How to Thrive - Part 2 - Being Present

In my last blog, I talked about gratitude, I hope you’ve been able to spend a few moments each day considering things you are thankful for, and that you are starting to notice a change in how you approach life.
This week, I’m going to talk about being present; like gratitude, this is something that is easy to do and when it becomes a regular practice is very rewarding.
We all spend much of our lives switching between mulling over, reliving or worrying about what has happened in the past or thinking about the future. If you are anything like I used to be the future will be full of what ifs. What if this happens or that happens, and most of these what ifs are negative. It is so easy to catastrophise about things that could happen. A small worry about something can soon escalate into a major problem in our heads. The key thing to note here is that it is all in my head, not things that have actually happened.
When life is busy, it is also easy to get overwhelmed by things that need to be done and endless demands from others. How often do you put looking after you on that to do list?
Spending some time being present is a great way to switch off for a few minutes  and is even better if it can be done outdoors. I have a very busy mind and it sometimes takes me a while to switch off from my surroundings and inner thoughts and be present but it becomes easier each time i do it and I love the sense of calm and peace it gives me.
One way to be present is to go outside and find somewhere to walk in nature if possible, but it doesn’t have to be. As you start to walk tune into your senses and then look around and take note of things you can see around you, it could be the trees, bushes, leaves on the trees, the clouds, the sky, water, literally anything. Notice whether this is easy for you or needs some concentration and also if you find you drift off and start thinking about something else, just let this pass and come back to noticing what you can see. After a few minutes of walking, swap to notice what you can hear and then swap again after another few minutes and notice what you can feel. By this time you will be feeling relaxed and will be noticing small things such as the feel of the clothes on your skin, perhaps the wind on your face, or maybe the crunch of a gravel path under your feet. 
Finally, pick your favourite sense of the three you have played with and go back to this and at the same time notice whether there are any particular smells or tastes that grab your attention.
Here are some reflections on what a period of being present was like for me during one of my recent Fresh Air Fridays sessions.
As I walked, I noticed how the landscape was opening up around me,  there was a path in front of me that felt as if it was inviting me to walk along it. I paused and looked around, taking in the canopy of trees, the bright coloured foxgloves and appreciated the beauty of my surroundings. The sun is shining and I could feel the warmth of it on my face and arms, the birds are singing and there is a gentle breeze flowing through the nearby trees.
As I stepped forward, the path crunched beneath my feet and a feeling of excitement spread out from my heart out into my body, my arms, my legs, my fingers,  toes and up into the top of my head. There is a rhythm now in my body as I move forward along the path. Friends appear to say hello and join me as I walk. There is a hum of chatter as stories and experiences are shared. As a group we move along together, pausing to admire the view around us, pointing out things of beauty and interest. Everyone is present to the nature around them and to the conversations flowing around the group. All day to day worries and tasks are left behind and will be sorted later when we have finished our time together and are feeling energised to handle the challenges of our day to day lives.
If I am in the middle of a busy day, I often take a few minutes away from my desk to notice what I can see, hear and feel. This immediately takes me away from all the head chatter and tension to feeling calm and clear. This short break allows me to return to my tasks with renewed focus and energy.
Why not give this a try this week and let me know how you get on.

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