WAYS TO BE MORE PRESENT

{ at Morro Rock in Sequoia National Park }

When was the last time you were 100% present? For me, I have to be completely present in my profession as a therapist. I have to pay attention, as most of us still do in our respective professional lives, as parents, as friends, as partners and for the love of God as drivers too. However, in my personal life it's incredibly difficult! It's become customary for my friends and I to have our phones out on the dinner table, to make phone calls while driving, to want to capture every beautiful moment on Instagram. For most of us, our free-time is spent multitasking, consuming media, and zoning out with our phones. We are often going through the motions, but not always getting the moment. The fast paced nature of the internet is making me wonder what ever happened to boredom? So I've compiled some ways  that have helped me become more present in both my personal and professional life and thought I'd share, through my internet blog of course!

1. Be bored.

This is my number one recommendation based on a study reported on NPR as well as my own professional work. Being bored has been showed to increase creativity. I have gotten all my best ideas for outfits, Instagram captions, gifts, and solutions to legitimate life problems while being bored. Being bored is just a way to clear the mind, to allow imagination, and ultimately leads to day dreaming, which despite what you may think, is one of the most therapeutic and effective ways to understand yourself, your goals, the way your ego translates into your reality. I love the quote "don't quit your daydream," let's first allow ourselves the opportunity to have one.

2. Take the insta out of the gram.

The nature of Instagram, and most social media platforms are based off our constant needs and expectations for media consumption. Whether it's the expectation for Netflix to give you a binge worthy show, live tweets from the presidential debate (the Bachelor finale), or the desire to see what all your friends are doing right now, we have to recognize our growing obsession with that refresh button. As an avid consumer and user of Instagram, I will admit I'm fully addicted and love sharing all the goods in life. However, I have now recognized my meals aren't worth posting before being digested and when you have good people around you IT CAN WAIT! Thus, saving the great news, the pretty scenery, the oh so funny quote for later will help ease the pressure of making every moment count for everyone else, and let you really have that moment for yourself first. I also #latergram about 75% of my posts so that I can live free of social media anxiety created by the fast pace nature of engaging content we are all in some way addicted to and thus, affected by. I love to share the great parts of my life via blogging, but I would be a sham if my lifestyle blog didn't afford me the time to actually live my life.

3. Exercise, preferably in a group.

Oh exercise, It's often a hard place to get to, but I've never regretted it after. A group fitness class is one of the last social gatherings where it's unacceptable to be on your phone. Despite the gym selfies and trendy workout clothes, you have to be fully present while exercising. I've gone to so many group fitness classes where everyone is holding a phone up until the very first word out of the instructor's mouth. It's hard if you run with an iPhone because it's replaced the iPod, but perhaps we need to go back to walkman status to completely disconnect? I find such a wonderful connection to my mind, body and soul when I workout (and not just at SoulCycle, thank you) as cheesy as it may sound. It's also helpful to exercise outside. One thing I take for granted is my proximity to great hiking in Los Angeles. It's a wonderful amenity to be so close to nature while living in a big city. Weather permitting, being outside walking, running, and biking are all amazing ways to really disconnect. 

4. Cell phone free day.

This sounds like a big deal, like a juice cleanse. My recommendation is to start slowly, first with a cell phone free zone, perhaps at dinner. It's still so incredibly rude to me when people are on their phones at dinner or even have it out on the table. I am 100% guilty of this and I can come up with a million excuses as to why I need to look; for example, my friend is trying to coordinate plans for after, the food needs to be put on social media, I have to text back or it will look rude, etc. None of these excuses need to happen when you have someone sitting in front of you. It's okay if there's an awkward silence, or your Uber driver is outside, the world isn't going to fall apart without you interacting. We need to take back our time every once and awhile. If you are brave enough to do an internet/phone free day, I'd recommend allowing yourself the ability to take pictures but brownie points if you can leave it at home. It's a wonderful world out there and we are missing it when our heads are down.

5. Make mindfulness part of your routine.

All of these ideas are easier said then done, albeit easier to try for a day, rather then make a regular practice. Getting myself to exercise regularly became easier once I started actually exercising regularly. The presence piece is just the same, start small. Exercise in itself, like I mentioned, is a good way to become more present as it forces you to really be aware in your own body. Yoga and meditation are an even better way to connect the body to the mind because they require patience and consideration for the self. For anyone like me who has no clue where to start with meditation, I recommend the free UCLA guided mindfulness meditation, which includes a range of 5-12 minute audio sessions. The best place to start is by making your meal time and time spent with friends a cell phone free zone! Even if your friends aren't sold on the idea, they will be more likely to follow eventually if you are consistently present. One of the biggest reasons we use our phones in public so much is because it became the social etiquette in mixed, public company to use them. We need to start challenging the value of being only partially (although I would argue fully) disengaged from the world around us for such a long period of time, but especially when physically around other people. A friend of mine told me she leaves her phone at work when she walks to lunch, which sounds brave in this new tech world but also makes a whole lot of sense. Societies were able to fully function without pay phones, libraries, and Thomas guides. We put a man on the moon before we invented Facebook. So, you can go to lunch without your phone.

I hope you found some of these suggestions helpful! Thanks for reading, 

-M.

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