What does being fully present mean? You can’t be two places at once, or can you? I have learned a lot about being fully present in the past several years. I’ll share some of my journey with you in a bit, but first I want to share with you what it means to be fully present in the moment, the benefits, how it ties into mindfulness, and how you can become present-minded.
What Does Being Fully Present Mean?
There is no dictionary definition that I was able to find for being fully present. However, I think the best way to define it is through an example. When my kids were smaller, I would take them to the park. It was partly because I wanted to be a “good mom” and partly because they needed the outside time to run off some energy. But mainly, I needed some time to think with no one talking to me. I wish I had known then what I know now about being fully present.
While I did take the kids to the park and let them play, I sat on a bench and “checked out” while they ran around. I knew where they were, but mentally, I was a million miles away. I was usually preoccupied with worrying about something or feeling guilty for something that I “should” be doing instead. My body was physically there, but there was no connection in that moment to my kids or on anything that was going on around me. That is the opposite of being fully present. I got none of the benefits of going to the park because I spent the whole time thinking of something else. When you are not feeling mentally present, other people notice.
If I had been fully present, I would not have been sitting on the bench the whole time, scrolling on my phone and saying “uh-huh, I see” while barely looking up when the kids called out to me. I would have been engaged in some way. I could have sat on the bench and watched them play. Taken in the fact that their little faces were lit up with joy, noticed how proudly they slid down the slide. I could have put everything down and joined in their fun with them.
Being fully present is becoming engaged in whatever you are doing at the moment and soaking in all the sensations that go with it.
What’s so Great about Being Fully Present?
When you start making an effort to being fully present, it shoves worry to the back of your mind. It doesn’t get rid of it completely, but it is a way to stand up to worry and not allow it to steal away the enjoyment of the moment.
“Life is made of little moments. Choose to create and collect the happy ones.” – Nataly Kogan
This doesn’t mean that you only live for the moment and make foolish choices that have a negative impact on your life. It doesn’t mean that you don’t plan for the future or think ahead. Anything can be taken to the extreme, including being fully present and mindfulness. There is a time and a place for all that. What I’m saying is to not waste quality time mentally checked out somewhere a million miles away. That takes the “quality” right out of time and it does nothing to relax you.
How Do You Become Fully Present?
For me, the first thing that I had to do was realize that my mind was wandering and consciously shove my worries away. It meant telling myself that those things I was feeling guilty for could wait. I had to remind myself of my priorities. (One of them was to keep the little people alive- sometimes easier said than done with 2 little boys.)
Learning what to do when I was worrying too much was huge. I also started keeping lists on paper instead of in my head and learning to journal my thoughts down when my worries threatened to crowd out everything else in my head. I also had to let go of some of my insecurities about what other people thought of me. So what if the other people at the playground think I’m weird or crazy? My kids will remember that I stopped to play with them, and spent quality time with them. You don’t know what other people are thinking. Often times it’s more positive than you think.
What Is a Present Person?
Being a present person does not mean that you never think ahead and that you always live in the moment. There are certainly consequences for our choices. Becoming a present person means that when you have carved out the time to spend with someone you love or to experience something, you are all there. You soak it in. It’s intentional. You pay attention to the little details that you might have missed before. You stop worrying about making everything perfect and instead start relaxing and enjoying the experience and all it entails.
“Pick the day. Enjoy it – to the hilt. The day as it comes. People as they come… The past, I think, has helped me appreciate the present – and I don’t want to spoil any of it by fretting about the future.”- Audrey Hepburn
What are the Benefits of Focusing on the Present Moment?
There are many benefits of focusing on the present moment. Among them are that you enjoy the time that you spend with those that you love more. You remember the experience better and can recall it in more vivid detail. You start becoming more mindful. (more on that in a minute) You learn to put aside worry and learn healthier ways of dealing with things and you start trusting yourself more.
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Is Living in the Present Moment Good for You?
As with anything, the opinions on living in the present moment are mixed. It depends on how you apply it. If you go to the store and spend money that you don’t have on something that you want because it makes you happy in the moment, then no, it’s not good for you. There are consequences for our choices and I will not deny that it is best to think them through.
However, if you are talking about a situation similar to what I described above, where you are physically present for something, but you don’t enjoy it because your mind is a million miles away, then yes, being fully present in the moment is good for you. It teaches you to focus your mind on the experience and soak up the good rather than letting it slide like water off a duck’s back.
Connection with Mindfulness
Mindfulness and being fully present are very intertwined. Mindfulness is defined as “the state or quality of being mindful or aware of something.” It can also refer to “a technique in which one focuses one’s full attention only on the present, experiencing thoughts, feelings, and sensations but not judging them.”
As you can see from the above definitions being fully present is at the heart of the practice of mindfulness. When you are practicing mindfulness, you intentionally focus on little details that you might not have noticed before. This might include what you are seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling, and smelling. In the park example, I can be fully present if I am pushing my child on the swing and engaged in the activity thinking about what I am doing.
I can take it a step further into mindfulness if I start broadening my focus to not only what I am doing, but everything going on around me. This might include how I am breathing, the temperature of the air, the feel of the wind on my face, the sounds of the shouting of other kids on the playground, how my child’s laugh sounds in my hears, the redness of his cheeks from wind or exercise. I might also take stock of my emotions at the moment. Am I sad, happy, worried? I can mentally take a step back and observe those emotions without judging myself.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Most mindfulness articles will also mention meditation as a mind exercise where you practice directing your thoughts to focus on one thing (like your breathing or a repeated phrase) for a certain period of time. It’s supposed to strengthen your ability to willfully direct your thoughts. If it’s something you’re interested in, there is a get started guide on mindful.org
I have not personally experimented with it much, as I prefer to bow my head, focus my mind and pray. When I’m really worried about something that I just can’t seem to let go, I prefer to take it to my Lord and leave it at his feet. There is no burden that is too big for him to handle, and praying has no downsides.
Can You be Mindful in Every Moment?
For myself, while I want to be mindful and fully present when I am spending time with those I love or enjoying an experience, I don’t want to be mindful in every moment. Mindfulness is appropriate at certain times, but not all the time. There are actually a few downsides to mindfulness. Certainly, the ability to direct our thoughts where we wish when we wish is a good skill. However, there are times when it’s healthy to let your mind wander. When your mind wanders, it helps our creativity. I have had many “ah-ha!” moments when my mind has been wandering because that’s the time that I put two unlike things together and come up with a solution.
Mindfulness is good when you are:
- spending time with loved ones
- enjoying an activity
- working on something
- need focus
- worrying about something you can’t control
Mindfulness is not good for
- creative problem solving
- critical thinking activities
The Last Thing You Need to Know About Being Fully Present
The act of being fully present makes a difference not only to yourself, but also to the people that you are with. The experiences themselves become more enjoyable because you are there and engaged instead of present in body, but distracted in mind. When I started being fully present when I took the kids to the park it started making it more enjoyable for all of us. I started being able to truthfully say, “Yes, I did see you go down that slide!”
They could tell a difference when I was fully present with them. One of the 5 Love languages is not just time, but quality time. Being present with someone is a great way to make the time that you spend with those you love quality time, instead of just time. What is your experience with being fully present? Is it something that you or currently struggling with, or have you tried it with great results? Leave me a comment below! I love hearing from you.
Quotes from brainyquotes.com