The Power of Presence
Wherever you go, and whatever you do, bring your whole self
Ah, summertime. So many of us look forward to the start of Summer, and with good reason. The combination of the warmer temperatures and longer spells of daylight means we can spend more time outdoors. Whether on a hike through dense woods, holding a picnic at the park or relaxing on a white sand beach, the open air and chance to commune with nature can do wonders for our health.
For families whose children can take advantage of that much-beloved months-long break from school, Summer is also often the ideal time to schedule family vacations and make the most out of the time together. When I was growing up in Tennessee, we always took a family vacation each year to Florida. We would drive as a family down to central Florida and stay on a lake in a house owned by a distant cousin. It was an amazing time – all the family together for two weeks with nothing but reading, swimming, and board games. Even decades later, I still think back on those memories (and Uno games I dominated).
Of course, we could all enjoy a little more fun in our lives. But maybe you know someone (or perhaps it’s you, yourself) that is notoriously busy, work a bit too much, or just generally never makes time to simply slow down, take a look around, and appreciate the present moment. Leaning into the hustle and bustle of daily life not only makes it more likely that we miss out on precious moments but does a disservice to our physical and mental health.
Despite what our current society tries to demand from us, our bodies simply weren’t made to “Go! Go! Go!” all the time. Without sufficient rest, including consistently adequate amounts of sleep, our immune systems can start to suffer, making us more likely to get or to stay sick. Simple, moderate physical activity like walking outside for a few minutes has been shown to improve sleep quality and cognitive function, as well reduce stress.
Depending on what stage of life you’re in, it may not be easy or convenient to be active outside, and that’s okay. Engaging in any type of leisure activity has its benefits, including reduced stress and lower heart rate. Even indulging your creative side – drawing or painting a picture, or writing a short story, for example – for as little as 45 minutes can boost your self-esteem as well as your motivation to get other work done. We all know eating a healthy, balanced diet is important to our physical health, but even the act of cooking has been shown to be therapeutic, serving to improve our confidence and stifle negative thoughts. There are a million small ways we can redirect our thoughts, relax, and enjoy the here and now.
In my own attempt to practice the power of presence, I’ll be spending lots of time with my own family this summer, traveling, playing music whenever I can, and enjoying this precious time we have together. If you have plans that you are already looking forward to this Summer, I hope this can serve as the encouragement you need to be fully present - turn off your email notifications, power off your cell phone for a few hours, and just…be. If you don’t have plans yet, I hope you carve out time to enjoy the activities you love the most! I guarantee your loved ones will thank you, but more importantly, looking back on the memories, you will thank yourself.