As humans, we have a tendency to worry about things both past and future, but ultimately, the only time and place that we have complete control over is the present moment.
In times of stress, many people find a sense of calm by practising mindfulness: an exercise that can help you to focus on the present moment, and better understand your thoughts and feelings.
Meditation is one of the best-known forms of mindfulness but there are also plenty of other everyday activities that can help keep your mind focused firmly on the here and now.
From colouring and learning pottery at home to bird watching and flowering arranging; below are 10 interesting activities that can help you stay in the present moment.
1. Mindful Cooking
With plenty of smells, sounds, and tastes to enjoy throughout, cooking can be a great way to focus your mind on the present moment. Many of us find ourselves rushing the process in an attempt to simply get through it and move on to eating, or one of many other tasks that we busy ourselves with during the daily grind.
However, taking the time to fully engage in an act of self-care like cooking can not only help to distract you from any racing thoughts, but it can provide a real sense of accomplishment. There’s something very satisfying about sitting down to enjoy a meal that you put real thought and care into – especially if it tastes great!
So next time you go to cook a meal, try to approach it as a mindfulness exercise. Whether you’re following a recipe, preparing your ingredients, or stirring your onions whilst they sizzle away in the pan, try to focus wholly on each step of the process. Think about each utensil that you are using and what it does. How useful is it to the process? You can also taste-test your food along the way, focusing on the texture and flavours.
Cooking can also be a colourful process, so consider how all the ingredients contrast with or complement each other from an aesthetic point of view. By having complete focus on each part of the cooking process, you’ll hopefully be able to find yourself really living in the moment and enjoying the journey just as much as the destination.
If you’re unsure how to get started with mindful cooking, Headspace has a free five-minute exercise that you can try here. It also offers three helpful techniques that you can use to bring greater awareness to your cooking sessions. And to take mindfulness that step further, our beginner’s guide to mindful eating will offer some useful tips.
You might also find it helpful to hear more about mindful cooking from someone who teaches it. Lina Mbirkou is a Mindful Coach, and she discusses some of the benefits of mindful cooking in the video below…
For some culinary inspiration to help you get started on your mindful cooking journey, you might like to have a browse of the food and drink section of our website.
If you find it difficult to keep your mind in the present moment, you might also notice that you experience feelings of restlessness that prevent you from relaxing.
When this happens, many of us turn to our smartphones and start scrolling through our social media news to keep our hands busy, and search for possible answers that may settle our worries.
However, this only tends to make the problem worse, because we come across new things to worry about. Knitting is a great remedy for this because it keeps both your hands and mind busy, at the same time as giving you a sense of accomplishment.
For centuries, knitting has been used as a way to relax and unwind. The repetitive movements of the knit and purl stitches can allow you to unlock a sense of flow and enter a somewhat meditative state. And although knitting is relaxing, it doesn’t allow your mind to wander too far – because drop a stitch and you’ll end up with a hole in your pattern.
If you’ve never tried knitting before, then consider giving it a go. Once you get the hang of it, it can be difficult to put it down! You’ll be knitting toys for your grandchildren and scarves for your neighbours before you know it.
Our comprehensive knitting guide for beginners will take you through everything you need to know to get started; including the basic techniques, materials, and equipment.
3. Flower arranging
Some people find great comfort in having flowers around the home because they can bring brightness and cheer, and connect us with nature.
So if you find joy in flowers, why not consider learning more about flower arranging? As an aesthetically pleasing activity that requires concentration and creativity, it can be great for helping you push negative thoughts out of your mind so that you’re better able to focus on the present moment.
Flower arranging can also be a fun and interesting skill to master. Many people think that it’s simply about placing a bunch of flowers in a vase of water, but flower arranging can soon become a very satisfying and relaxing hobby. From learning how to select the best flowers and creating masterpieces to understanding how best to cut and preserve them.
If you’re wondering where to get started, you’ll find plenty of inspiration and guidance in our article; 17 of the most popular and classic flower arranging styles. There are also a number of free video tutorials available on YouTube that cover the basics of flower arranging. For example, Simple Solutions: The basics of flower arranging and Creating a basic table arrangement.
Or, if you’re keen to study floristry in more depth and willing to spend a little bit of money in order to do so, why not consider taking an online course?
You can take up birdwatching from the comfort of your own home, or from your local park or woods. And it’s completely up to you how far you choose to explore it as a hobby.
It might be enough for you to simply watch the birds as they land on your windowsill, or on the roof or tree opposite your home. Try focusing on their movements and interactions, and consider how they relate to one another. Alternatively, you could choose to focus on the beautiful variety of colours or the different bird songs that each visitor has.
During the Covid-19 lockdowns, I became well acquainted with two pigeons who would regularly land on my window sill and peek in, or fight on the flat roof below. In my pre-lockdown life, I probably never would have noticed them, and I’ve found their interactions with one another quite intriguing. It’s a bit like a soap opera unfolding in front of me!
Those with a special interest in birds may want to take their birdwatching experience further by learning more about different species, how they behave, and where they tend to nest. If you’d like to find out more about birdwatching and how to develop it into a hobby, why not have a read of our beginner’s guide?
If you’ve got a lack of birds in your area or you struggle to spot them, you could consider doing a virtual birdwatching session. Explore.org has a range of live cams available that’ll allow you to check in on a wide range of birds, including Eagles, Great Herons, and Hummingbirds.
Over the last few years, colouring has become increasingly popular with adults. It’s frequently used to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. It’s thought that focusing on something creative, cheerful, and low-pressure can help to keep the mind busy and promote calmness.
Colouring is a stress-free activity because you can do as little or as much as you like in one sitting, and it’s difficult to make a mistake. It can also give you the feeling that you’re making progress with each new area that you fill.
It can be helpful to choose to colour drawings of things that you really like or that inspire you – because you’ll feel more inclined to work towards colouring the whole thing. Crayola has lots of free, highly-detailed drawings aimed at adults, that you can download, print off, and colour.
If none of the drawings on Crayola’s website takes your fancy, you could also consider buying yourself a colouring book. Some people prefer this as they can work through it systematically. Amazon has a great selection of colouring books available to buy.
For those who’d like to go a step further, and fancy learning how to paint or draw, our introductory guides can help you get started.
Whether you have a garden or not, there are plenty of ways that mindful interactions with nature can bring you peace and contentment.
Research shows that nature and happiness are closely interlinked because of nature’s ability to make us feel more connected to our surroundings. Gardening has also been shown to reduce feelings of loneliness, stress, and anxiety.
Whether you’re caring for a couple of small cacti on your windowsill or pruning a 10ft tall hedge, the act of tending to plants, flowers, and green spaces requires concentration on the task at hand – which is driven by the prospect of a pleasing result.
It’s quite difficult not to focus fully on repotting a plant or pruning your apple tree because of the desire to get it right; not just for aesthetic reasons, but so that you can help your plants and flowers live long, happy lives!
The home and garden section of our website has plenty of gardening tips and advice to help you get started. If you don’t have a garden but still want to work on your gardening skills, our articles; 10 things you can grow in a window box at home and 10 low-maintenance indoor plants that can add life to your home should offer plenty of inspiration.
Alternatively, to develop your gardening skills on an even deeper level, you could look into doing a complete gardening diploma with the New Skills Academy, which will teach you everything from the secrets of great soil to the importance of sustainability.
When you think of pottery, you might automatically be transported back to the famous scene in the 1990 film, Ghost, with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. But learning to throw a plate, pot, or mug on a potter’s wheel, can also be a mindful and fulfilling experience.
The great thing about clay is that it’s never boring and there’s an endless list of things you can create from it. Following your clay on its journey from a murky lump to a unique and beautiful object that you can place on your mantelpiece or gift to a friend, can be incredibly rewarding.
The reason that pottery can help to keep your mind in the present moment is because it really engages our senses – particularly touch or smell. For example, feeling the warm clay in your hands and smelling its earthy scent.
Clay can also be unpredictable and although you may have a clear idea in your mind of what you want to create, your ball of clay may have other ideas! In a recent interview with Vogue, ceramicist John Sheppard said, “You have to be in tune with the clay and react to what state it’s in to work with it.”
The downside to pottery is that setting up at home can be pricey. But if you’re planning to be in it for the long haul, then the investment can be worth it. Cromartie Hobbycraft has produced a helpful guide to help you choose the right pottery wheel, which you can find here.
Once you’re up and running, YouTube has a wide selection of free pottery tutorials including wheel throwing for beginners and how to wedge your clay. Or you can view other pottery courses through our website.
8. Decluttering and organising
Decluttering and organising is the kind of activity that once you start, it can be difficult to stop – and sometimes, it can happen without you even meaning to do it! Have you ever tried to look for something in a messy cupboard and before you know it, it’s three hours later and you’ve sorted and rearranged the entire thing? I know I have.
The process of organising and decluttering tends to be all-encompassing and can offer a great form of escapism. There’s no room for anything else in your head when you’re trying to figure out whether to keep those comfy brown loafers with the worn-out heels or that beautiful black dress that’s just one size too small but that could fit again one day.
The other great thing about decluttering and organising spaces is that you receive instant satisfaction when you see the results. You could also consider taking before and after pictures of your work to track your progress. We’d love to see them!
For further inspiration, organising consultant Marie Kondo has a great series on Netflix that’ll show you how to get rid of items that no longer bring joy to your life, and tidy those that do. She also offers some free tips over on her YouTube Channel.
Alternatively, you might want to take a decluttering and organising course.
Engaging in physical activity can be just as great for your entire wellbeing as it is for your body. Exercise not only encourages the release of endorphins (happy hormones), but it also connects your mind and body, helping to keep you in the present moment.
It’s difficult to exercise without considering how it makes you feel or tapping into the mental willpower to finish what you started. This is especially true of strenuous exercise that raises your heart rate and really gets you sweating. Our article, How exercise can lead to better brain health, has more information about the fascinating impact that exercise can have on our bodies.
If you haven’t yet found your sport or go-to exercise, you’ll find plenty of ideas on the fitness and exercise section of our website. From running and cycling to Tai Chi and walking football, there’s something for everyone.
10. Hanging out with your pet
Our pets tend to live in the present moment with little regard for the past or future – and this can make hanging out with them very refreshing. Seeing how happy and engaged they are with life can help us to forget about our own troubles.
Pets have a funny way of connecting with us emotionally. Because they can’t speak to us, we spend much time interpreting their behaviour and looking for signs of what they could be thinking or feeling. Focusing fully on our pets can help to focus our minds on the present moment.
Spending quality time with your pet could be something as simple as watching your fish swim around their tank and paying attention to the light on their scales and their interactions with one another. Or, you could try taking your dog for a long walk, playing fetch in the garden, or teaching them a new trick.
Our pets are precious, so any extra time with them can only be a good thing!
If you don’t currently have a pet, but you’re considering getting one, then you might find it useful to read our article on the 10 benefits of owning a pet.
“With mindfulness, you can establish yourself in the present in order to touch the wonders of life that are available in that moment.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh
Like everything in life, staying in the present moment becomes easier with practise. The more you engage with activities that you enjoy, the more likely you are to focus solely on the task in front of you.
Staying present can also be much easier if you temporarily free yourself from external factors like your smartphone or your TV. They tend to distract and prevent us from giving our full attention to tasks that we’re trying to complete. Feeling torn between multiple activities can increase feelings of anxiety and unrest too.
Being able to focus the mind on the present is so effective that it’s used by many high-performance athletes, artists, and musicians across the globe as a way of achieving peak focus when it really matters.
If you’d like to learn more about the practice of mindfulness and meditation, check out our introductory guide. Or, you can view mindfulness courses on the learning section of our website.