Present Moment Focus as Self-Care

Present moment focus? In today’s blog I propose that present moment focus is a missing piece to the self-care puzzle for the people in this world like me who don’t have time to run a luxurious bath and take a soak.

As you may or may not know, I am a behavior scientist, an entrepreneur, and a parent of two wonderful teens. I am a volunteer, a writer, and a researcher. I am a boss, a spouse, a friend, a daughter. 

Despite being busy and tired, I live joyfully, even after a serious episode of burnout. Joyfully- yes…But I noticed recently, that despite living joyfully, I go from one thing to another ending up at 4:00 pm wondering how I got there. I know what I did because I wrote most of it down on my “I did it list” but I don’t think I attended to the process of getting those things done. I think it is because I am often thinking  about the next thing I need to do. 

Attending is important when you are in class,  having a conversation with others, or when working. Attention is also important as we make our way through the day on a daily basis. The lack thereof is the basis for the idiom “Stop and smell the roses.” 

But what if you don’t have the time to “Stop.”

I discussed the absurdity of luxury level self-care not too long ago as it related to a person’s ability to FIND TIME TO DO MORE as a way to feel better WHEN THEY ARE ALREADY DOING TOO MUCH. 

But does that mean we, the community of people who find this notion laughable, are doomed? 

Of course not. It just means we need to figure out how to smell the roses without stopping. 

And that means using the things we do in our current routine to our advantage. 

Present Moment Focus: Mediation on The Go

 Example: Making the Bed

  1. I can make my bed while looking around the room and thinking about everything else I need to do or;
  2. I can make my bed and attend to the experience of  making my bed. 

Yesterday, I practiced the second way of making the bed. I went upstairs after spending 20 minutes attending to how I was harvesting basil leaves (See Appendix A at the end of this entry for more on why and how). Could I apply the same practice to something I do every day?

I focused on lifting the blanket and shaking it out, I noticed the sound of the air and fabric as the blanket settled and the feel of the weight of the blanket edge as I let it drop from my fingers. 

When I finished I felt very relaxed.

At that moment I realized I may have found a solution to the problem of being productive but not noticing the day was flying by. 

Attend to the things I do without thinking about the next thing.  

I didn’t quite have a name for it until I remembered the phrase  “present moment focus” used by Dr. Alyssa Wilson during her workshop Enhancing Implementation Skills for Using ACT in Clinical Practice, which she presents on a regular basis for my company ABAC. 

What is “present moment focus?” To paraphrase Dr. Wilson, rather than bringing attention to the past or future (then or there) we bring our attention to the here and now.

One of the best things about present moment focus is there is no need to find time to practice present moment focus! Just select activities you already do and practice when you do them.

Present Moment Focus as Self-Care

There is nothing new or remarkable about my discovery. There are people who already do this. There are communities of people who talk about this. I can predict that someone might comment- you just described… ___ or ___ or ___.

BUT for me, this is new and remarkable. Since it took some time for me to figure this out, maybe there are others of you that haven’t yet. Thus this blog- 

When I got to the office, I immediately started writing the outline to this entry. I felt the need to share my epiphany with those, like me, who didn’t realize self-care could come in the form of present moment focus while making the bed.

Why is it self-care?

Because anytime to treat yourself to a moment that belongs solely to yourself that makes you feel calm, clear, relaxed, or content- you are caring for you. 

Only time will tell if the day does not rush by as fast if I practice present moment focus and more deeply attend to things I do during the day… but even if it does- I predict I may not need to refer to my “I did it list” to remember all that I did. 

More importantly though, the more we take our already existing moments and use them to attend to the textures, tastes, sights, sounds, the weight or feel of things, the less time we take to fret and worry about what we need to do next or regurgitate past experiences.

I am not suggesting that you stop thinking about other things- For goodness sake my best thinking gets done when I am watering the plants, but for those of us who didn’t realize it was possible to sneak in self-care during our regular routine well-  I hope you take the time to practice present moment focus and let me know how it goes.

Not sure where to start? Check out Appendix B for some suggestions!

Present Moment Focus: Appendix A

Plucking the Herb Leaves

This week I started my work day a bit later because I am required to do strength and mobility exercises as part of my injury recovery. Rather than running to the office, on Thursday I  headed to the yard to tend to the garden. I harvested basil and mint. I came inside and washed the herbs. I took out a plate and started to pluck the leaves from the stem. 

There were two ways I plucked the leaves. 

  1. I plucked a leaf while looking for the next leaf to pull.
  2. I plucked a leaf while focusing on the leaf I was plucking. I watched my fingers gripping the base of the leaf and the stem, I looked at the surface of the leaf and noticed any blemishes or rips. Only as I placed the leaf on the plate did I look for the next leaf to pluck. 

When I was plucking the leaves using technique number 2, I recalled a poem or passage I once read about the ritual of herb harvesting and the gratitude we should have for the leaves we will use to flavor our food or tea. I noticed I kept reverting back to technique number 1 when I heard my phone beep or I thought about going to work. I kept practicing technique 2 until I harvested the leaves of about 10 stalks of basil and 4 of mint.

I felt clear, calm, and ready. Similar to when I used to meditate for 30 minutes a morning. 

Present Moment Focus: Appendix B

A short list of present moment focus practice opportunities. 

  • Have a snack: Taste the food and feel the texture for 2 bites. 
  • Take a shower: Stare at the patterns, colors, and textures in the water falling from the shower head for 3 slow breaths.
  • Water your lawn or flowers. Notice the water as it hits the dirt, see how it flows and disappears beneath the soil or pools above it.
  • Hug someone for 20s and feel the shape of their body and the tension from your arms as they hold them up and their arms holding you.

Remember, only practice when you do things you already do! If you don’t have any plants ignore that one! Please add to this list in the comments!!