Three simple ways to be present
Being present in your everyday actions seems to be a key ingredient for good mental and physical well-being. Here are three ways for you to practice being more present – rather than off thinking about one thing – often in the past or the future – while doing something else now. The more you practice, the better you will get.
These exercise will help you to centre yourself and engage with your environment. Practice them throughout the day, especially at times when you find yourself caught up with your thoughts and feelings.
Notice five things
- Pause for just a moment
- Look around and notice five things that you can see
- Listen carefully and notice 5 different things that you can hear
- Notice five different things that you can feel in contact with your body – perhaps your trousers against your leg, the bracelet on your wrist, the air on your face, your feet upon the floor, your back against the chair
- Finally, the all of the above at the same time. Notice how much there is going on all around you and in contact with you.
Take ten breaths
- Take ten slow, deep breaths. Focus on breathing out as slowly as possible until yours lungs are completely empty – and then let your lungs fill up by themselves
- Notice the sensation of your lungs emptying. Notice them filling up again. Notice your ribcage, rising and falling. Notice the gentle rise and fall of your shoulders
- See if you can let your thoughts come and go as if they were passing cars, driving outside your house
- Expand your awareness from your breathing – notice your breathing and your body – then look around the room and notice what you can see, hear, smell, touch and feel.
- Plant your feet into the floor
- Push them down – notice the floor supporting you
- Notice the tension in the muscles of your legs as you push your feet down
- Notice your entire body, and the feeling of gravity flowing down through your head, spine and legs into your feet
- Now look around. Notice what you can see and hear around you. Notice where you are and what you’re doing.
Just a few minutes each day – that’s all it takes. Try it regularly, little and often.
Dr Sarb Johal is the Director of Equanimity Limited and Associate Professor of Disaster Mental Health at Massey University’s Joint Centre for Disaster Research. He spends quite a lot of his work time providing advice to the Ministry of Social Development and CERA on aspects of recovery from the Canterbury earthquakes. When not working, Sarb spends a bit of his time writing and running, though not at the same time. He has completed numerous half-marathons, 4 international marathons and 1 ultra-marathon from 2010-2012. He is a certified Leader in Running Fitness, and is also training to be a Personal Trainer.
You can read more of his thoughts on health, wellbeing and mental fitness at completecoach.wordpress.com