From the moment you open your eyes, you’ve already got a million things to check off on your to-do list: make the coffee, take a bath, get ready for work, feed the kids (or fur-kids), and leave early enough to get to work on time.
At night, you can’t fall asleep because your mind is still racing.
Sometimes it all blurs together and it gets so stressful, you find yourself juggling three things at a time, never getting the chance to fully engage in the present situation.
If you find yourself on edge and feeling like you don’t have a spare minute to breathe, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we’re going to talk about mindfulness and give you 7 ways to stay present and reduce stress.
What does it mean to be present?
Being present is when you are totally conscious of the present moment and uncluttered by internal noise (i.e., the thoughts inside your head).
It’s when you are not distracted or mentally absent.
Meanwhile, mindfulness is when you become aware of your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and surroundings. It involves accepting these things with no judgment; that is, there’s no right or wrong way to feel or think.
Mindfulness is rooted in Buddhist meditation, both of which you can learn more about in How You Can Master the Ancient Philosophy of Buddhism To Live A Happier, Healthier and Stronger Life In the Modern World by Lachlan Brown.
If you’re looking to transform your life, this is the read for you.
What’s the difference?
Being present and being mindful are similar concepts, but they are not totally the same.
When you’re present, you’re actively occupied by whatever is going on at the moment. Take children, for instance: they are totally engaged by whatever it is they are doing at the moment – but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re mindful.
Mindfulness, as we mentioned, is being aware of everything around us, sans judgment.
But it also builds on being present.
When you are mindful, you are not merely reacting to your environment, you’re taking control of your behavior.
Why is it important?
In this day and age, it’s all about the grind.
I’m willing to bet you’ve heard that if you’re not working or improving yourself, you’re wasting time. I know I have.
That’s why we’ve taken up multitasking – it makes us feel like we accomplish more.
However, a study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology showed that productivity actually plummets when we switch between tasks before we complete them.
The thing is, the mind is not designed for heavy multitasking, as evidenced by studies.
When we multitask, we actually lose more time because we have to remember what point we left off in the previous task and decide which task to switch to.
According to researchers Meyer, Evans, and Rubinstein, mental blocks caused by switching between tasks can cost someone as much as 40% of their productive time.
Mindfulness can actually help us in the workplace through the following ways:
- Greater focus
- Reduced burnout
- Increased helpfulness
- Better communication
- Higher emotional intelligence
- Better physical health
What are some ways to stay present and reduce stress?
That said, it’s never been more crucial for us to try out some ways to stay present and reduce stress.
Try these on for size:
1) Mindful breathing
When we’re under stress, we tend to have a faster heartbeat, quicker breathing, and narrower blood vessels.
Being more aware of your breathing and making it slower and deeper, elicits a relaxing response.
It’s pretty simple: you just breathe in, and breathe out, repeatedly. The in-breath and out-breath each lasts three or four seconds.
As you breathe, you must be aware of your body: every body part, every sensation, is there.
When breathing in, train your mind to come back to you and concentrate on the act of breathing.
When you breathe out, you don’t think about anything – not the past, not the future, not anything – just the now.
2) Physical activity
Among the effective ways to stay present and reduce stress is by moving your body.
Studies showed that exercise lowers overall stress, lifts mood, and has even been shown to improve symptoms of certain mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
You can start with something as simple as walking during your work breaks, or else biking to and from work.
3) Releasing tension
Because we’re so preoccupied with our daily tasks, we rarely realize we’re building up tension in different parts of the body.
When breathing mindfully, whether sitting, lying down, or standing, we can let go of this tension. With each out-breath, relax each part of your body mindfully, from head to neck, shoulders, down to hips, knees, legs, and feet.
Usually done during mindfulness practices, this is one of the ways to stay present and reduce stress.
4) Practicing gratitude
When I was in seventh grade, I had a mathematics teacher who taught my class how to have “an attitude of gratitude.”
She said that when we think about and appreciate the good things in our lives, we attract more of it.
There’s a lot that can happen to us within the course of a day, and it’s not always good. But when you take the time to reflect on the day, it’s easier to find things to be grateful for.
A practice I do personally is to list down at least three things about the day that I’m thankful for, no matter how small or superficial.
5) Minimizing screen time
We live in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, meaning, the technological age.
Computers, smart TVs, smartphones, and other devices are a part of life.
But one of the ways to stay present and reduce stress is to unplug whenever necessary – for good reason, too, as various studies have associated overuse of smartphones and excessive screen time with higher stress levels and mental disorders.
6) Communing with nature
Spending time in the outdoors – like nature parks, hiking trails, or simply your backyard garden – is a great way to stay present and reduce stress.
According to research, when you spend as little as 10 minutes outdoors can improve your mental and physical well-being.
This is also a good opportunity to practice mindful walking.
Also called walking meditation, this is when you fully appreciate every step that you take.
7) Practicing self-care
One of the best ways to stay present and reduce stress is by practicing self-care.
This looks different for every person and it’s just a matter of finding the right routine for you.
You could have a relaxing bubble bath, exercise, prepare a meal for yourself, read a book, or get a massage. All of these activities can be enjoyed by being fully present in the moment.
No matter what you choose, just remember: self-care is making sure you’re recharging your happiness battery.
The fast-paced lifestyle most of us adopt means we’re often caught up in our own lives.
Our mind holds a multitude of thoughts – anxieties about the future, regrets about the past – resulting in us being physically there, but not really there.
The mindfulness practices listed above can indeed help us stay present and reduce stress, though there are many other ways out there.
You might have your own techniques or you might be a fan of things like mindfulness retreats.
Whatever it is, make sure you are fully engaged, and it leaves you at peace.
If you’re interested in an overall better approach to life, try out Lachlan Brown’s How You Can Master the Ancient Philosophy of Buddhism To Live A Happier, Healthier and Stronger Life In the Modern World, where you’ll learn how to use Buddhist beliefs to live a happier, fuller life.