People Spend Half of Their Lives Not Focused on the Present, Research Says. Here’s How to Change It

According to a 2010 Harvard University study, people spend about half of their day focused on something other than the present. By taking time out of your daily schedule, you can incorporate mindfulness practices that help you to be more aware of your surroundings and enjoy the present moment. There are also clearer benefits, such as being better able to focus, remember, and find peace of mind. The article recommends several activities to anchor yourself more in the present.

  • The first exercise is making mindful walks a regular part of your week. This not only helps your mind, but builds exercise into your day. This is not a time to think through problems or contemplate future plans, but a time to be more aware of your body. Focus on your breathing and the sensations in your body as you walk. When you notice your mind wandering, focus on the way each step affects your body. Unlike breathing exercises, walking offers a lot more for you to think about in the moment.
  • The next exercise is mindful stretching. Like walking, instead of just stretching, stretch one part of your body at a time, paying attention to how it feels in each limb or body part. You can even pay attention to the feel of the air around your arms and legs as you move them.
  • For people who are busy or are likely to forget to be mindful with these exercises, you can just practice being more mindful of your physical sensations as you go about the day. When you start to worry about what could happen or different scenarios of a future event, bring your mind into the present and feel the sensations that come with whatever you are doing. If you are washing dishes, pay attention to the way the water feels on your hands. Pay attention to the way you are scrubbing a pan – you may find that certain movements are actually more effective than the ones you are in the habit of doing. Even if you are just commuting to work, you can pay attention to the sensations of the seat you are on as you are stuck in traffic or as the train comes to a stop.

The reason there are several options is because what works for one person may not work for others. If you are accustomed to letting your mind wander, it is going to take time to pull yourself back into the present. Take it slowly at first, practicing mindfulness a little at a time every day. It is easiest to be mindful when doing an activity you enjoy, so that could be a great starting point in retraining your brain to be more present in the moment.

For more reasons why you need to spend more time being mindful, check out People Spend Half of Their Lives Not Focused on the Present, Research Says. Here’s How to Change It.

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