Attempting to stay present is one of the toughest challenges for this generation.
Millennials and Gen-Zs have grown up with technology that constantly pulls us away from the present. I often find myself getting sucked into a smartphone black hole, and I dread seeing my weekly screen time report.
Obviously, our smartphones have made so many tasks more convenient than they used to be. For instance, I recently wrote a post about helpful apps for new parents, and I use those apps frequently now that we have a newborn.
We can go ahead and skip the conversation about the dangers of technology. (Someone else can write about that - it's clearly not my place!) And by now, I think we're pretty aware of the risks posed by an overuse of technology and screen time in general.
I want to focus on the positive aspect of distancing ourselves from technology, which is to stay present in the moment.
The world is changing rapidly - and in our attempt to stay current, we're missing out.
Often times we're so wrapped up in events outside of our control that we're missing out on our own lives. We spend our valuable time trying to catch up on current events through a constant stream of news media or scrolling through the Instagram highlight reel of someone else's life.
The moments that seem commonplace in our lives are moments we will wish we had back someday. Like Andy Bernard from The Office said after reminiscing on his days working at Dunder Mifflin,“I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them.”
Our families and friends need us to show up for them. We need to show up for ourselves. And all too often, we're not doing an awesome job at committing what little time we have to being all there for our loved ones.
So let's learn to do better.
How Gratitude Can Help Us Stay Present
Before I jump into some tips on how we can stay present more intentionally, I think it's important to mention the role of gratitude in staying present. It's pretty hard to be grateful about what your life looks like if you're constantly chasing after an unrealistic ideal.
Whether you're scrolling through social media and noticing what other people have or frequently shopping online for the latest and greatest thing, you may be forgetting about what's right in front of you. Shoot, even something seemingly innocent as streaming shows on Netflix can rob our time so much that we neglect the blessings we currently enjoy!
When we are grateful for what we have right now, even if it's not much compared to someone else, we are automatically centering ourselves in the present. We're not worried about what tomorrow brings or all the difficult things we've endured in the past. Being grateful requires our minds to remain where we are in a single moment.
Let me share a personal example.
A week ago, I was feeding my baby girl for what seemed like the 18th time that day (it wasn't... but ya girl does like to eat). As soon as I got her started, I immediately picked up my phone and started scrolling. A few minutes in, I looked away from my phone and into my daughter's eyes - they were gazing at me, longing for me to provide for her, to be there for her when she needs me.
I felt both foolish and grateful in that moment. I had chosen to scroll, scroll, scroll instead of focusing on the very thing I am most grateful for - my beautiful daughter. I'd prayed for her for years - and there she was! How dare I waste a God-given second with her? One day, she won't need me like this anymore and I'll long to have these moments back.
I put my phone away and stared back at her. Her eyes showed me relief and comfort as she looked back at me, and in that moment I was grateful.
It's hard to stay present and grateful in every single moment of our lives, especially in the tasks that seem routine. And I don't think it's realistic to completely unplug from tech. But what if we were more intentional with our time? Wouldn't we be better for it?
How to Unplug and Stay Present
Looking for practical tips on how to turn off distractions and stay present? Here are a few helpful suggestions:
Meditation requires an intense focus on your breathing and thinking in the present. The moment your mind wanders from the task at hand, you're encouraged to bring it back to focusing on the breath. I've found the Headspace app to be helpful with guided meditation.
As a Christian, I commit a small portion of every morning to reading Scripture and prayer. Doing this helps me focus on the lessons I need to glean from the Word in the present moment, and I can bring any needs and anxieties I have to the Lord. If you'd like to know more about my morning Bible time or want to learn more about my faith, you can reach out to me here.
Set Up a Phone Docking Station
When you want to gather with friends or family without phones to distract you, setting up a phone docking station is one of the best ways to ensure that no one will be texting under the table! Find a spot near an outlet where everyone can recharge their phone battery during this time. Most people find themselves leaving recharged as well!
Take a Walk
Nature is one of the best ways to experience the present. Take in all the sights and sounds of the season on a light stroll, or even get some exercise with a brisk walk or jog. Fresh air can help you clear your head of all the distractions, and you can even pray or meditate as you go. Sometimes, a short walk is the perfect amount of time to reset a negative mindset and practice gratitude for the present.
Use Conversation Starters
Sometimes we scroll through our social media feeds instead of talking to the people in our company, and we waste valuable time that we could have used getting to know one another. Try to think of a few fun questions that can help you carry a conversation, or even some guided cues that will involve your children.
Families that play together stay together, they say. Figure out the activities that everyone in your family enjoys and carve out time for it. There will always be work to do, but these precious moments as a family unit are fleeting. Take vacations, spend a Saturday at the pool, build a blanket fort and play "the floor is lava" with them. Enjoy the stage of life you're in now with your kids, because someday you'll wish you could relive it.
Don’t Miss Out!
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How do you stay present?
If you'd like to share how your family stays present and turns off distractions, I'd love to hear about it in the comments! Every family is unique, and a variety of techniques can help each member stay present and connected with each other more diligently. Share your ideas below - then log off and go love on your fam!