After a couple weeks of feeling like my mind was either on a vacation or travelling in time, I told my husband that I just didn’t feel like I was being present in anything anymore. It seemed that when I was supposed to be thinking about work, I was thinking about my kids and wishing for rest. At the moments I should be resting, I was scrolling through social media or playing games on my phone. It was leading to so many exhausting moments that lead to some serious learning experiences for me.
Then he showed me a new app he had downloaded to keep track of how many
minutes hours of screen time he had each day. I was honestly scared of downloading it, knowing that it would actually magnify the mess I was in even more. Fortunately, I’m actually kind of a fan of accountability, even when it hurts. So I downloaded it too.
I was not shocked to learn that I spent an average of 5 hours a day on my phone. FIVE HOURS. Yes, me…who is always claiming to be extremely “busy.” It’s no wonder why I would find myself at the end of the day not accomplishing the things I had hoped to get done. I would go to check on the status of one of my games and get sucked in, or I would attempt to reply to a comment on social media and get caught up watching an endless stream of videos (don’t judge me, I know you do it too.)
This got me thinking, what keeps us from being present anyway?
This Is Why You Aren’t Being Present
Being stuck in the past.
Often times, we find our hearts and minds overloaded with things that “should have been” or “could have been.” I am a people pleaser, and often I focus on the past by thinking about a previous conversation I had and wishing I would have said something differently, or wishing I had said more…or less (oops). I don’t think it’s unhealthy to evaluate these things. I think it’s necessary. The issue is when it consumes your thoughts and takes you away from being present in fleeting moments.
Tip: When you find yourself thinking about the past, ask yourself if there is anything you can realistically do about it NOW. If not, it’s time to wave that thought goodbye and to welcome some better thoughts into your mind.
Being stuck in the future.
Think of the last vacation you took, when the plans were set and you were ready to go. How much of the time were your thoughts overtaken by wishing it was closer, hoping it would hurry along so you could FINALLY enjoy yourself? I think we have all done it. I even find myself doing this when I plan a date night with my husband, waiting for that night to just hurry up and get here so we can actually spend time together, never mind the hours each night that we get together. We look forward to the future and end up wishing away the present. We feel “stuck” in the present, even sometimes angry about it. So it’s no wonder why we cant seem to enjoy the little moments that happen during the time in between.
Tip: When you start to realize your excitement about the future and you look forward to that more than the present, ask yourself, “What’s happening right now?” take a moment to bring yourself back into a state of mindfulness and use your 5 senses to determine what is happening around you. Soon, you will find that there are already things around you to show gratitude for.
Being stuck on the phone.
I recently surveyed my Facebook friends by asking what they thought kept them from being present with their loved ones. Every single person mentioned their phone. Technology allows us to do almost everything from our phones. It has allowed us to hear the thoughts of those we “follow” anytime we please as opposed to writing someone a letter and waiting weeks for their response. Screen time has literally kept me from spending time with my kids, my husband, my friends, and worst of all, Jesus. I don’t want people to remember me as a girl who had her nose stuck in her phone rather than living a true and authentic life. Do you?
Tip: Download a screen time monitoring app on your phone. These apps will help you determine how much time you are spending on your phone. They can also help you to set limits on how much screen time you want to give yourself each day. Once you determine what apps you spend the majority of your time on, challenge yourself. Set goals to lower your screen time or delete the time-wasting apps all together.
Being stuck in “Yes.”
Do you find yourself looking back at your week, exhausted from the lack of breathing room? You started the week with a few things on your agenda but suddenly have over-committed yourself. When you finally have a moment without plans, you are then retreating to your room away from your family. This is a sure sign that you have probably said “yes” to all the wrong things. You have more than likely traded in one relationship for another. Time with your kids, for a coffee date with an acquaintance.
Maybe it’s just that you couldn’t accomplish the basic tasks of cleaning or laundry because you overwhelmed your schedule. Either way, you said “yes” to things you should have said “no” to, and “no” to things you should have said “yes” to. The severe side effect is that you have less time for being present in what really matters. This over-extension of yourself then bleeds into your relationships.
Tip: Set your priorities, whether its for the week or month. Say “no” to things that take time away from those priorities. Schedule yourself time for rest wherever it fits in your schedule. Ask for accountability. Have your spouse or friend follow up with you each week to see what you said “no” to and how often you rested.
Choose to be stuck in the now.
If you find yourself stuck in any of the above areas just know that you are not alone. Many of us are needing to make these changes to manage our time and be present in the now. There are so many resources out there to help you focus more on being present. The decisions you make today will make for a better tomorrow. The habits you break today, will produce better memories. Once you are aware of what keeps you from being present, you are able to make the much needed adjustments. What can you do now that will help you stay present?