How strong are your presence and attention?
Take the “Presence Quiz”:
1. Do you have a short attention span?
2. Do you get distracted easily?
3. Is it hard for you to focus on one thing for very long?
4. Do you feel overwhelmed from having too many choices?
5. Do you multitask more often than not and consider yourself a “heavy” multitasker?
6. Do you forget some of the everyday tasks you need to do?
If you answered “Yes” to three or more questions, your attention may be fractured and you may be missing out on the one treasure you were born with — the power of presence.
What Being Present Can Do for You
Presence is, by definition, full awareness and attention. So improving your ability to be present does a few things: it enables you to find peace and calm, to distance yourself from chaos, to overcome distraction and inattention, and even to open yourself up to great possibilities and potential (things you might not notice if you failed to be present). Even practicing for a short period of time — as described below — can help you feel more centered and focused.
Eventually, your attention will become more concentrated and sharp, so you won’t lose track of your goals and intentions. This is no small thing!
If you want to rebuild your presence and attention, try these five-minute Presence-Building Exercises:
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- Slow down and do one thing at a time. This can mean buttering the bread when you butter the bread; walking when you walk; sitting when you sit. Bring full attention to each small thing for the next five minutes.
- Sit in silence for five minutes. . . . Just let yourself slow down enough to be present with your body, your mind, and your feelings.
- Collect your focus by noticing your breath. This is an ancient practice that builds concentration power. For five minutes, notice if each in-breath and each out-breath are long, short, or of normal length. Or just breathe for the fun of it for five minutes, bringing full observation to your breath as your abdomen rises and falls.
Donald Altman, MA, LPC, is a practicing psychotherapist, former Buddhist monk, Emmy Award–winning writer, and board member of The Center for Mindful Eating. His new book is The Mindfulness Code: Keys for Overcoming Stress, Anxiety, Fear, and Unhappiness.