Photo: Fireworks new years 2020

by Sabra Leomo, RD

The majority of New Year’s resolutions focus on losing weight or a fresh start eating healthy. Of course eating healthy and living a lifestyle that helps you feel your best is important. However, resolutions are often restrictive and unsustainable which makes them difficult to stick to. Start the year by focusing on being truly present in your life.

Perhaps it is easier to describe what it means to not be present. When you are not present your mind is constantly pulled to what has happened in the past and what may happen in the future. When you are not aware of the present moment you miss out on appreciating all that is happening right here, right now.

We live in a fast-paced society and deal with a constant barrage of daily stressors. Every day we try to manage demands from work, growing to-do lists and expectations influenced by social media. We often pass through the present moment on our way to something else.

Research shows that present-moment awareness is associated with stress resilience and effective coping when dealing with stress1. This is incredibly important due to the cumulative effects that chronic stress can have on our health such as anxiety, digestive problems, sleep problems, heart disease and memory and concentration impairment. This study indicates that being present and aware when dealing with daily difficulties increases stress resilience and lessens the harmful impact of stressors for days after.

Here are 3 quick techniques to help you be present:

  1. Traffic Light Technique - If you are like most people, your mind is going 10 different directions while you drive; thinking about your next task, re-running the activities of your current day or thinking about what needs to done tomorrow. Stop lights are a great starter for being present because they offer us a timed moment. When you are stopped at a red light take a moment to connect to your breath—just notice the breath you draw in and the breath you breathe out. Other ideas for being present at a stoplight include noticing how relaxed or tense your shoulders are or take a moment to feel your hands on the steering wheel.
  2. Notice and Name - With this simple technique you take a moment to be present and notice and/or name what you see, smell, hear or feel. This technique helps gather scattered thoughts and give you a fresh start.
  3. Gratitude Now - Take a moment to think about what you are grateful for right now in this moment. Maybe it is as simple as hot coffee in your favorite mug or the sun shining through your window. It can be whatever brings you gratitude in this moment. This practice is two-fold, it connects you to the present moment and also shows us that at any moment you can find small bits of gratitude even if big-picture stressors aren’t resolved.

As busy as we all are, make a point to connect with yourself during the day. Being present will help positively manage stress and help you appreciate your life right here, right now.

Footnotes: 

1Science Direct. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0092656616301118?.... Accessed 29 December 2019