As humans, we seem to be constantly worrying about what has happened in the past and what might happen in the future. In a study published in The Harvard Gazette in 2010, 2250 people from 18 to 88 used an app to track what they were thinking of and doing throughout the day. The study found that just under 47% of their time was spent thinking about something other than what was happening at that time.
The study, completed by two psychologists, Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert, found that humans spend a significant amount of time engaging in what they call mind-wandering. This mind-wandering occurs in all activities, even those that are highly desirable and engaging. In choosing to focus more on the present, people in the study reported higher levels of happiness, which is the same principle taught in mindfulness and meditation practices.
By taking a closer look at the importance of being where you are in the moment at work and at home, individuals can increase their sense of happiness, contentment, and positive mood. In turn, this decreases stress, anxiety, boredom, or feelings of being overwhelmed and fearful about the future.
The benefits of being mindful or being present include:
- Increased appreciation and gratitude – by experiencing the life we are actually living at home and work, we are able to see the wonderful things that are happening. We become more grateful for small things, which increases our sense of happiness and enjoyment of life.
- Better understanding – focusing on the past and future reduces the opportunities we have for understanding what is going on around us. This leads to missed opportunities to connect, interact, and take advantage of potential new or unique things that we overlook when worrying about something that may or may not occur.
- Awareness – being in the present allows you to give your full attention to other people in your life. This could be your spouse or children at home and your colleagues, clients, customers, or leadership team at work. Listening to the words and watching body language provide a better understanding of the message they are trying to convey. It also creates a powerful experience for the other person as they feel heard and valued.
- Reduced stress and anxiety – spending mental energy worrying about the future, particularly a negative future outcome, can lead to an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and stress responses. Experiencing the moment and breaking the habit of thinking about things that may go wrong in the future reduces stress and anxiety throughout the day.
In addition, people who are present in the moment tend to have better problem-solving skills, think more creatively, and have better emotional regulation at home and work.