3 Reasons Present Moment Awareness is Good for Us

July 26, 2020
“Mindfulness is the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, IN THE PRESENT MOMENT, non judgmentally.” Jon Kabat-Zinn

So, what’s so great about the present moment? The way we answer might depend on the particular moment we are in. If I am eating the best steak of my life, witnessing a magnificent sunset, or feeling the love drunk buzz of a first kiss with a beloved, duh! Of course I want to be present, take it all in, and savor these moments. If I am tossing and turning through a sleepless night, shaken by an inconsolable child, waiting for word from my beloved after a fight, or am outraged by the latest news story; present moment awareness doesn’t sound so appealing. Naturally we simply want to feel better when things aren’t going our way.

Here’s why you may want to practice present moment awareness anyway (AND it might even help you feel better).

  1. Practicing paying attention in the present moment, non judgmentally makes humans less prone to episodes of depression and anxiety. Ruminative thinking, or repeatedly thinking of  negative events or thoughts over and over,  is often a precursor to depressive episodes and a driver of anxiety. Practicing non judgment and mediating reactivity helps keep our thoughts more on what is actually happening instead of spinning off into rumination. Thought watching is a practice that cultivates present moment awareness specifically with thoughts and thinking.
  2. The present moment is the only time we can change, learn, or grow. Instead of trying to “learn” from past mistakes by beating yourself up, or trying to prepare for future events by thinking up the worst possible scenario- try gathering your attention back to your current (preferably safe) situation. What do I know now that I didn’t know then? What can I focus on or do right now that will increase my chances of doing my best going forward?Consider the possibility that self soothing, relaxing, or focusing on gratitude might be your best bet if you are caught up in worry about the future or rumination about the past.
  3. The present moment is the only time you can make choices and take action. “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Victor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor. Bringing our attention back to the present moment helps us to get clearer and clearer about the stimuli, responses, and spaces in our lives. The more we recognize the spaces, the more we can exercise choice and actions based on our values instead of our reactivity or habits. And actions that flow from our deepest desires and values feel good!

While some mindfulness practices can be beneficial when you practice here and there as needed, like exercise the most robust benefits come from consistent practice, and the way you practice mindfulness can be tailored to your needs and situation. 

Check out our Resources for more on the “whats” and “hows” of developing your mindfulness practice.

The Craving Mind  by Dr. Judson Brewer

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