We all have our daily routines which sometimes feel monotonous and mundane. Grooming, eating, exercising, working etc. are examples of activities we do every day, and doing so can make them seem repetitious, and thus dull. Once we get accustomed to an activity such as grooming our minds switch to auto-pilot: we don’t think we just do. Doing an activity without thought negates any result or prolongs any result we are looking for.
When we pay active attention to what we are doing we increase our attention to the task at hand and thus focus on and achieve the result we are looking for. Grooming is done daily: most of us brush our teeth after our meal because we have been habituated to it. We don’t give a thought to how or why we are doing it; we do it as a ritual, as something that must happen every day. Instead of mechanically brushing our teeth if we think about why we are doing it and focus on the benefits we are receiving we will be more likely to succeed.
Similarly, when we exercise we may follow a pattern or routine that may become tedious after a while. Even if we change the routine regularly it is still doing a certain number of repetitions, a certain number of sets on the same machines. It is not hard to see the monotony in this exercise, but if we actively participate in our workout by thinking about what we are doing: what we are trying to achieve and how we are trying to achieve it, our stretches will go a bit deeper and the weights we lift will affect our muscle mass that much more.
Paying attention does not cost anything but is invaluable. Actively attending to what we are doing increases the chance for positive results, because doing so amplifies our interest and efforts. When we perform a task we generally seek a particular result; when we seek a particular result the chances of it being manifested become greater as opposed to mindlessly pursuing it which results in a hit or miss situation. For example, when assigned a specific task at work focusing and concentrating on completing that task will ensure that you achieve the intended result much quicker and surer than if you listlessly and crassly finish it. In school I had a hard time when the teacher assigned us an in room assignment; my peers would often complain of the difficulty or duration of the project which would irritate me because their whining disturbed my focus, and if they spent the time buckling down and working instead of whining they could finish the assignment more swiftly and succinctly.
When you pay attention to what you are doing you are also cancel out any unnecessary or negative thoughts by forcing your mind to stay in the present. Thoughts about the future and past bring with them unneeded emotions that impact how we function and react in the present. Dread, anxiety, fear, and regret are among the hundreds of feelings we get when we think about the past and future. Ruminating in past joys or future fantasies may produce temporary elation in mood or biological functioning, but is followed by depressive hangover because we are experiencing intangible thoughts, not reality. Although these thoughts are attractive, staying in the present proves much more beneficial.
Actively thinking and participating in the activity we are doing helps us stay present. Habituating our mind to stay present decreases the likelihood of anxious (past or future) thoughts. Learning to be in the present helps us enjoy and live our lives to the fullest. When we are in the present we break free from over-thinking things, prevent the mind from using wasteful energy on unnecessary thoughts, and are able see a clear picture of what is going on around us instead of one clouded with our judgments and preconceived notions.
When you focus on the present the mind will naturally wander to the past could haves, future possibilities, and the analysis of words, actions, and meanings. As this is the natural state of the mind, it requires effort to focus your mind and bring it back to the present moment. Eating is something we all do usually multiple times a day. We usually do not think about how we eat as it seems like an automated task: we get the plate of food, then leave the rest to our teeth, tongue, and saliva. We conveniently feel free to utilize this time to think, wander, and plan. However, thinking about our food: how and why we are eating may be more beneficial; the nutrients we are getting from the food and how many times we are chewing our food are the primary ways for us to focus on our food. Staying in the present helps us keep our bodies and minds joined. When our minds become accustomed to roaming freely whenever it cares to regardless of what the body is doing, we forget how to keep focus and be attentive in the present. Problems arise when our bodies and minds are disjointed; so before taking that quick daydream or when our thoughts stray back to past memories think whether living in your head for that time is worth missing the present moments.
The past is a compilation of stepping stones that helped form your current self so living in the past is of no use; the future is held behind a maze of doors that your current self will choose in the present if you are busy wondering about those doors you will miss the opportunity to open one. Mind body connection is essential in achieving the results we want; staying present is an effective way to harness that connection. Mend the seeds of this connection now so you can enjoy the fruits of it in the future.