The value of being present

I was fortunate enough to start 2016 on holiday in the sun and it got me thinking about how ‘present’ you are when you are on holiday – enjoying the moment much more than when you are home in your regular life.

I like ‘doing’ holidays and on our 2-week trip I drove nearly 2000 miles and saw leopards, mountains, lakes, the desert, the sea and the city. All amazing and beautiful and enough to keep you in the moment – not thinking about what I did yesterday or will do tomorrow (in fact on this trip I mostly forgot what day it was and didn’t wear a watch).

So why are we much more present on holiday than in our normal life? It’s because we use all our senses on holiday – sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. When we engage with more than two senses at a time, we start to be in the moment more. Think about it – your daily commute – head down, get from A to B as quickly and painlessly as possible. We will use sight and sound reluctantly but we never stop to ‘smell the roses’ so consequently sometimes we can’t even recall how we got from A to B!

One of the things I like about an action based holiday (i.e. not spending a week lying on the beach) is that they seem much longer and this is because you are much more present – seeing and experiencing new things every day.

I have 2 dogs and when I walk them I leave my mobile phone at home and try (and usually fail) to stay present with them. The dogs never question nor worry (as far as I know!) how long the walk will be. Instead they are totally in the moment, sniffing the smells or running after other dogs! They can teach us a lot.

The value of being present

This is all very well but what is the advantage of staying present? Well a study from University of Berkeley showed that 47% of people think about something else besides what they are presently doing. The research found that there is a correlation between mind wandering and unhappiness and that “…people are substantially less happy when their minds are wandering than when they’re not, which is unfortunate considering we do it so often.” The author stated that when our minds wander, we typically focus on unpleasant things that negatively affect our well-being. Here is a link to the Ted Talk on staying present. Food for thought.

I am not a big believer in new year’s resolutions – after all it shouldn’t take a new year to start making a change in your life but my trip did make me think I should try and be present more in my life, and this is the one challenge to myself as we start the new year.

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