Do not dwell on the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment – Buddha
From as far back as the sixth century inspirational teachers such as the Buddha have championed the art of being present – the idea that we focus our attention on the moment we are living. Since then, Buddhism as a philosophy has brought being present, or mindfulness, through the use of mediation and gratitude into the modern world.
There is a good reason why being present in the moment is so integral to teachings such as Buddhism: the present is all that we are able to control. The past is gone, the future has yet to arrive and so the present moment is all we have. Often we spend so much time replaying events of the past or planning for the future that we forget to really live. Soon enough, all of our tomorrows become yesterdays and we realise only after they have passed that we never slowed down to appreciate them.
Whilst having dreams and ambitions is beneficial and enjoyable, a ‘planning for the future’ mentality at the expense of enjoying the present only means life passes us by. Even worse, obsessing over past events that have been and gone will only take the joy out of the present.
There are many benefits to mindfulness. Amongst them is the effect on our stress levels. By practising being present we centre ourselves in the moment and induce a sense of calm which can help counter feelings of worry and fear. Moreover, by acknowledging the present we prevent ourselves from overthinking about past events or potential future experiences. This not only provides instant relief but can also have a long-lasting effect on our happiness.
Gratitude is another huge benefit of mindfulness. Taking in our surroundings and appreciating them is one of the fastest ways to improve our mood. When we closely observe our surroundings we begin to notice things that we may have previously taken for granted. Something as simple as focusing on our breakfast can illustrate how much we have in life to be grateful for.
Being present can also give our creativity a boost. A calm mind is a more creative one as it does not need to filter through a million and one, often turbulent, thoughts. Instead, when our mind is relaxed our conscious is able to invite and digest thoughts forward from the subconscious, and unlimited, part of our mind.
Whilst being mindful is most beneficial when practised regularly, it can be done anytime and anywhere. Here are three simple and easy ways to begin being present right now:
Notice Your Surroundings
The easiest way is to take a few moments and digest your surroundings. Use your senses to really absorb everything you see, feel, hear, smell and taste as this directly centres you in the moment.
As you notice your surroundings express gratitude for everything that you are aware of. Be grateful for the chair you are sat on, or the food you are eating or even the few spare moments you have to read this article. Gratitude is a powerful tool for boosting your happiness and more often than not, gratitude will help you realise that you have everything you need in the present moment.
Taking deep breaths and letting your thoughts just focus on the air circulating your body allows you to keep your mind on what is happening in the present and off any worrying or troublesome thoughts.
Working in a few moments of mindfulness a day can make a significant difference to your happiness and your appreciation for life. So the next time you find yourself a little stressed, worried or upset, take a few deep breaths and let yourself find peace in your surroundings.