As a kid, I couldn't wait to be a grown-up. I remember thinking, "then I'd get to make decisions.” I couldn't wait to move away from adults who told me what (and what not) to do with my life. I wanted my independence and to have the right over my decisions.
At a young age, I recall being embarrassed by my “baby face.” I'd scrunch and smoosh my cheeks in the mirror, hoping to make a wrinkle. My girlfriends and I laugh about the times we'd lather ourselves in baby oil and then crawl out of the bedroom window to lay on the black rooftop. Today, I invest more money in wrinkle reducers than I will ever admit.
All I wanted was to be grown up. Don’t tell my mom, but she was right again, “slow down to enjoy this time of your life…it will pass before you know it” she would say.
As a former yoga teacher, I studied and instructed others on how to be mindfully present. I’m years into running a business and with less meditation in my life, I’ve found myself losing track of that sacred space.
Admittedly, I frequently forget to pause and appreciate moments when they are happening. This week, something changed. It felt like I blinked and my baby is now a toddler!
He reminds me every day I need to be present with him and my partner because it’s inevitable that things will be different even as soon as tomorrow. I don’t want to blink and miss something important again. I used to say, “I can’t wait until I grow up” and now I say, “This (xyz thing) can wait - focus on the now.”
I don’t think it’s ever too late to regain a sense of mindfulness and presence in life, even if you lost it for a while. As you spend time with your family, loved ones, or even with yourself, try to immerse yourself fully in the experience without worrying about the future or dwelling on the past. Let’s dive into some ways to shift from distractions to stay focused:
I recently spoke at a conference and I was nervous, which caused me to talk quickly. I looked out into the audience, took a deep breath, and did a quick mental body scan - my feet are grounded, knees slightly bent, fill my belly with air and exhale - which helped calm me down. In moments of feeling flustered, nervous, or scared, breath is my go-to.
According to www.airofit.com, a whopping 90 percent of our energy comes from breath. Cells then need oxygen to be able to break up the chemical bonds of food molecules such as sugars, carbohydrates, and proteins to release the energy they contain. Just as every cell in our body needs energy, every one of them needs oxygen. Bringing oxygen to our cells and muscles is what makes us capable of performing physical activity.
Breathing through our lungs provides our cells with oxygen, makes our brain work and heartbeat, and is therefore altogether without comparison the most important priority and muscle of our body.
Valeo Health and Wellness Center says the benefits of oxygen include boosting concentration, improving strength, building endurance, and reducing stress. Strength and endurance are key in exercise, and mental strength is critical, too. Stress speaks for itself. We meditate to relieve stress and be more present.
The more you can intake oxygen/air, the easier you can process your thoughts, too.
Each morning I start my day with at least 20 minutes of yoga, which gives my body a good stretch and fills my body with air.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrated Health explains yoga is an ancient and complex practice, rooted in Indian philosophy. It began as a spiritual practice but has become popular as a way of promoting physical and mental well-being.
Although classical yoga also includes other elements, yoga as practiced in the West typically emphasizes physical postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and meditation (Dyana). There are many different yoga styles, ranging from gentle practices to physically demanding ones.
Numerous studies show yoga’s benefits in arthritis, osteopenia, balance issues, oncology, women’s health, chronic pain, and other specialties.
Johns Hopkins Medicine and Harvard have shared benefits of yoga that extend “beyond the mat.” They include improved strength, balance, and activity, back pain relief, ease of arthritis symptoms, promotion of heart health, and better self-care.
JHM also says the U.S. military, the National Institutes of Health, and other large organizations are listening to — and incorporating — scientific validation of yoga’s value in health care.
Yoga is generally considered a safe form of physical activity for people when performed properly. I’m a huge advocate so feel free to send me a message if I can advise on how you can get started.
I am sometimes able to find presence in thinking about places that make me happy. There are places in my mind I take myself to when I’m in meditation or stressed. The other day, I missed my exit which added an extra hour and 30 minutes to my drive! Admittedly, I was angry, but I thought about my happy places and realized there was nothing I could do.
One happy place of mine is a memory of swimming in the ocean with my partner in Hawaii being surrounded by dolphins. It was a beautiful sight but what calms my nerves is thinking about the unique squeaks the dolphins made to communicate with each other. It was a humbling reminder of how big this world is and how small my immediate problem is.
Also, a beautiful sight in my mind is a field of yellow flowers. The yellow flowers remind me of the Wizard of Oz. As a child, my mom and I would watch the movie over and over again. There’s a scene where Dorothy approaches a castle and there are flowers everywhere. The temporary escape to pretend destinations allows the mind to refresh.
The vibrant yellow in this vision inspired me to look deeper into the meaning of my secret place and I learned that several ancient cultures, including the Egyptians and Chinese, practiced chromotherapy, or the use of colors to heal. FitPros offers a popular mental wellbeing session called “Art Therapy” that incorporates a discussion on the value of colors to shift mindset. I was pleasantly surprised by the tools I learned from this session.
I am big on practicing gratitude. Focusing on what I am grateful for helps me appreciate what I have and feel more grounded. I’m certain it can work for you, too. My challenge to you is to take a few minutes each day to reflect on what you are grateful for. Maybe it’s your family, your house, your job, or your assets. Whatever it is, and no matter if you reflect through thought or writing (I like to journal), give it a try. It’ll help.
Being present is not about ignoring the future. It simply means you should focus on the current moment and not get caught up in the future or past. Though I encourage dreaming big and forward-looking, don’t let it control your present.
In Alcoholics Anonymous (where I credit my early years of sobriety), there’s a saying “Future Tripping” which means that you are worrying about something that hasn't even happened yet. This anxiety comes from overthinking, from an attempt to over-engineer the future as if it's all within our control. If we just worry enough about it, we can control the outcome, says our brains.
Living in the present doesn’t mean you can’t plan or prepare for the future. You can pursue the steps necessary to reach your goals; just don’t worry about figuring out every single detail. It’s okay and often beneficial to think about the past in a positive framework. Meaning attempting to figure out what went wrong in order to avoid the mistake again — as long as you do it without spending time in self-judgment. Accept the past, and what you have learned from it, and move on with today.
Being present is not easy for everyone. Presence takes practice, commitment, and an ongoing effort, and if you can’t always do it, that’s okay!
Being present doesn’t mean you always have to be happy with where you are. All it means is you are aware of your thoughts and emotions, which is a phenomenal first step. One step at a time.
Being present is not about perfection; it’s okay to not be fully present all the time. It is a positive thing to daydream, to have goals, and to keep progressing. Be kind to yourself for thinking big.
By cultivating a sense of mindfulness and presence or at the very least, attempting to do so, I truly believe we can lead a fulfilling and meaningful life.
Lindsay Johnson, FitPros Founder & CEO
FitPros is a turn-key wellness provider empowering people to take charge of their personal health.
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