For most of my life, I've lived between the extremes of anxiety and depression. I'm a chronic worrier and have been known to make myself physically sick over an imagined future. I'm also a very emotional and introspective man which can, and has, brought on bouts of depression while thinking of missed opportunities along with things and people I've lost.
Honestly, sometimes living in my head can be hell.
It culminated a few years ago with massive anxiety that brought on sleepless nights, a constant upset stomach, and a really, REALLY short temper.
I knew I needed help.
I found it in a counselor that taught me the benefits of diaphragmatic breathing. Breathing deep using your diaphragm helps calm your mind by stimulating your body's natural relaxation response. Once I integrated that practice into my life, I began to study meditation as a way to become present a little more and more every day.
Does this mean I don't have fits of anxiety or bouts of depression? Oh, hell no.
What it does mean is that I now have tools to combat these things when they show up.
Sounds simple, right? Just enjoy where you are and don't mind all those things, those 'responsibilities' breathing over your shoulder, those bills to be paid, those decisions to be made, and on and on and on....
Anyone who tells you it's easy to be present is full of shit. Not just a little, either, like overflowing out their ears full.
It takes practice and intention to be present... a lot of it. In today's world it's easy to get distracted by the outrage of the day, the latest junk story in the news, or anything that takes our minds off of our own problems even if it's only for a few minutes.
While the distractions can seem welcome, they only serve to stuff more useless bullshit in our brains. This info then rattles around in our subconscious forever, affecting our sleep, our focus, and exacerbating anxiety and/or depression.
So, what can you do to become more present?
- Diaphragmatic Breathing - Triggers the body's natural relaxation response. Plus focusing on your breathing calms your mind and helps balance your mental state.
- Meditation - I know. Who has time to meditate? Well, you do. There's some great apps like Headspace that can teach you how to meditate. Me, I take 5-10 minutes in the morning before getting ready for work to get my mind right.
- Gratitude Journal - This is a great way to work on a long term shift in your thinking. All it takes is about 5 minutes at the end of your day to focus on what went well and soon you'll be seeing more good than bad in your life.
- Tune Out - Put down the phone, turn off the TV, and shut off the outside world. Pick up a book, meet a friend for a chat. Pretend the world is the way it was before the internet.
There's many, many other ways you can practice being more present. These are just some of the ways I've found to do it in my own life that work.
Are there any practices you've found that work for you? Let me know what they are in the comments below.