We touched on some of the benefits of mindfulness in the previous section. Here, we go even deeper into the reasons why it is important to cultivate this skill in your own life. Essentially, it all boils down to the following statement:
The present moment – this moment – is all we have. Life can only exist now.
We are powerless to act in the past or the future. We can plan for the future, reminisce or cringe about the past, but all of this happens in the present. Given that you are wanting to make a change in your life and better manage your social anxiety, you must recognise that your power to do this lies in the present.
It follows then that learning to be in the present is an important part of your journey. People with social anxiety are often not good at this – after all, anxiety is driven by a negatively biased view of the future. As we discussed in Week 1, people with social anxiety are hyper-focused on signals of threat within their environment and symptoms of anxiety within themselves. They often get carried away by unhelpful thinking, which leaves them unable to perform at their best or enjoy the moment.
When you judge yourself, worry about the mistakes you might make, or criticize your performance, you are not paying attention to what’s really happening in that moment. Your thoughts are elsewhere and have taken over. For example, if you are anxious about making a speech, you might focus in on your physical sensations (rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms) and thoughts (“I’ll freeze up and make a fool of myself”) and ignore all the other information in your environment (people look interested, no one has commented that you look nervous).
Before moving on, we encourage you to take a moment to think about where your mind spends most of its time – past, present, or future? What could be some benefits of bringing your mind into the present more often?