NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Being in the Present Moment

Most of us tend to lead such busy lives that we're either focused on the past or projecting our thoughts into the future, often losing sight of the present moment. When our focus is either primarily on the past or in the future, so much of what is going on in the present can pass us by. This often robs our lives of meaning and can lead to unnecessary worry and rumination.

Being in the Present Moment

How Can We Learn to be in the Present Moment?
For many people, learning to be in the present moment can be a challenge. Unfortunately, most of us are not taught this skill as children, especially if we're raised in a household that is very goal oriented. When the focus is almost exclusively goal oriented, the emphasis tends to be on "the next thing" rather than on the present.

While there are certainly advantages to having goals in term of giving our lives direction, if we only focus on goals, we're often robbed of what's meaningful and rich in the present moment. Conversely, if our focus is primarily on the past, beyond learning from our experiences and understanding how we arrived at our current circumstances, we can get stuck and paralyzed looking backwards.

Start with Small Steps
When we're learning to make fundamental changes, we can start by taking small steps. So, this might mean taking breaks in the middle of our day, finding a quiet and private moment, closing our eyes and focusing on our breath. You don't need to know how to do any special breathing exercises. Just the act of focusing on your breath can slow down your heart rate and help you to relax.

While you're focusing on your breath, you can notice the quality of the air coming through your nostrils, whether the air feels cool or warm, dry or moist, how it feels as you take air into your lungs and feel your lungs expanding. Then, as you exhale, feeling all the stress and strain of the day leaving your body. Breathe normally and focus on whatever sensations you feel in your body.

In this way, you develop a mindful approach towards de-stressing and learning to be in the present moment. This might only take a few minutes, if that's all the time that you have or, if you can do this in a more leisurely manner, you might take more time.

Usually, you're likely to find that just the act of noticing your breath can be relaxing and refreshing. The challenging part is remembering to do it so you can do it on a regular basis.

Attending a yoga class, if you're able, can also be a wonderful way to be in the moment. As your yoga teacher gives you instructions about the poses, you're very focused on following his or her instructions, including the precise placement of your body in the pose. Usually, whatever you might have been worrying about before yoga class no longer preoccupies your mind because you're very focused on the yoga poses and the coordinated breathing that goes with the pose. Afterwards, most people feel relaxed and have an overall sense of well being.

If you think you might like to learn to meditate and you're new to meditation, you can get CDs that appeal to you with guided meditations. You might find that you have "monkey mind," a tendency for your thoughts to wander from one topic to the next, similar to a monkey jumping from one tree top branch to the next. But that's okay. As each thought comes into your mind, you can notice it and just let it go, like clouds that are passing in the sky.

Getting out into nature and really noticing the sights, sounds, and scents around you can also be a wonderful way to be in the present moment. This doesn't require any special skills. You just need to be present and take in what's around you.

People who know how to be in the present moment usually discover that when they return to whatever task or issue that they were concerned about before, they come back to it refreshed and much more creative than if they just continued to plod on.

As a psychotherapist in NYC, I encourage my clients to develop both internal and external resources, including being able to visualize in their mind's eye a safe or relaxing place. If they can't visualize a safe or relaxing place, I encourage them to think about a person, pet, symbol, spiritual being (if this has meaning for them) that gives them comfort and use that in their visualization.

Each of us can learn to develop our own preferred way to be in the present moment and, in doing so, discover a sense of contentment and gratitude.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me,