What does it actually mean to be here and now?

08 October, 2020 / Mateusz

If each of us scrupulously wrote down our current thoughts, it might be that the vast majority of them relate to the past or a perceived future. Generally, only a small part of our attention is directed to what is happening now, because we think about the future almost automatically or we reflect on the past, which often involves a whole range of emotions. This is why we have great difficulty recalling details of events that took place only an hour ago.

Do you remember what your last meal tasted like? What spices did you taste, what was the tastiest? What was on the radio when you drove to work today? If you have trouble recalling these few simple details, then this article is for you.

Mindful awareness

Being here and now is not about forgetting the past or being reckless about the future. There is nothing wrong with remembering or planning, but only if there is an equally important emphasis on the present. Only in this way will we restore harmony to our body between the actual and real and what is created in our thoughts and emotions. Being here and now, being aware of your current needs, emotions or feelings has a positive effect on many areas of human functioning. Many studies, e.g. the founder of mindfulness training, Jon Kabat-Zinn, points to an improvement in the experience of excessive stress, insomnia, low mood, emotional tension, chronic pain, etc. after using mindfulness therapy.

Conscious directing attention

A conscious focus on the here and now is also a valuable aid in reducing harmful behaviour and reactions that occur almost automatically. Directing your attention allows you to stop before taking thoughtless actions. Then you can think and decide to take steps that are beneficial and appropriate to the situation. Example? The most familiar to each of us will probably be reaching for a sweet or unhealthy snack when we are angry, irritable or sad. A chocolate bar or ice cream gives us immediate satisfaction and a kind of relief from those emotions. When we start to observe ourselves, over time we learn to catch the first signs of upcoming nervousness (the desire to eat something sweet) and inhibit destructive reactions to them (by drinking water and calming down).

Food for the brain

Interestingly, systematic work on mindfulness and emotional experiences translate into anatomical brain changes over time! In simple terms, if you learn to inhibit destructive action-response mechanisms, over time you will greatly accelerate your recovery from the stressor. You will also start to notice in your own experiences that often psychophysical reactions and the associated stress are inappropriate to the situation. For example, an argument with the boss that activates mechanisms in the body and mind that appear to trigger a response of endangering life and health, are completely incompatible with the real threat. The ability to be here and now allows you to regulate the state of tension in accordance with the actual state of the situation. Otherwise, being deaf for many years to messages from the body results in a sharp and often dangerous reaction, and both our mind and body begin to fall ill.