the vagus nerve, the largest nerve in the body and the nerve that connects our emotional brain with our body. I start many of my sessions with his practice and encourage my clients to practice this several times a day as needed to calm the mind and body in the present moment. Want to try it along with me? Click here.
- Work the Change Triangle to notice your thoughts, emotions, and body sensations right now. For long term emotional health, it’s important to identify when we are avoiding emotions, experiencing anxiety, or experiencing core emotions like anger or sadness. I teach a simple tool called the Change Triangle which helps make sense of our emotional world. Practicing the Change Triangle forces us to come into the present moment and into our bodies to notice what is happening now.
Staying present takes practice over a life-time. It’s the trying that makes the difference. Without judging yourself or having a goal, experiment with the tips above and find out the ones that feel best to you. When you can reliably ground yourself in the present moment, you’ll have a place to “rest easy” when you need.