How to focus/have more presence/be more lively/live in the moment?
May 6, 2013 6:18 AM   Subscribe

Basically I am a SERIOUS daydreamer and while I love this about myself and it makes me-time fun etc I have been told that I seem floaty and spaced out even in social interactions and I have noticed that people don't connect with me as much/take me as seriously!! This has not affected my daily functioning, but it is becoming a problem in my personal life and also in my work life because how am I supposed to achieve my goals if people don't connect with me or dismiss me because I seem 'distracted'... I would like to be more lively and focused and I would be grateful for any advice on that (I am anticipating lots of 'meditation' but would like other suggestions if possible as meditation is torturous and I have tried it and hated it.)
posted by dinosaurprincess to Human Relations (15 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I have this problem too. Meditation is really helpful because it gives you a skillset that lets you temporarily stop your daydream narrative, but diving right into meditation is really hard if you're someone with a busy inner life. Hatha yoga works really well for me because the physical activity distracts me from the mental work; maybe worth a shot.

Otherwise, I've found that I can be as friendly and open as anyone else for short, expected, finite periods of time. I think of it not as a state of being but as a task I have to do. It's best if I can "reward" myself with solitude right after. Keeping a set schedule for myself on Google Calendar is key for this: I can look at my week and see immediately when I need to be "on" and when I can be "off."
posted by oinopaponton at 6:40 AM on May 6, 2013

First, recognize there is a time for daydreaming and a time for being present to life. You can do both without losing what you love about yourself, but simply to recognize which time is which.

When you want to be present, you can try several methods:

- Visualize gathering all your fluffy thoughts and feelings into a tight package, and pull that package into you.
- Repeat to yourself, I am right here, right now, until you feel like you are.
- A psychologist who practices mindfulness shared a personal trick: he spends a moment to think of an upcoming, potentially very boring or frustrating event, as the last thing he will ever do in life. Naturally, it helps immensely to pull his full attention toward it!
posted by enlivener at 6:44 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Daydreaming's cool. If you love it about yourself, why are you looking to change it?

If you are distracted in work and life, that indicates a lack of stimulation, in which case daydreaming may be the result, not the cause.

If people are not connecting with you, chances are that you are also not connecting with them. If you are not interested in them, it would make sense that you would not connect with them. If people are not taking you seriously, that may indicate that you are not taking yourself seriously. In many situations, people treat us how we 'ask' to be treated.

If you are under-stimulated, you will lose interest in the people around you, and they in turn will lose interest in you. Daydreaming may well fill the gap in that connection. Thus, if you want to solve the daydreaming 'problem', perhaps look at why you are under-stimulated, yeah?

But I wouldn't try and diminish a part of your inner life that you really enjoy. Not to say you need to accentuate it, but perhaps protect it a bit. Give it a time and place. Allow it to be. And realise what drives it. If it's driven by free time – that is time when you are under-engaged – what do you need to do to be less under-engaged? Become more engaged. How do you become more engaged?
posted by nickrussell at 6:45 AM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I used to teach a course where I asked students to practice ethnographic interviewing technique on each other, and each time I made sure we had first completed an introduction to anthropological ethics where they pondered real and hypothetical problems of fieldwork to come to an understanding of their duty to attend to and represent well the interests of the folks they'd be talking to. So, for the exercise, there was a strong foundation for saying you have a duty to make yourself interested and care about this person's point of view as well as you can. And that worked uniformly. The results were way, way better than you'd expect from pairing random people and saying "listen to your interviewee."

So while I think it would be fine to continue living in your head and not change, I think it should be possible to exhort yourself in the same way to pay attention to what people are saying because you've taken up an erhical habit of caring.

I can't think of anything I've ever been good at that didn't require a habit of attending to details that were not as much fun as daydreaming or whatever, and social skills, for me at least, are the same. But if you can see a higher purpose to it, it's a lot easier and more rewarding.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 6:54 AM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Living in your head means you don't get to experience the real world and can insulate you from the power of experiences and emotions, both positive and negative. There's a time and place for it, sure, but not as a substitute for real life. I think that paying closer attention to the people who are with you is important--if you're "under stimulated" you might not be really listening. Paying attention at work might bot be fun, but nothing is fun all the time. Can you schedule a time and a place for you flights of fancy as a reward for completing tasks you're not wild about?
posted by Ideefixe at 7:05 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

People tend to make a big polarization between meditation and everything else that they do, which I think tends to reinforce the torturousness of it for beginning meditators. It's kind of like someone in really bad shape who decides to start running, but doesn't keep it up because it's too painful and tiring -- maybe walking is a better type of exercise.

There's a beauty and fascination in traditional meditation postures and exercises like staying with only your breath for 30 minutes, but what if we saw this as actually a rather advanced practice? It's not impossible to start like this, many do. (Many people who really get into Zen meditation, I've discovered, have some personality traits like stubbornness, perfectionism, etc, that keep them sitting for 30 minutes even though at first they kind of hate it.)

The meditation teacher Alan B. Wallace actually recommends the serious practice of the "corpse pose" (so called shavasana), i.e., lying flat down on a yoga mat. He had a very serious Indian yoga teacher who taught this as an important practice, kind of foundational for meditation. It makes sense to me.

But I think a great "practice" is to just sit down with a cup of tea in an armchair. Pay some attention to your breath, to the birdsong and traffic sounds, or to whatever other simple, grounding thing is going on. Don't try to wipe out all your thoughts, just cultivate an interest in the stuff that isn't thoughts, so that you don't become totally stuck in daydreams and ruminations.

My feeling is that what's actually difficult about this type of practice is that there's so many thoughts that come up that seem seriously important and worth indulging in. For some people these thoughts mostly revolve -- sadly -- around their own inadequacy. Letting go of these thoughts can feel kind of weird and wrong. That's one reason why it's useful to have a set period of time: while I drink this cup of tea, I don't need to think, I'll think later.

My experience is that after a while of doing meditative practices, I'm actually fascinated by it so much that I gravitate towards it in a lot of situations, like walking, riding the bus, and so on. (I also do formal meditation, often in the seiza posture, and find it very valuable.)
posted by mbrock at 7:11 AM on May 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

meditation is torturous and I have tried it and hated it

It's supposed to suck at first because our minds are not used to focusing on and/or letting go of thoughts. It's used to a constant stream of chatter, so it feels awful when you try to let go of that. Sort of like when you don't have your morning coffee or when you can't compulsively check your phone.

However, it gets better with practice, and it's worth it. There is so much freedom in not being pushed around by your chattering monkey mind. Instead of a wandering, aimless mind, YOU choose the direction. This doesn't mean you have to give up your creativity and imagination; instead, you can channel it into writing or art or music.
posted by desjardins at 7:17 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Notice what specific feelings / thoughts / circumstances send you into La-La Land. It could be an avoidance mechanism.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:25 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

One simple thing you might try when you're with other people is to look them directly in the eye more than you might be doing now. I have a day-dreamy friend who has trouble connecting because she talks while staring into space somewhere to the left of the person she's supposedly having a conversation with. Because she's not actually looking at the person's face, she doesn't see the little changes of expression that indicate interest or the lack of it, so she fails to connect with them.
posted by ceiba at 7:29 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I also wanted to recommend Hatha Yoga. It's super fun, you feel amazing after, and it's guaranteed to increase your self awareness and presentness in the moment.

You learn to focus on your breath (just like in meditation), but you are also focusing in the sensations in your muscles (which are often intense) so that there's no way to be bored. Once you learn to focus in yoga, you can take that skill and use it in your everyday life. Focusing on your breath and posture can connect you to the present moment at any time.

Also wanted to second eye contact. People will pay attention and remember you more if you look them in the eye when you speak to them.
posted by winterportage at 9:22 AM on May 6, 2013

Best answer: but it is becoming a problem in my personal life and also in my work life because how am I supposed to achieve my goals if people don't connect with me or dismiss me because I seem 'distracted'

Do you "seem" distracted, or are you in fact distracted? If you're checking out to daydream when you're having face-to-face encounters with people, then this is problematic.

Nthing that you begin paying attention to what gets you into check-out space: if it's a boring staff meeting where you're not expected to speak, that's one thing; if it's conversing with pretty much anyone one-on-one or in small groups, that's something else.

Agree with ceiba that you begin making more eye contact. If you just have a daydreamy demeanor even when you're not daydreaming, this will send the signal that hi, you're present and paying attention. If you're actually daydreaming, a gentle reminder to yourself to make eye contact and be present physically and mentally can help break the cycle.

re: hating meditation - everyone hates it at first. It's hard. You may find other kinds of meditation besides the sitting quietly kind to work better for you, whether it's walking, yoga, or hawkwatching (maybe that's just me, though!).
posted by rtha at 9:24 AM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I too hate meditation. I even kinda hate yoga. But I like Headspace. The dude is talking and he is nice and ten minutes goes by so fast.
posted by dame at 4:56 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

i'm not a therapist but it sounds like you might be dissociating. dissociation is on a continuum with day dreaming being its mildest form. you can read a little about dissociation here. usually what is recommended are grounding skills. meditation may not be what you want to do if you are dissociating as it can exacerbate dissociation for some people. instead try some grounding techniques to help you be in the present and physically grounded. some people really find the ones listed at the end of this list that focus on one's senses like touch, sight, etc. helpful. here are some to try:

Utilize safe place
Visualize setting aside overwhelming feeling/emotion
Internally concentrate/become absorbed in activity
Express something verbally – yell if necessary
Write in journal
Do anger work with a qualified therapist
Breathing exercises
Relaxation exercises
Call on internal support
Visualize a “Stop” sign
Use positive affirmations
Connect with the here and now
Talk in the mirror
Transfer emotion/memory into a mirror
Monitor self talk – change negative to positive’
Identify cognitive distortions and replace with counter statements
Repeat a grounding phrase – “I am here right now”
Give self permission to address one thing at a time
Identify (in writing) all problems in two groups: those you have/cannot have control over
Focus on those problems which you do have control over
Decide what is important and what is not
Keep it simple
Utilize a transitional (safe) object
Pray – serenity prayer
Find a safe person
Listen to a tape of self affirmations
Identify the trigger/source of your feelings
Change sensory component
Sight: take a walk/read a book/enjoy a view
Touch: ice, cuddle your pet or a teddy bear/ take a bath/hug someone
Sound: Television, radio, music/ talk to someone
Taste: treat yourself to something you don’t normally eat
Smell: perfume or lotions/ bake
posted by wildflower at 11:38 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

i just wanted to add that everyone dissociates to some degree so it isn't something to be overly concerned about. we all day dream or when driving occasionally zone out and can't remember the details of getting from point A to point B. those are examples of mild dissociation. also, dissociation is a result of overstimulation rather than under stimulation.
posted by wildflower at 11:58 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

The first thing that came to mind was dissociation. So, what wildflower said. It's been a problem for me most of my life. Grounding is what works in the moment if you're dissociating, so try that.

Dissociation is a coping mechanism. Depending on how much of a problem it is, you may want to talk with a therapist to find out where it originated with you.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:36 AM on May 7, 2013

« Older Camping spots in VT, NH, or MA   |   Have a hated tattoo? I want to remove it for you... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.