Staying present, focused and in the now is something that I am working at this year. I am trying to be more intentional and live better. The Mood Elevator is by far one of my favorite books of 2017 so far! The lessons in the book are helping me to stay focused, build better relationships and create more success! I am thrilled to have a guest post from the author, Dr. Larry Senn below. I highly recommend this book to everyone!
Be Here Now
Have you ever had a day when your working mind never shut down, even after you came home to your family? Have you taken a vacation when only your body was present? Have you ever spent time with a loved one only to realize that your thoughts and concerns were far away?
These are all examples of not being here now. Why is it important to practice being here now? Take a look at the Mood Elevator, the fact is that the nature of thought on the lower levels, like worry or anger, is frenetic and circular. In the highest point on the mood elevator- grateful- there is almost no thought, just a good calm feeling. In the higher mood states, our thoughts are quieter, more flowing, clearer, and relaxed. By contrast, when you are down the Mood Elevator, your thinking is busy, cloudy, and unclear. You tend to get caught up in thought eddies resulting in worry, anger, insecurity, and judgment.
The subject of Be Here Now is of particular interest to me after an experience I had with one of my 4 sons when he was little. One weekend I took my son out on the beach to fly a kite. Before starting he turned to me and asked, “Dad are you actually going to play with me today?” He knew, he was very aware that I was not mentally present with him, my mind was still at the office. Hearing that from my child was a big wake-up call and sparked my interest in the practice and the benefits of being in the moment.
According to a study at Harvard University, people spend about 47% of waking hours thinking about subjects unrelated to what they are actually doing. This means we spend about half of our time not in the moment. More importantly, there is a strong correlation between our happiness and how much time we spend in the present. One of the researchers, Matthew Killingsworth stated “Mind-wandering is an excellent predictor of people’s happiness. In fact, how often our minds leave the present and where they tend to go is a better predictor of our happiness than the activities in which we are engaged.”
Now being present in this day and age isn’t easy. With social media, texting, YouTube, Netflix, and everything else we have that helps distract us, finding time to be quiet is more difficult- but it’s not impossible. I have two techniques that help me achieve a quieter state of mind which I go into more detail in my new book, The Mood Elevator. The first technique is compartmentalizing my work-life.
So how do I compartmentalize my very busy, high-pressure life?
I take simple steps like turning off my phone during my son’s volleyball games. If I do have to work on the weekends or on vacation I’ll block off a couple hours and once that time is up I’ll power down my computer and go spend time with family. I worked with a CEO once who every night when he got home, before going into the house he would make a list of things related to work that was still on his mind and he locked it in the glove compartment of his car. This was a tangible way for him separate work and home.
The second technique I use to quiet my mind is breathing exercises or meditation. Sometimes in the midst of a busy day, all I need is to pause and take 3 deep breaths to get centered and quiet my mind. There are a few other exercises you can try:
- Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School suggests repeating a particular word or phrase each time you exhale while in a relaxed position.
- Author and psychologist John Selby suggests breathing through the nose while noticing the air as it moves in and out. If that is not enough to quiet the mind, the second simultaneous task is to notice the rise and fall of your chest or stomach. The concentration required to do both of these things at once makes other, more complex thinking difficult, resulting in a quieter mind.
- Finally, just focusing on your senses can help. Be aware of how your body feels in the chair, pay attention to the outdoor background noises, notice the trees outside the window, feel the breeze of the fan. Quieting the mind for even a few seconds can be helpful.
About the Book:
We all ride the Mood Elevator up and down every day. How well we do it impacts our relationship, our personal effectiveness, our career, and our experience of life. Most people take that ride for granted and don’t think it can be influenced. But what if we knew the right buttons to push to move to the top of the Mood Elevator? Wouldn’t it be useful if there were proven ways to make visits to the lower floors less frequent and less intense?
In this very practical guide, Larry Senn provides an operating manual to keep you out of the emotional basement. He shows how to recognize when you’ve become so accustomed to being stuck on a lower floor – worried, stressed, anxious, and judgmental – you don’t even realize it, and what to do to interrupt those negative thought patterns and start going up again. He urges us to cultivate mental attitudes like curiosity and gratitude that will keep us on the higher floors, and explains how to quiet the mind and nurture positive thoughts without succumbing to Pollyanna-ish denial. And as someone who took up triathlons at the age of seventy, he speaks from experience when he emphasizes the inseparable connection between physical health and mental health.
Through Senn’s decades of work as a consultant, The Mood Elevator has been enthusiastically embraced by hundreds of thousands of people around the world. It symbolizes our moment-to-moment experience of life, encompassing a wide range of feelings. Together, these emotions play a major role in defining the quality of our lives and relationships and our effectiveness on the job. By sharing his work with a wider audience, Senn hopes to help all of us live life at our best.
About Dr. Larry Senn:
Dr. Larry Senn pioneered the field of corporate culture and founded in 1978, Senn Delaney, the culture shaping unit of Heidrick & Struggles. A sought-after speaker, Senn has authored or co-authored several books, including two best-sellers. His newest is The Mood Elevator (August 2017), the follow up to his 2012 book, Up the Mood Elevator. You can learn more about Larry and his work at his website, www.themoodelevator.com.