How much of our time and mental energy do we spend dwelling on things that have already happened or worrying about the future? For many of us, mentally multi-tasking and having our brain in three places at once is a reality of daily life. But it often means we miss out on what's happening in the here and now.
This is bad for our mental wellbeing in a number of ways. By dwelling on things we can't change or control, we are more likely to feel anxious, insecure or uncertain. Focusing on the present, on the other hand, allows us to channel our energy into the things we can control.
When we're distracted, we're less able to concentrate and focus on the task in front of us. How many times have you walked upstairs and forgotten why you're there? By paying attention to the present, we increase our effectiveness and productivity.
In addition, when our minds are somewhere else, we miss out on all the positive things that are happening right in front of us. Being present in a moment allows you to enjoy everything it has to offer.
The key to breaking this cycle is mindfulness. Mindfulness is being aware of the here and now, of your thoughts, feelings, sensations and your surroundings. Using techniques like meditation, breathing and yoga, it can help you become more aware of the present moment, rather than worrying about what happened yesterday, or what will happen tomorrow.
Here are three mindfulness exercises you can try in your own time, at home or at work.
Being present throughout your day
Like any other skill, mindfulness takes practice. But the more you do it, the easier you will find it to apply the principle of being present to moments throughout your day.
When you're eating...
Whether it's in front of the telly at home or sat behind a desk at work, many of us eat throughout the day simply to satisfy hunger pangs before moving on to the next thing we need to do. But eating can be an opportunity to experience real sensations of joy and pleasure.
The next time you sit down to eat try this mindful eating exercise. What difference do you notice?
When you're walking...
In the daily rush, walking is usually just a means of getting from A to B and on to C. But it could be an opportunity to exercise our curiosity and heighten our senses. By becoming aware of the world around us, we're more likely to find things that make us happy, fill us with wonder or spark our imagination.
Try this mindful walking exercise as part of your commute or the next time you walk to the shops.
When you're listening...
Even when we're mid-conversation with someone it's easy for our minds to wander off. How many times have you found yourself thinking, 'What were they just saying?'
To really listen to and understand someone requires your full and undivided attention. And that means being aware of how your own thoughts and feelings might distract your attention from a conversation.
Learn how to apply mindful listening techniques for more meaningful conversations and stronger relationships.
Learn how mindfulness can help you live in the moment
Free online course: Mindfulness for beginners. Understand the concept of mindfulness and how to use it for better concentration, focus and mental wellbeing