“I feel stressed because I have three hours until I should be in bed. What am I going to do with all that time?” These words escaped my lips just minutes after I electronically submitted the final assignment of my undergrad. A moment that should have been filled with joy and celebration became filled with uncertainty. I had three full hours of unscheduled time. What on earth was I going to do with it?
If you’re anything like me, you know stress well. You know the way it motivates you to master your to-do list, and the way it weighs on you when, instead, your to-do list masters you. You know the feeling of a million thoughts flooding your brain. I hear it in your voices when I ask about your day while you shop. “I only have about ten minutes to shop, then I have to pick up the kids. One of them has dance tonight and I need to get the other one to soccer, and I volunteered to bring the oranges to practice so I need to go to the store and cut those up before we leave…” Your to-do list goes on and on.
Our culture is one that is fast-paced and, at the same time, not present. We run from task to task, only to pause and scroll on our phones. This is why I, two minutes after completing my degree, became stressed at the thought of filling three hours of time. In this moment I realized that I traded a present life for a consumed life. I was consumed with a to-do list and, in turn, that to-do list consumed my energy, my time, and my enjoyment. For this reason, I’ve challenged myself with a task, and it’s one you can join me in. This is the task of presence.
One of the hot-topics in psychology right now is “mindfulness”, defined simply as the “quality or state of being conscious or aware of something”. There’s a reason this concept is inundating the fields of positive psychology and counseling: our Western society is not very mindful, and research reveals some pretty nasty repercussions because of it. Think about it. How aware are you of the breaths you are taking? Of the feeling of your phone in your hand? Of the colours in the objects around you? If you’re anything like the majority of Western society, you’re not really aware of your life happening around you.
In order to be truly present, we need to slow our minds down. Our lives are filled with good things. But those good things can add up to distract us from truly enjoying the moment. When you feel tempted to run ahead in your mind to the next checkbox on your to-do list, I encourage you to pause and do two things:
- Listen to your senses. What do you feel, hear, taste, and smell? The distractions in our culture are so large that we often lose our sense of being grounded, and therefore lose our strength to face the day. Being mindful of our senses in any given situation, without self-judgment, helps to ground us in the present. I once had a fit of anxiety, and a counselor friend encouraged me to recite 5 things I saw (grass, trees), heard (children laughing, birds chirping), and felt (my body against the chair, my feet in my shoes). By the end of the exercise, I suddenly felt grounded. The panic that threatened to drown me had dissipated.
- Find something to be grateful for. I have found that expressing gratitude over my current circumstances has solidified my inner strength. Finding something to be grateful for in a situation helps to ground us and remind us of the present. They say there is always something to be thankful for. And, newsflash: they are right.
So, if you are willing, join me in this pursuit of presence. It is only in the here and now that we have true strength. Let’s enjoy it while we can, shall we?
Alexandra – Sales Associate, Hunni’s Langley
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