Notes and Mentions
How to Live in the Present Moment: 35 Exercises and Tools from positivepsychology.com
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Serena: Hey Everyone, I’m Serena.
Tina: And I’m Tina and we are the Mental Health Mamas.
Serena: Welcome to No Need to Explain, we are so glad you’re here.
Tina: First, as always, a quick disclaimer.
Serena: We come to you NOT as mental health professionals or experts in the field, but rather as parents with lived experience who are on a mission to normalize the conversation around mental health.
Tina: If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis, please seek professional support. You’ll find a variety of resources in our show notes and on our website, NoNeedToExplainPodcast.com.
Serena: Today I’d like to talk about living in the moment and how in the world we’re supposed to do this.
Tina: OK, let’s do it! Let’s be in the moment and do it.
Serena: OK. So when I think about living in the moment, there are a lot of different ideas that come to mind such as mindfulness, present moment awareness, flow state, the idea of being here now, things like that.
Tina: Aren’t those all essentially the same idea?
Serena: I think so although I think mindfulness can encompass something bigger but I think it all boils down to learning how to live in the moment. And it’s supposed to be good for us, right?
Tina: Yes. And according to Positivepsychology.com, “Being present minded is the key to staying healthy and happy. It helps you fight anxiety, cut down on your worrying and rumination, and keeps you grounded and connected to yourself and everything around you. Being present and exerting our ability to be mindful not only makes us happier, it can also help us deal with pain more effectively, reduce our stress and decrease its impact on our health, and improve our ability to cope with negative emotions like fear and anger. (Halliwell, 2017).”
Serena: OK, so there’s a lot of research out there behind living in the moment and I do think most of us recognize that living in the moment is important and I can think of times where I’ve, what you might refer to as, “practiced” this skill and often I don’t even realize it’s happening. Those are good moments. They might look like being really focused on something I’m writing or a project I’m doing or maybe really enjoying a conversation with someone. And I’m curious if you find yourself in those moments as well?
Tina: You know…you know that I have been working on this for quite a while now. Just this morning when I let my dogs out, it was cold and sunny and I just stopped to hear the birds chirping and just really took that moment in. But what do we do when we find ourselves struggling to stay in the present moment? How do we practice this skill at, you know, during those hard moments?
Serena: So let’s just start by saying that it is hard, right? With all of our technology it’s even harder. I have to share a little story here. As I was attempting to work on this episode about living in the moment I was having a really hard time doing that. I was so not in the moment! So there were texts flying back and forth between my husband and oldest daughter (with me in the mix) so my phone was whistling at me, my Fitbit was buzzing on my wrist. The email on my computer was dinging and my 13 year old’s phone was plugged in across the room buzzing non-stop and my 7 year old was trying to get my attention, probably asking for a snack. Not a good model for living in the moment with my attention constantly being pulled away from what I was trying to do!
Tina: Not at all! And this has definitely been one of the challenges for the parents working at home during the pandemic, right? I mean that snack girl, she interrupts us a lot, doesn’t she?
Serena: She does.
Tina: So, constant distractions!
Serena: It has been constant! And the good news is that there are some things you can do, that we can do, to practice being in the moment so let’s talk about some of the things that we have learned along the way.
Tina: Sure! Let’s do it. Here’s a word we’ve probably totally overused, but it’s really relevant in this particular circumstance. Intentionality. If you can be intentional about noticing the things it can really help you be in the moment. I’ve found this to be true even when the present moment isn’t good, right? So I am sure you all have heard someone say, “ I can do anything for 10 seconds 10 minutes…whatever“. And usually they are talking about something that is unpleasant. I think of exercise, right? When I find myself living in a moment that is not particularly pleasant, I try to slow down and remind myself that just like a good moment isn’t gonna last forever, this not so pleasant moment also won’t last forever. Does that make sense?
Serena: Yes, that makes a lot of sense. I think about when my kids were infants. When I had my first, it was so hard to just hang on each day and I found myself just wanting that day to pass but what I didn’t know at the time was that it really passes quickly although you feel like it’s not and then you feel like you’ve missed it all. I’m wondering, did that happen to you too?
Tina: Yes. For sure. Certainly. I feel like, yeah, you want to wind back the clock, right? And I think we need to remember that often there is something that we can gain from the pleasant moments and the not so pleasant moments. I think about this job we have done together for so long, Serena, and meeting you would not have happened and you’re one of the best things that have happened in my life and I feel like if I hadn't had some of those painful moments in my journey, you would not be a part of my world. And that would make me sad. Although I wouldn’t know because I’d never have met you. Does that make any sense?
Serena: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. I think we learn a lot along the way and it all becomes part of our lives. So if I think back, again, back to my children as infants, there was a big difference between when I had my first and my third. There was a lot of time in between so I was older and my family was in a very different place, but by the time my third came along, I found that I was much more able to stay in that moment. When things felt hard, I had learned, right? I was able to remind myself how quickly it would all pass and how much I would miss it some day. It really helped me be able to appreciate what I had in that moment with my infant. The same was true as she got a bit older and we would go for walks.
Tina: Oh, the toddler walk. She and I have gone on a couple of those.
Serena: That’s right, you have! Yeah, the stop every single step and look at leaves and bugs and squirrels and anything else that catches their attention. It used to really frustrate me but then I learned to have patience with her and it was really a gift to take a walk like a toddler. The world is so new and exciting for them and the right now is the most important thing!
Tina: Yeah and my dogs are perfect examples as well, right? They ask for what they need and are happy to play any time. And they notice things I would never notice. Yeah, so they too walk like toddlers! That’s why I don’t exercise with them because they stop way too many times, all the sniffs.
Serena: So you mentioned listening to the birds and I have a bird feeder outside my front door and I can see it from my living room as I’m sitting on the couch and just watching them come and grab food from the feeder. They’re not thinking about what just happened or what comes next, they’re grabbing food because they’re hungry. And I think we could learn from that, right? So there’s an exercise we would like to share with you that I’ve used personally and I’ve also walked my kids through it when they were struggling. It goes by a lot of different names, but we’re just going to call it 5-4-3-2-1. It’s a great way to ground yourself and bring yourself back to the present.
Tina: So it goes a little bit like this: look for five things that you see around you wherever you are at the moment, four things that you can touch which include the floor under your feet or the hair on your head, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. The last one could be grabbing yourself a glass of water or simply noticing what the inside of your mouth tastes like.
Serena: That exercise really does work. So let’s go back to the technology piece for a moment. We talked in a past episode about having too many tabs on your computer open or in your brain. We encourage you to close some of those tabs, turn off the notifications on your phone or even…dare I say it…turn your phone off.
Tina: Yeah, right. Yikes! That scares everybody. We’ve become so very attached and I agree, a little time away is totally a good thing. I also think that we should stop waiting for that “special moment” to do something, right Serena?
Serena: Say more about that.
Tina: So sometimes I say, drink the wine! Eat the cake. We spend our lives saving the good stuff as to not ruin our diets or heaven forbid, break the china. So we have a thing in our family, for sure. I see a scratch on my furniture and I just say, “There is another love mark!” And often, you know, I remember. I remember. We lived in an old house, as you know when we lived near you and I remember a lot of the bumps and bruises on that old house as belonging to some memory that we had, for sure. And my favorite is from our childhood when my brother decided he’d do a little carving on my mom’s side table. And so he carved, M-A-R-K and then he blamed it on my brother Michael which is not spelled M-A-R-K. We can never get enough of that story!! It comes up almost every holiday!
Serena: That is a great story and a good point too. And since all of our loyal listeners know that we couldn’t possibly get through an entire episode without mentioning self-care, we’re going to do it now. Intentional self-care totally counts as living in the moment. If you’re doing something you love or something that feels good, that keeps you in the here and now!
Tina: Absolutely! Yeah. One of my favorites lately, just knitting and being there knitting, right? Just being in that moment. And we want to repeat that NONE of this is easy. Like most things, it takes practice and sometimes we’re going to get it wrong. I don’t know. Maybe nothing is wrong. I guess the experience is the experience. It’s also not a thing that should be like a box to be checked. That’s not what this is about. It’s a process and part of what we do everyday in life.
Serena: Mmhm. Yeah. We do hope that everyone out there listening is doing ok and finding ways to stay grounded and remain in the moment. We always love to hear from you! Send us an email and let us know what works for you to stay in the moment!
Tina: Absolutely. So in this moment, podcast friends, we are, as always, grateful for all of you listening and supporting us. You can help us out by visiting Apple podcasts, leaving us a review, subscribing and please share with others. You will also find lots more content on our fabulous website NoNeedtoExplainPodcast.com. You can also find us on Twitter @mhmamas, Instagram @noneedtoexplainpodcast and on Facebook as well!
Serena: And this is your gentle reminder to take good care of yourself while you are also taking care of your people.
Tina: Thanks again for listening!