On any given second of the day, your brain is receiving 11 million bits of information from your senses. Plus, we have approximately 2100-3000 thoughts per hour and it’s estimated that we are exposed to 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements each day. With so much exposure to information every day, it’s no wonder that we find ourselves “checking out,” distracted, and far from living in the present moment.
Aside from constant advertising and social media around us, there are plenty of reasons why anyone may start to wonder outside of the present moment – emotional stress, financial pressures, lack of connection from family or loved ones, stress at the workplace, and the list goes on and on. Those stresses can leave you feeling emotionally and physically overwhelmed, affecting your day to day interactions and your sleep patterns at night.
The first step in any practice is to acknowledge where we are in the present moment. Taking time to check-in with ourselves is extremely important. We can do this by putting aside time alone to reflect, or time with friends that we trust and talk to.
We can also do this by engaging our mind and body to work together doing a full body scan. You can do this at your desk, or in the morning before work. With your eyes open place one hand on your heart and one on your belly. Noticing as your belly pushes against the weight of your hand as you breathe, slowly work towards full and deep breaths into your low belly, counting slowly to the count of 4 on the inhale, and again to 4 on the exhale. After a couple of cycles of breath, you may close your eyes. Starting at your feet, check in with your big toe on your right foot, stopping there to notice all sensations and wiggling it in your shoe. Then move up towards your left hip, lingering there for 4 cycles of breath before moving upwards in the body, leaving your nose for last and feeling the very tip of your nose. After 4 cycles of breath there, we move to feeling our entire head, and we can begin to count down from 10. Once you hit zero, we may begin to blink open our eyes.
After a body scan, I recommend taking this opportunity to grab a note pad and draw 3 columns with headers like Work, Family / Friends, and Financials, and write down the first things that come to your mind in each column, acknowledging both what you are grateful for and what is causing you anxiety in each category.
After we take stock of what is bothering us and taking us away from the present moment, we may start to build an intention around how we want to make improvements to our lives. There is a ton of information out there about intention-setting that can be overwhelming, so remember that simplicity is key. Write down your intention for wanting to stay in the moment, and within the intention add 1 to 3 things that you would like to improve in your life, that will help you stay in the present moment more often. Every morning right after waking up take 2-3 minutes to think about and visualize your intention. Just as in a yoga practice, setting an intention will keep you stable and grounded, allowing you to dodge any unexpected circumstances that may come up in life.
It is good practice to check in with your intention every month and be open to making changes to it as life unfolds.
Tips for relaxing and coming back to the present moment:
- Close your eyes and do the full body check in described earlier in the article. This is something that’s available to you at any time. If that isn’t available to you, you are welcome to place your hands on your heart and belly to connect to the breath for five cycles.
- Grab yourself a small rock or crystal of any size or colour that you can place in your pocket. Any time you touch it throughout your day force yourself to think of five things that you are grateful for. Practicing gratitude is the best way to stay present.
- Create a weekly routine for self-care. Every Sunday, I like to plan my upcoming week and decide where I can set aside twenty minutes to an hour once a week to do something for myself that makes me feel joyful and excited. The possibilities are endless, but it could be going for a nice walk without your phone, a bubble bath, catching up with friends, finding physical activity, or staying in to clean your apartment. Planning this non-negotiable time every week is key to success!
By Matt Lekochinsky – Limitless Yoga & Wellness