Being Present, Again

Monday 13 February

The beginning of 2023 has suddenly flown by. In my head, we’re still living in the first week of January. Thankfully, though, we are heading towards brighter, longer and warmer days as Spring is right around the corner.

With this idea in mind, it has recently become apparent to me that I’ve been wishing away my days again. In the past, I’ve spoken about what it means to “be present”. Simply put, we must learn to live in the moment, every second of every hour of every day. Even though I cannot wait until Spring and earlier sunrises and all the joyous things that come along with that, there is no point wishing away my days.

In society, we have a constant need for more. We reach a goal, and we want to set the next one. It never stops. We keep seeking for the next best thing. At school, I always waited for the weekends, where I’d have a lie in, or later in my school days go partying on Fridays and Saturdays. As I get older, I know I will also look forward to the weekends where I don’t have to work. Being at university now, every day to me feels like a “nothing day” – there is no difference between the weekday and a Saturday, other than the short 2-hour lectures I have four out of five days a week.

I’ve been waiting for “the next best thing” for a while: the next time I see my boyfriend, the next time I see my parents and cat back home, the next club night, the next exciting thing. Really, every day should be exciting, or else what are you really living for?

We can’t keep living for the weekend of this idea of “the next best thing”. It’s exhausting and we simply cannot keep living this way. You should be excited for every day, wake up and feel the excitement of a fresh start of a new day rush through you.

Only in the last week, I have felt this sense of excitement again. However, I deeply understand this human condition, especially after the holidays, when it seems like not a lot is going on. Now we are building up to Spring time, booking our summer holidays, trips away, weekends back home. This sense of waiting for the next thing to come up can be all-too-consuming at this time. We must push past it and learn to accept the now and live in today’s moment.

Even if you think today isn’t so “exciting”, make it so. What makes you happy, a little thing that puts a smile on your face? Add that into your day. For me, that’s a morning cup of coffee or a walk in the fresh air. It can be so simple and easy but it is literally life-changing. Begin with asking yourself what are the small things that genuinely make you happy, perhaps with no cost and little effort. Below, is a list that makes me excited for each day, each thing filled with happiness and fulfillment:

  • A “Morning Moment” – whatever you can add to your morning routine that spreads joy into your day in the very first hour of waking. Coffee, journalling, listening to your favourite music or podcast.
  • Spending time with my friends and family. This is easier if you live, for example, with housemates at university, or at home with your parents. Schedule in time to spend with them to boost your mood at any point of the day. Cherish these moments with your loved ones and begin to understand that these are the memories you will look back on in the future – because spending time with your favourite people in the world is priceless and one of the only things that you can fall back on to give you pure bliss.
  • A treat a day. I’m trying to introduce a sweet treat into my diet every day, because what’s a world like without candies and pastries? You guessed it, it’s boring. Food is there to be enjoyed, so what’s the point in restricting all the yummy things?
  • Random act of kindness – to a complete stranger, by buying the person behind you in the line a coffee, or to your best friend by telling them they look beautiful or that you are grateful for their presence in your life.

Things to keep in mind when trying to be more present:

  • Spend time in nature. Nature is costless and something which we must be more grateful for. The outdoors gives us fresh, clean air, which does wonders for clearing the mind. I get this in by a simple walk most days. When I feel the stress or anxiety seeping in, my first reaction (when I’m in a good place, I guess I could say) is to head outside, get some fresh air, and go for a good walk (even 10 minutes clears your mind and gets you ready to go again).
  • Take in the moments. I’m learning to do this, for example, when I’m surrounded by my favourite people. This can be when I’m hanging out with my flatmates in my university town, with my boyfriend, or with my sister who I don’t see all that often. It’s simple: I literally sit there and take snapshots of the moment I’m living in in my mind. Not to preserve the memories for the future, but rather to provide freezeframes for myself in the present to truly enjoy. I take in the people around me, their smiles and laughs, the fun and joy that oozes out of them and fills the room with warmth and kindness. Another useful practise is the 5-4-3-2-1 method. This is generally used for anxiety, but I’ve incorporated it into being present. Make a mental note of 5 things that you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing that you can taste. In whatever situation you are in, this will definitely help you to be in the moment and learn to live in that moment only. Consciously observe your thoughts and activities. 
  • Simply breathe.
  • Less screen time! I cannot stress this enough. Even though I spend hours in my day studying, writing, blogging, podcasting, I still try my best to stay off my phone and laptop. I understand that in this day and age, it’s incredibly difficult to schedule time away from the screens, but it is becoming more essential to do so, with the harmful effects of social media (see my last post here: Social Media: Is it all positive? .) and the damage of blue light to our eyes and brain.
  • Practise gratitude. I talk about gratitude a lot but it is one way that you can start to appreciate every day and not take for granted all the little moments. Each night before bed, make a small list of three things that you are grateful for that happened that day/people in your life for whom you are grateful, or things that made you happy.

I understand that in the real world, being present can be the last thing on our list of priorities. We are always busy, running around, doing errands, working, studying. You name it. Oftentimes it’s hard to stay grounded. But, learning to become more grounded and appreciate the everyday for what it is, can be essential in bettering our lives and giving it a purpose.

So, here’s to bettering ourselves, step by step, in a society where we constantly seek competition and validation. Join me on this journey in becoming a better version of who we are now.

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