Susan Stutzel

Abraham Maslow, the psychologist behind Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, once said that “the ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.” As a refresher, Maslow’s triangular hierarchy is structured from bottom to top, moving from basic to psychological to self-fulfillment needs. Being present sends a message to others that you care for them – that what they have to say is important and you value the opportunity to share dialogue. This sense of belonging and innate desire for relationship falls right in the heart of the pyramid.

Amy Vetter, for whom I was a recent podcast guest, authored Business, Balance and Bliss. In one of the book’s chapters, she discusses the reality that others will remember us by how we made them feel. It is so impactful to be truly present with a family member, friend or colleague, rather than distracted by a mental to-do list, email, social media, or text message.

We may try to multi-task, but our brains are simply not wired for it. When we juggle multiple things at once it actually takes us more time to do them, not less. This is because we have to re-focus on a task when returning to it, recalling context and train of thought. We have seen the benefit technology has in our work and at home, but it can also be the biggest thief of our time when it becomes a distraction.

Vetter shares a few ideas which I practice with the goal to be present:

  1. Keep a daily schedule. This can be a paper day planner or online calendar – how it is done is less important than keeping it up.
  2. Take breaks. Go for a walk or simply get up and move around a little bit. This could be a 10-minute walk around your workplace or quick stretch.
  3. Practice active listening. Do your best not to finish someone else’s sentences. Let him or her speak uninterrupted and learn to be okay with breaks in conversation.
  4. Get some natural light in your day. Step outside or sit by the window. Exposure to sunlight boosts vitamin D, an essential nutrient that produces the brain’s mood-enhancing chemical serotonin.

These practices are a great starting point for being present where your feet are. The key is to be intentional and to put aside distraction as much as possible. How do you feel when someone else is present with you? When she sets aside her phone, asks good questions, and listens while you respond? Recall that same feeling when you’re tempted to multi-task in the presence of those you care about – you will be glad you did.

Click here to listen to my guest appearance on Amy Vetter’s podcast.