The feeling of depersonalization and disengagement is a frustrating experience to say the least. You don’t feel as if you’re actually living your own life, as you either perceive that you’re watching yourself live your life from outside of your body or that your brain is on autopilot as you just cruise along. So I’d like to take a moment to discuss some techniques to help you stay engaged in the present moment:
Focus. Simply put, focus your attention right now on what you’re doing right now at this very moment. This is the primary goal of engagement. Allow any thoughts you have about the past or the future to pass right through your mind. Use visualization techniques if you need to (side note: I actually used to hate the idea of visualization techniques when I was younger and more stubborn, but it’s actually very effective in my experience), and watch those thoughts sail away like leaves on a stream.
Get Involved. Get involved in activities that you enjoy, or even take on some new hobbies that will provide you with new experiences. Maybe you can seek out to do some volunteer work, or maybe you can volunteer to take on a new project at work. Or maybe you can just simply have a conversation with a friend or a co-worker. Even if you do prefer structure and routine in your life, do something that changes up whatever your current monotonous routine is.
Put Your Phone Away. Honestly, sometimes we just need some “me time” where we’re a little unavailable and just focus on ourselves. I do this periodically during the week after work and it feels great. I don’t watch a lot of television, but during this time I’ll watch some old MMA (I’m still trying to watch every UFC, PRIDE, Strikeforce, and EliteXC event from before I became a full-time fan in 2008) or some baseball, or I’ll go play park golf or workout, or I’ll just read uninterrupted. We live in an era where people are glued to their phones and are constantly exposed to frequent bursts of information (sometimes useless, sometimes useless) and this saps our mental energy.
Lose Track of Time. For me, this a big key to feeling engaged in what I’m doing at the current moment. I’ve gotten into the habit of living a pretty regimented lifestyle for one reason or another (I think it started in grad school, where time management was a huge key to success), but once in a while it’s pretty nice to just live spontaneously and not care what time it is, and not have to worry about being late for whatever you plan on doing next. There isn’t much more that I like most than having a day that’s completely free of obligations, where I can just go out, have fun, relax, and not feel obligated to check what time it is because I have to be somewhere by a certain time. It just feels great to be able to live your own life on your own terms.
Jam Pack Your Schedule. On the contrary, sometimes it’s also nice to have a lot on your plate. Of course, you need to remember that you’re doing this for fun so never perceive all these activities as something you have to do (unless it’s for your career, of course, but even then you can delegate some tasks). There are times where after work is over, I’ll immediately drive to a neighboring city to catch a baseball game or visit an art gallery, or I’ll immediately go out with some friends for dinner. It’s nice because this allows me to have something to look forward to after work, but also forces me to focus to finishing my day’s work by a certain deadline that day so I can get out and go enjoy whatever activity I’m looking forward to after work. It really forces me to engage and focus on the moment.
Don’t Sit Still. Pretty much, having too much time to be alone with your thoughts can be a bad thing. Yes, it’s great to have some time where you’re not busy so you can reflect and think, but too much time on your hands leads to overthinking, and this is going to drive you nuts after a while.
So in conclusion, focus on the present moment and what you are doing right now. Take a moment to perceive your surroundings and focus. Remember to get involved in activities that you enjoy, live a fulfilled life full of activities you enjoy, allow yourself to lose track of time once in a while, and put your phone away once in a while. If you take these simple pieces of advice, you’ll find yourself feeling more engaged with your current surroundings.