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Have you ever felt like you’re going through life on autopilot, without stopping to observe and enjoy the beauty of each moment? You move automatically, without emotion, energy, or motivation. Perhaps you're focused on events of the past or expectations of the future. When you’re in this state of being, it’s difficult to feel connected to the present moment. However, practicing being present can open you up to joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction in a way that enhances your life and allows you to step fully into your potential.
So, how do we do that?
As clinicians, we know that when we pause to simply observe challenging feelings— like anxiety, stress, or depression—it’s advantageous. By recognizing and being aware of what we’re feeling in the present moment, we can lean in, learn, and move through these feelings and experiences in a productive way. Being aware is to intentionally be present, to stop and observe both our physical sensations and our emotional state. Whenever you realize you’re operating in automatic mode, feeling anxious, stressed, or depressed, practice the following steps. They’ll help you be more present and ultimately have a positive impact on your life.
When you detect that your body is having an unpleasant sensation, stop! Start breathing deeply:
- Inhale. Feel how the air enters through your nose.
- Exhale. Feel the air come out of your nose.
- Repeat. Take more deep breaths until you feel a release of the unpleasant sensations.
Practice noticing. It only takes a few seconds.
Separate your hands and slowly put them together while your mind concentrates on the action. Just as you’re aware of the action of putting your hands together, you can also be aware of the bodily sensations, emotions, and thoughts that arise in the moment.
Connect with yourself by staying open to what’s happening in the present moment, without judging or wanting to change it. Just observe and let it be.
Check in with yourself:
- Emotions: Which emotion arises? In which body part do you feel that emotion? Why do you think it's emerging? What relationship does it have with the present experience you’re in?
- Bodily sensations: How is your body at this moment? Do you feel pain? Is it an unpleasant sensation, or a pleasant sensation? Feel, observe the sensation, and analyze how your thoughts arise along with it.
- Thoughts: What do you think about your present experience? What goes through your mind when observing and connecting with that feeling or emotion? Observe your thoughts, tell yourself it's just a thought, and let it go.
You are in control of your life, your emotions, your sensations, and your thoughts. They do not control you.
Practice releasing them by writing about a situation that causes stress, anxiety, or any unpleasant feeling. Start writing for five minutes without stopping. Then go back and review what you wrote, underlining the main topics that repeat in your writing or the things that attract your attention.
Next, write a few lines about those underlined topics. What do they mean to you? What is behind those words? Allow this awareness to lead you toward identifying what you can let go of and what you want to address.
Imagine that life is a trip and you can only put what is most important to you in a suitcase, because you have to travel light.
Make a list of your behaviors, thoughts, feelings, and situations of your past that are affecting you right now. Write a similar list of thoughts, feelings, and situations you fear happening in the future.
Take stock of what items from your past you’re carrying with you in your present. Likewise, take a moment to note the emotional toll it’s taking on you to carry the weight of situations that haven’t even occurred.
Finally, add in every behavior you wrote and what action you can start doing today, to resolve the things from your past or worries about the future that are affecting your present experience.
The impact for yourself and your clients
By practicing these five steps, you can begin to reconnect with yourself and notice a change in the way you observe your experience. You’ll be more attentive to what happens in the present. You will release worries about the future and break the cycle of negative thoughts patterns. And over time, you’ll begin having a deeper, more connected experience with each present moment.This is also a great tool to use to help your clients feel more present, energized, and empowered.
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