Veterinary Chris Hong
Registered Psychologist
Veterinary Chris HongVeterinary Chris Hong
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Power of the Present 

(Please don’t sue me Eckhart Tolle)

Our awareness and focus is constantly shifting and changing throughout the course of a day. From school, to work, to friends, to family, to even ourselves (e.g., bodily sensations), there’s usually a lot of competing demands for our attention at any given moment. Even during seemingly still pockets of time, we can still find ourselves quietly thinking, for example, about an upcoming getaway next month, that time we felt embarrassed during a high school party, or otherwise noticing our minds drifting away from the here-and-now.

While flexibility in our ability to attend to changes in our environment, plan or predict the future, or access our past experiences through memories is incredibly important (indeed, it’s instrumental, for example, in keeping us safe from real or perceived dangers), chronic disconnection from the here-and-now, nonetheless, has the potential of robbing us of some of the richness of our lives. A conversation with a mate isn’t quite the same if we’re constantly distracted by a lingering worry; a movie is harder to follow if we’re repeatedly being pulled by a painful emotion; a cup of coffee is more difficult to enjoy when an unhelpful thought is looping in our minds. Detaching ourselves from distractions and anchoring ourselves in the present moment can often aid us in regaining some of that richness.

There’s a hundred and one techniques and methods out there that can strengthen our ability to refocus on the here-and-now. You might have heard of terms such as “mindfulness” or “grounding”, or specific skills that involve attending to aspects of the environment (e.g., what you can see) or processes within your body (e.g., your breathing). Regardless of whatever tips or tricks you might find useful, there’s usually a couple of common principles that underpin a return to the present moment:

  • Acknowledging our current thoughts, feelings, and sensations; usually in a non-judgemental way, and/or;
  • Connecting with our current external or internal world(s) through our senses (e.g., noticing the colour of leaves on a tree), and/or taking control of our bodies (e.g., modifying the rhythm of our breathing).

Once we’ve connected back to the here-and-now, we can begin to truly focus on what’s important to us. Whether that’s being more engaged in that chat with a mate, feeling more immersed in that movie, or savoring that cup of coffee more. Ironically, being seated in the present moment also gives us space to help clarify what’s important to us when we’re about to take our next few steps into the future, too.

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