Nov. 6. 2017
Written By:
McKel (Hill) Kooienga
McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

Being present. With Thanksgiving in just a few short weeks and the craziness of the holidays in full swing soon, the habit of being present is something that’s top of mind for us here at NS.  Now, more than ever is a good time to explore ways to practice mindfulness so that we can show up to our friends and family, and enjoy each and every gathering.  Here’s why you should stop daydreaming and tips to get started. 

“Being present” is abstract a thought as can be, but it’s one that I’m really passionate about and one that’s aligned with the NS pillars of health. It’s actually something I started to think about after reading The Power of Now years ago.  And since then, and after reading the book a dozen more times (it’s that good), I’ve found that being present is the secret sauce to happiness in everyday life. It helps us avoid the “if-then” scenarios and in turn, encourages us to let light the in with new experiences and deeper connections. Thoughts like “If I lose this weight, I’ll find a boyfriend” and “if I get this job, I’ll finally be fulfilled” are all damaging, and they’re the opposite of being present at its core.

So what does being present really look like?  You’re truly present when you’re engaged in a conversation, asking questions and learning new things. You’re truly present when you’re making your morning cup of Matcha Tea Latte, Elevated and enjoying the smell, warmth and look of the frothy goodness in the mug. You’re truly present when you’re at dinner with friends and your phone is tucked in your purse, far out of view. You get the picture—when you’re present, you’re right there in the moment savoring everything there is about that task. You’re not thinking about your to-do list, and you’re not daydreaming about your summer vacay.  

Doesn’t sound so hard, right? Well, apparently it’s more difficult for all of us than it sounds. According to a study by Harvard psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert, people spend nearly half of our time not being present in the moment.  Seriously—a whopping 46.7% of our time is spent thinking about something besides what we’re currently doing. Seeing as this study was made as early as 2010, I can only imagine how much that number has grown with our increasing addiction to our smartphones!

But maybe it’s not so bad if we can do several things at one time. It’s called multi-tasking! Well, the same study also found that all of this daydreaming is not making us happier, according to this article. Even the happy wandering thoughts are throwing us off! It’s scientifically proven that we’re happy when we’re thinking about the tasks we’re doing in that moment. The good news is that there are ways we can train our minds to come back to the present.  I’m sharing some tips below, but I’d also love to hear if you have any tricks you use to stay mindful and in the moment with friends and family. What’s working for you?

Here are some tips to stay present this month, and beyond:

  • Notice your breath throughout your day; you can do this by simply setting a few reminders on your phone to take a few deep breaths.  Focusing on your breath can help you step back and survey your body and mind, even for just a few seconds. 
  • Use your senses!  When you’re preparing or eating a meal, going for a walk, or running an errand, consider the sounds, smells, sights and overall vibes right then and there.  By intentionally using your senses, you can make even the most menial tasks a meditation.  I’ve found this to be incredibly calming, especially during my morning routine.
  • Be curious. Whether you’re trying something new or doing something for the upteenth time, you can approach each task with curiosity. This act of being present allows for growth, creativity and spontaneity.
  • Observe your thoughts. The holidays can feel overwhelming, believe me I know. It’s a busy time when worries and anxieties can get in the way of being present in the now.  That’s why it’s even more important now to see your thoughts and feelings almost as an outsider. This way, you won’t be run solely by emotions. I know this is easier said than done, but I love this visualization: you’re standing at an intersection in your mind, seeing thoughts go by in each direction. Because you’re just an observer, you’re able to recognize them, acknowledge them, and let them pass by.  It’s an incredibly freeing feeling, and one that it well worth the practice!  

Stay tuned this month as we share recipes, inspiration and tips that will help you stay on track this month in order to fully show up as a friend, employee, family member, significant other and spouse.

Want more tips to stay on track this month right now?  Check out my 10 Tips for Getting Centered and Staying Grounded

xx McKel