7 Awesome Reasons to Be Present, and How to Do It

by Henrik Edberg

7 Awesome Reasons to Be Present, and How to Do It “There is only one time that is important – NOW! It is the most important time because it is the only time that we have any power.”
Leo Tolstoy

“I never think of the future. It comes soon enough.”
Albert Einstein

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.”
Buddha

I have written quite a bit about being present and how it can help you.

Today I’d like to list seven of my favourite benefits of being present. Many of them relate to or blend into one another.

Now, being present is quite hard to keep up. You slip back into not being present. And that’s OK. Don’t beat yourself up. Just accept that you are not present and you’ll feel better and more relaxed. Then it will be easier to slip back into the present moment again. Just like with anything, going for perfection often just leads to anxiety and beating yourself up. Going for consistency and improving your consistency gradually – slipping back into old habits less and less – is more useful.

Also, being present isn’t a magic pill that will solve all your problems or “fix you”. But like regular exercise, it can be helpful in several ways.

1. Improved social skills.

This may be one of the first things you discover when you start experimenting with being present. It was for me. If you have the problem that you get nervous/shy and “don’t know what to say” in a conversation then presence is one solution.

When you are present your head is no longer filled with past scenarios (“what did she mean when she said that?”) or future scenarios (“what will they think if say this?”). You let go off self-consciousness.

You are just here. With your attention focused outward towards the person(s) you are interacting with. You just let things flow out of you.

And in a way tip of assuming rapport is a way to tap into your presence in conversations. Assuming rapport means that you pretend that you are meeting one of your best friends. Then you start the interaction in that frame of mind instead of the nervous one.

When you’re with your best friends you are probably not thinking ahead that much. You are just enjoying the interaction, the present moment and all of you just let things flow naturally.

Presence can also help you with listening. It helps you to decrease the bad habit of thinking about the future and what you should say next while trying to listen. If you are present and really there while listening then that will also come through in your body language, which gives the person talking a vibe and feeling that you are really listening to what s/he has to say. Being present also improves your focus and allows you to better tune out possible interruptions or distractions in your surroundings.

2. Improved creativity.

If you write or do some other creative work you may have found that your best work flows out of you when you are not thinking that much. You just write, paint, play. You enter a state where things just come to you. Then later you can come back and edit your work.

This one is similar to the first reason. Writing is for instance similar to a conversation. When you are present in a conversation or while writing things it’s often best to not think to far ahead or you start to get self-conscious and second-guessing yourself. You create mental blocks that stop your creativity from flowing unhindered.

3. You appreciate your world more.

One of big advantages of becoming more present in your everyday life is that you decrease the amount of analysing and labelling you do to the things/people in your surroundings. You don’t judge as much.

This might sound strange but in the moments when you are present the ordinary world becomes more interesting and wonderful. Colors can seem brighter. Your see more aliveness in trees, nature and in people. You see the wonder of all your man-made gadgets and stuff. Things that most often seem common, routine and boring become fascinating and something you can appreciate.

It’s like you are observing your world with more clarity and curiousness. Like a little kid again, discovering things while they still feel fresh. Before they have just become walking, talking and growing labels with years of associations and thoughts attached.

Before you actually use this tip though – if you just think about it in your mind – it may not make that much sense.

4. Stress release.

When you are present there is a certain stillness and centeredness inside. You calm down. If you are feeling stressed during your normal day then one of my favourite ways to let that go is to take belly breaths and just focus on them for a minute or two.

This pretty much always calms me down. The breathing with belly seems to calm one down in a physical way. And by focusing just on the in and out-breaths you connect to the present moment instead of the past or future scenarios that are making you feel stressed.

5. Less worry-warting and overthinking.

If you are a chronic overthinker that goes round and round in circles in your mind before you ever get anything done then being present is a great release from that habit. I’m not saying that you won’t slip back into overthinking. But being present just for a while can help you. It can allow you to stop worrying about what may happen and just take some action to get started. To actually see what happens. If you’re an overthinker you may find 3 Good Reasons to Stop Thinking So Much, And How to Do It helpful.

6. Openness.

This is perhaps the best benefit. Being present removes the labels you put on people and things – temporarily – and opens you up to see and experience things without your preconceived notions. I think this is a big part in how being present helps you in conversations and with your creativity. You are open to new things as you are without many of your barriers within your mind. Things can flow easier through you without all that stuff in the way.

You make things easy on yourself in way. And you often get better results at the same time.

7. Playfulness.

As you are present you may feel a playfulness arise. This makes it easier to just do things. When you see things from a playful point of view things become less of a struggle created from within. You let go of that heavy, overthinking frame of mind.

Everything won’t become super easy to do. But many things become more enjoyable and easier to do. They become lighter. Less of a burden.

Kids are often more present and playful. You can return to that playfulness by connecting with the present.

Top three ways to slip into the present moment.

There are quite a few ways to return to the present. You can try a bunch of them out and see which one(s) that works best for you. My three favourites at the moment are:

Focus on your breath.

I mentioned this one above. You can find a quick guide to belly breathing in this article.

Focus on what’s right in front of you.

Or around you. Or on you. Use your senses. Just look at what’s right in front of you right now. Listen to the sounds around you. Feel the fabric of your clothes and focus on how they feel. You can for instance use the summer sun or rain and how it feels on your skin to connect with the present.

Pick up the vibe from present people.

If you know someone that is more present than most people then you can pick his/her vibe of presence (just like you can pick up positivity or enthusiasm from people). If you don’t know someone like that I recommend listening to/watching cds/dvds by Eckhart Tolle like Stillness Speaks or The Flowering of Consciousness. His books work too. But cds/dvds are better than books for picking up someone’s vibe since the biggest part of communication is voice tonality and body language.

Check out 5 more ways to become present in this article.

If you like this article, please give it a thumb up in Stumbleupon. Thanks a lot! =)





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{ 18 comments }

Shanel Yang August 1, 2008 at 4:56 pm

Being in the moment is, I think, one of the hardest things for highly productive people. It seems I am always thinking, simultaneously almost, of what I just did, what I am doing now, and what I must do next. Great post, Henrik! I needed it! : )

Avani-Mehta August 1, 2008 at 11:45 pm

There is a amazing book on this subject – “The Present” – Spencer Johnson. It’s short, entertaining and in a story format. Highlighting on man’s journey to finding happiness, peace and success in life by learning to be present.

The best part of the book was when he was asked to remember times in his childhood when he was very happy. And what was he doing at that moment; what made him happy. Through his journey, he then realises that when he does what he is doing and nothing else, he is happy. When he is mowing the lawn, he is mowing the lawn not thinking about other things simultaeneously. He enjoys his task for the moment, is immersed in it, is totally in the present and that is what makes him happy.

Jarrod - Warrior Development August 2, 2008 at 1:39 pm

I find it interesting that there are a few ways people can still technically be ‘in the now’ and yet have totally different ways of being.

1) Engrossed in an activity (movies, sport)
2) Concentrated but clear (difference from engrossed is that you are more consciously directing your attention)
3) Aware – Not concentrating on anything particular, letting all the information come in from the senses. Noticing both external world and internal thoughts.

Stacey August 2, 2008 at 2:03 pm

I agree being present is a very difficult thing, but with appropriate and consistent training of the mind (like meditation practice) we can learn how to “bring ourselves back”. When we can learn to be present, time doesn’t seem to fly by as quickly and we can really enjoy where we are one moment at a time.

Michelle August 2, 2008 at 6:31 pm

What a great post.
Yes, presence is so key. Presence is the key to happiness. Other ways to stay present are to be aware of space and silence. This immediately creates stillness within. Living from a place of space/presence, has turned my whole world around… for the better- I can’t recommend it highly enough. Thank you for the great post.

- Michelle

Glen Allsopp August 3, 2008 at 5:04 pm

Excellent post, I love the idea of presence and your accompanying 5 extra ways to achieve it article.

I gave this a stumble

Cheers,
Glen

Hmm August 3, 2008 at 6:17 pm

A great post. I think that being present could be recommendable for many people today. A great approach is to practise, for example, a sort of meditation – mindfulness exercises as being present is the main part in them.

Eric Edberg August 3, 2008 at 7:01 pm

Henrik, great post and great blog. I tried to email you at the address listed on this site but it bounced back. So hi from one Edberg to another; I like your blog so much that I have declared you an “honorary cousin” in my blog post about your blog!

All best,

Eric (your newest fan)

etavitom August 3, 2008 at 8:59 pm

Being present is without quesiton the meaning of life. BREATHE!!!

Thanks for the profound post and all the great wisdom…

Karl Staib - Your Work Happiness Matters August 4, 2008 at 4:39 am

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle is one of the best places to start. That book changed my life.

Being in the now has so many benefits, but my favorite is stress relief. When I’m stressed at work I just go for a walk and just soak up the moment. It always helps me to slow down and just enjoy where I am.

Tabs August 4, 2008 at 7:44 am

I pray every day to be in the moment, but coming off a high stress year, I find that I don’t even know what moment I am in. I forget what I am thinking after taking three steps. So thanks for the post, I am defiantly going to be using the focus on the present and breathing exercises and hope things get better.

-Tabs

Flora Morris Brown, Ph.D. August 4, 2008 at 8:12 pm

Thanks for giving some simple ways to remain present. While there are a number of ways to attain stillness, and tough to maintain for a long time, there is no mistaking when you are in it. You know it, and everyone around you knows it as well.

Paul August 7, 2008 at 12:42 am

I managed the past (this is the reason I don’t contact my classmates – instead of let’s do something crazy, they say: remember when we did something crazy, I can’t stand it, I feel like the life is over). I’ve also made a big progress with future removing a lot of my anxiety. So 2/3 of my problems and worries vanished, vapored.
Problem is with the present. I wrote something similar elsewhere and it perfectly fits here: I know and feel I’m present but I lack for ACTION! So …
OK, no more crying here soldier we gotta work to do. Your mission is to accomplish even one small personal task. The faster you do it the sooner you can come here. Treat it like a game. Good luck (maybe that will help – no retreat).

Inspiration for Change August 10, 2008 at 6:02 am

Words to live by..

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” Buddha

Excellent use of quotes for a profound article.

http://www.inspirationforchange.com

kare anderson August 12, 2008 at 3:22 am

With that in mind, what parts of a face most influence first impressions?
http://sayitbetter.typepad.com/say_it_better/2008/08/what-make-us-wa.html

Cory August 15, 2008 at 11:36 pm

Henrik – great article on the importance of being present and how to do it. When I got married, a good friend suggested being fully present that day so that I would remeber all of the details. It was suggested to use all of your 5 senses. Hear everything, see everything, smell everything, feel everything and taste everything. Many years later, the day is so perfectly clear.

I use this tip everyday just to bring myself into the “NOW”. It is an easy focusing tool for me. I try to do it several times throughout the day to stay as present as possible.

Person October 31, 2008 at 8:59 pm

Makes a whole lot of sense…
was searching for ways on LivinG in the Present =)

Billy Ray April 8, 2009 at 9:14 pm

Hey, you know what, my 11 year old daughter taught me this and it’s so weird it actually works.
Close your eyes for 30 seconds and think of a colour…..
Open your eyes and look for something that is this colour….wow..it’s amazing, you will see hundreds of yellow things if you thought of yellow, hundreds of red things if you thought of Red.
It wakes you up and is very uplifting..
try it.

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