Therapy Can Work

Katherine Rabinowitz, LP, M.A., NCPsyA

Licensed Psychotherapist & Psychoanalyst
Union Square, Greenwich Village, New York, NY

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Therapy Can Work

Katherine Rabinowitz, LP, M.A., NCPsyA

Licensed Psychotherapist & Psychoanalyst
Union Square, Greenwich Village, New York, NY

Mindfulness: The Importance of Living In The Present Moment

Mindfulness: The Importance of Living in the Present Moment

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn
for the past, worry about the future or anticipate troubles,
but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.

~Buddha

If you opened this post to read it instead of rolling your eyes and looking for something more appealing, you’re one step ahead of the game, because learning to live in the moment is something we all need to spend more time thinking about and trying to apply to our lives. We live in an increasingly frenetic world that relentlessly demands our attention, and nags at us to rue our past mistakes and worry, worry, worry about the future. The thing is, the past is gone, and the future isn’t here yet, so suppose we focus our attention just on the present moment.

If it’s about work, do your very best with the single task at hand. There will be a reward down the road. Don’t multi-task. You’re fooling yourself if you think you get more done doing more than one thing at a time. Any reputable scientific study will confirm that you’ll be less productive when you multi-task, than if you give your full attention to completing one thing before moving on to the next.

If it’s being with friends and family, listen to what they’re saying. Actively engage with them and only them. If you can bear to, shut off your phone. As in power down completely. Only then can you give people the attention they deserve, and get the same in return. If you’re taking a walk on a beautiful day, give yourself permission to enjoy it. Notice the sights and sounds around you. Take them in. Make that moment a part of you. Be aware of how you’re feeling. Name that feeling and allow it expression in your mind. But don’t judge it. It has no value, good or bad, it just is.

If what you’re doing is as mundane as eating your lunch, savor your food. Enjoy it. Pay attention to what it looks like – the dark green and crinkled edges of the kale; what it feels like – the smoothness of the pasta or its sauce; what it tastes like – the sweet pleasure of the dessert. Don’t respond to a text or email while you’re eating. You’re not “saving time” by doing so. You’re wasting the precious present moment of that meal, and that moment will never be here again.

That’s an important lesson most of us keep not learning over and over again. We have a limited time on this planet. If we spend it mindlessly, it will slip by faster than you can ever imagine, never to be retrieved. You won’t get it back. And the future won’t get here any faster, so you might as well be in the present. So whenever you do things that could have been better spent right here, right now, you’re letting Father Time steal those precious seconds, minutes, hours right out from under you, lost forever.

Think of it this way: energy is finite. (You might look at a three-year old and think that’s not true, but even they eventually collapse.) So picture all your energy in a pie chart. You carve out slices of pie to devote to various aspects of your life. If large slices of that energy pie are spent obsessing over past mistakes – all the coulda’ shouda’ woulda’s, and spending that energy beating yourself up over those mistakes, or an even larger slice of that pie being anxious about the future, what’s left?!
You’ll have to divvy up what remains. Some of it has to be devoted to sleep, some to work, some to entertainment or socializing, paying bills, cleaning the kitchen. The more time spent on the past, the future, and (I have to throw this in), social media, the smaller the slices will be. Imagine if you freed up all that energy spent on things you can do nothing about (the past is a prime example), what you could apply it to!

Being mindful is good for your emotional and physical health. Again, scientific studies will back this up. You’ll see things more clearly, make sounder choices, sleep better, feel less stressed out, have more clarity, and calm. You can feel more centered, more rooted to the present moment. I don’t have to tell you that stress wears on you and is detrimental to your physical health. You know that. You’ve heard or read it from a thousand sources. (That doesn’t make it any less true.)

So what do I do, you ask yourself. How do I be more mindful? You can look this up if you want to, but there are several obvious answers, and every source you consult will tell you more or less the same thing.

      • Slow down! Do one thing at a time. Pay more attention to it. Focus your attention on that one          task.

      • Pay attention to your breathing. It really does help.

      • Mono-task. We already talked about that earlier in this post. It’s better. Really.

      • Spend less time on your phone, whether texting, playing games, or finding the best deal on that          new electronic  gadget you can’t live without. (You can, btw, believe it or not. People got along just          fine before the introduction of smart phones. There are now rehab facilities for electronic          addictions. Yes, it’s gotten that bad.)

      • Be aware of your emotions. If you’re impatient waiting in line for something, acknowledge that.         Then relegate the impatience to another place. Sighing and stomping with exasperation is NOT          going to make the line move more quickly.

      • Drive carefully and defensively. Be on the lookout for the drunk driver. And don’t be one.

      • Be seriously engaged when you’re with other people. Even if they’re boring. Listen to them.          Find that one thing about them that makes them worthwhile or interesting.

      • Don’t try to do too much. Know your limits. Accept them. Otherwise you’ll only disappoint yourself          and feel bad about not having finished an unrealistic set of tasks, even if it’s shopping.

You might think about trying meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, or any activity that forces you to concentrate on that one thing. But do one first, don’t try everything at once, if you’re new to them. Don’t give up too easily on them, either. It takes a long time and a lot of practice for them to work and find a regular place in your life. Spend less of your energy pie on beating yourself up for past mistakes or choices. Spend it instead on right now. Because really that’s all there is.

Forever is composed of nows.
~ Emily Dickinson

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