I recently returned from a two week vacation, which seemed like an eternity. My fiance and I spent the time road tripping down to Yosemite National Park and back. It was an amazing experience meeting wonderful people, enjoying beautiful scenery and taking a break from all routines that I have become so accustomed to, which was actually quite a challenge for me.
I have written many blog posts about the importance of routine, ironically one was written a exactly a year ago. I have always been a firm believer that in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle you have to do some planning. You need to plan your meals, time to grocery shop and cook. You need to plan time to exercise. But what happens when all of this goes out the window? When all you have is a tent, a small camp stove and the freedom to spend your days how you chose? For me, what happened was a minor freak out. It was very stressful for me at first to not know what my next meal was, if I would get any exercise in and sometimes where I was going to be sleeping that night. I was so used to computing my daily macronutrient balance and how my weekly workout routine would piece together to make sure I hit all the major muscle groups. I realized some of my routines had turned into borderline obsessions and this wasn’t healthy.
This stressed me out so much throughout the first few days that I wasn’t fully able to enjoy my present surroundings. Throughout the course of the trip I was able to let a lot of these things go and learn to trust that what was going on in the present was exactly was should be going on. In terms of nutrition, I was able to become more aware of my own internal signals of hunger and satiety, as well as types of foods my body was craving. Since I wasn’t faced with an abundance of choices of what to eat, I was able to really think about what I needed and how to fulfill that need. For example, since we were doing a lot of hiking, I noticed that I really craved meat. I typically eat meat maybe 1-2x/month but I found myself needing it everyday. I also noticed that I wasn’t eating any sweets and I wasn’t craving them. I typically go for something sweet almost daily, because of easy accessibility. I also learned that I don’t have to eat at the earliest signs of hunger, that I will survive if I don’t get food right away.
It was a bit of a struggle throughout the trip to continually remind myself to let go of so many thoughts that were in my head about what I should be doing and what needed to happen next. I thought a lot about what this meant about me and my personality and realized that I need to do a better job of living in the present moment. This was a vacation that I had really needed, at a beautiful place I had never been. I shouldn’t be wasting time worrying about things rather than taking in all of my surroundings. One thing that I did on the trip that helped to center me is roll out my yoga mat almost every single morning, no matter where I was. This was my quiet time to be in nature, take in my surroundings and calm my mind.
I can’t write a piece about being present without bringing up the phone. It took not having any service or battery for me to get off of mine but how incredibly freeing that was. We, as a society are on our phones way too much. This is a topic that is talked about a lot so I won’t go much further into it, but just try to enjoy the moment without thinking about constantly checking who has “liked” your post on Facebook. It seriously takes away from the experience to be staring at your screen and worrying about how your experience will be perceived by others. Enough said about that.
The day I returned home from the trip I attended a yoga class. The teacher had also just returned from a long trip and was discussing the theme of being present. She had just gotten married and found that the excitement and stress of that event was still with her, while she was trying to relax and enjoy her honeymoon on the beach. Her technique for returning to the present moment was to engage at least one of her five senses. Feeling the ground beneath you is a great way to remember exactly where you are at that moment. Smelling the air around you is also helpful and can sometimes really bring a feeling of relaxation and peace, as well as create memories for the future. Visualizing exactly where you are, what and who you are with will remind you of what is important at that moment. Hearing is a good sense to tap into, especially if you are in nature. Lastly, taste is one I often talk about when it comes to mindful eating. It won’t apply at every moment, but when you are eating, doing so with awareness is important.
Now that I am back in “real life” I am starting to get back into my health and fitness routines, because they are important. However, I really want to take some of the lessons I learned and figure out how to reach a middle ground; how to keep the routines that are important, relax on some that aren’t necessary and let go if they don’t happen quite as planned. I don’t want to miss what is happening today because I am worried about when I will exercise tomorrow.
In summary, my tips for being more present in the moment are:
1. Put your phone away.
2. Spend only a brief amount of time planning for the future. A loose plan is good, but allow for flexibility.
3. Engage at least one of your five senses, especially if you notice you are becoming distracted.
4. Allow some time for reflection, whether that be alone or with someone.
5. Make sure to check in with yourself to figure out what it is you need to help you be more present. It could be a physical requirement to feel more comfortable, a stress management technique that is needed or a reorganization of your surroundings.