Five Ways to Come Back to the Moment
Mindfulness is a hot topic right now. Mindfulness in more than meditation, it’s also about staying present in the moment too. But how? It’s a challenge today to fully be connected to each moment — to stay present no matter the chaos.
Donna was just about to be introduced to give a speech in front of a thousand people — her largest audience to date — when she received a text message saying there was an emergency at the office. Certainly not the best time or the best place to get such a text; immediately, she was propelled out of that moment.
Immediately she was propelled out of her speech, her introduction — that moment she had expected would e the next moment — then SURPRISE!
When something happens to take you out of the moment, or you feel less than 100% confident and in control, use one or more of the following behaviors to snap you back into the moment, reclaim your power and reinforce your own confidence. Your thoughts, emotions and actions/behaviors are a feedback loop.
For Donna, she shared with me that even though moments earlier she had felt prepared, that single text message sent her both physically and mentally swirling about with a bad case of “jitters, butterflies and nerves.” When that happens, which it often does, the trick is to get your butterflies flying in formation! You counteract those “jitters” with one or more of these five quick and specific techniques to bring you back to the moment and transform your thoughts, emotions and behaviors so that you once again choose the way you want to react.
These five actions will all bring your body back to the present moment so that you can consciously have your body send messages of calm to your mind. Quickly, the mind begins to shift to calm…. Amazing, how it works! Just doing one of these will pop you right back into the present moment (conscious) “driver’s seat.”
Present Moment Power Move #1: The Wet-Dog Shake, just like a golden retriever after a great splash, have a good shake! From top to bottom, shake the whole body, and shake out your arms, your hands, your legs and feet…this is my favorite for a quick recovery back into the moment. If the great shake is too much or would be too obvious for the situation, bounce a few times on the balls of your feet.
You can add a backward shoulder roll too for extra zip. A backward shoulder roll is when you lift your shoulders towards your ears, press the shoulders back, and then drop them quickly to create a rolling movement. The shake, the bouncing feet and the backward shoulder roll work well to reset your awareness.
Present Moment Power Move #2: Cold water splashed on your face, swished around your mouth and/or an ice-cold water bottle pressed against the inside of your wrists will also bring your back to the present. It’s not always easy to splash cold water on your face however swishing cold water around your mouth is socially acceptable and easy to do. And in a pinch, just pressing something ice-cold to the inside of your wrists will bring you back quickly too.
Present Moment Power Move #3: Spread out. Research shows the way you show confidence, leadership and dominance is to take up a lot of space — it also takes a conscious effort to make yourself “bigger.”. They are called “power poses” in body language. A power pose is best defined as “any movement that is assuming an expansive posture.” Expansive poses elevate your testosterone (what they call the dominance hormone) and decreases your cortisol (one of your stress hormones) leading to increased feelings of confidence, control and power. It can take as little as one-to-two minutes to effect these hormonal changes. A quick turn-around for sure….
Present Moment Power Move #4: Laughter really is the best medicine. “Giggle,” yes, giggle, even a forced giggle will bring you back to the present moment. If you can manage a good laugh at what just happened you would find a side benefit of a vigorous workout to your chest, back and abs and strengthen your heart. It’s been suggested that regular laughing boosts your immune system too. Giggling or laughing will also reset your breathing pattern, relax your face and chest muscles and give you an overall feeling of happiness and give you a joyful “buzz” to bring you right back to the moment.
Present Moment Power Move #5: Breathe in through the nose and blow (exhale) out through the mouth. Inhale through your nose, slowly and fully and exhale with an extended exhale through your mouth. Your body relaxes on your exhale, and when you relax, you are able to some back to the present moment and those around you will relax as well.
The most useful nonverbal I’ve learned is how to control my breathing. Reminding myself to breathe naturally and comfortably, no matter the situation, delivers a nonverbal message of confidence and poise. Breathing is the most often overlooked and underestimated nonverbal.
Breathing is more than supplying oxygen to your lungs. It profoundly influences your mood, how your brain functions, how sensitive your nerves are, and how tired or alert you feel even your “fight or flight” response. How you are breathing is contagious too. It directly influences those around you. Given the unknowns and sometimes craziness that happens all around us, the key to staying present at all times is to breathe, yes breathe through each moment.
Complete, deep, 360-degree breathing, where you feel your ribs and even your back expand…. This kind of breathing keeps you present through an experience. When we experience a surprise, a shock, or an unknown, all too often, we find we are holding our breath and activating our fight-or-flight response!
Do a little experiment. Quickly sniff (short rapid inhales through the nose) 10 times. What are you feeling right now? Most people feel a twinge of anxiety. That is the beginning of the fight-or-flight response. Monitor your breathing from time to time to make sure your breathing is sending a message of confidence and comfort. Here’s another experiment. Observe the effects of your breathing on others. Silently observe their breathing and your breathing; change your breathing pattern and see if the other person begins to mimic your breathing pattern. This may take a minute or two but play with it.
You will find it interesting how easily your breathing pattern can affect another person. People under stress often start rapid breathing by holding their breath. Then, as they need to breathe, they constrict their chest muscles, which causes shallow breathing. When the lungs fill only partially, the body needs to get more oxygen. This increases the speed at which they breathe. Those stuck in a rapid breathing pattern often sound afraid or angry, as the pitch and volume of the voice rise with the change of airflow.
They are also at a loss for words and frequently use verbal pauses or fill-in sounds, such as “uhm” and “ahh.” Some of the telltale nonverbals of rapid breathing and the resulting lack of oxygen—besides turning blue and passing out (which, of course, is a medical emergency!)—are when:
- Movements appear jerky and stiff
- The voice sounds different, forced or shrill
- Shoulders move up and down at a rapid pace
- The head moves backward and forward at an exaggerated pace
Low, abdominal breathing is the natural pattern in normal situations. The purpose of consciously breathing with long, slow, deep abdominal breaths is to bring the carbon dioxide and oxygen levels back in balance. It does not take too many rapid breaths to get your body’s carbon dioxide and oxygen levels out of balance.
Breathe! Just breathe….
Critical to know: 360-degree breathing amplifies your current experiences and it can seem to slow down time. Try this: Take a moment to bite into something savory, take a deep breath and feel the savor. As you begin to consciously and fully breathe, you may begin to experience emotions you are unaware of or thought you had dealt with. Know that this is normal and just breathe through them.
There is joy in the tears… savor the awakening, let the emotions, just like your breath, flow through you and from you as you are relearning how to breathe the way the universe intended — fully and completely in this present moment.
How do you feel now?
“The simple, but not so easy cure for living on autopilot is to consciously breathe!” ~ Sharon Sayler