We all know that cats are fascinating creatures and give us so much through their companionship — that’s why we love them! Look more closely though at their characters and mindset and you’ll find they can inspire us to improve the way we live. Anita Kelsey explores the ways we can find more happiness by being more present, just like our cats...
If there’s one thing I can put my finger on for why most humans love animals, it’s because animals live in the moment. When you live in the moment, you are not worrying about the past or future — it doesn’t exist. Only the now matters and this state of mind relaxes us, freeing us from the barrage of stresses that usually play havoc within our worry-happy brains.
We may think that our cats display an anxious look on their faces with furrowed brows, perhaps at those times when we hold inside our own inner guilt for being out, or late with opening their favourite meaty snack, but these are our own projections.
Our cats, if we are honest, can look however we want them to look just by marrying them up with the story and daily dramas inside our own heads.
I have lost count of the amount of times clients have told me that their cat is looking guilty or annoyed and yet, if I were to ask them to take a photo of these different emotional states, their cat’s face would look the same in them all.
So, how do cats live in the moment so well and what can we learn from them?
According to John Staughton for website Science ABC, our advancement as a species has been built on “the ability to be self-aware with an extended complex language working alongside short, long, and working memory”. Although cats can remember positive and negative experiences when presented with certain stimuli, they do not possess the ability to be self-aware, and with no complex language and depth of understanding to create a past and future, they have the luxury of living more in the present.
Can you imagine how stressful life would become for a cat if they possessed our ability to think, project, and worry? Every day would start with the thought: “What if our feeder died just as their hands reached the tin opener?”
Dr Lauren Finka, a behaviour and welfare scientist who specialises in the domestic cat, agrees that our feline companions live far more in the present than us. She says: “In comparison to humans, it is probably very true that cats live in the moment — they are certainly unlikely to be worrying about the future or what might happen tomorrow, and much more likely to be experiencing and reacting to their current environment.”
So, how can we make ourselves be more cat and live in the moment?
The answer is to occasionally stop everything and take in what is around us. This is actually quite a feat considering we are surrounded by a barrage of social media at the tips of our fingers via our mobile phones.
To many of us, social media makes us feel a part of something, gives us meaning, and makes us feel less isolated and appreciated, on the back of all those likes and comments. There’s a need for balance however, as the more we connect to a virtual reality, the more we disconnect from what’s all around us in the moment, and we are missing some pretty amazing things. Taking time out to spend with our cats is one of them!
Stroking the soft fur of a cat and hearing their purrs fill the air gives us a sense of joy because we know the cat is happy in the moment with us and that sound helps us forget our own seemingly endless worries. In that moment, our breath becomes slower, our minds empty, and a smile can be felt across our souls. We finally relax, even if for a short while — with mental and physical benefits. Our cats know this feeling every day. They want to connect with us but we sometimes don’t give them that undivided quality time.
Anyone can be more present by taking a step back. By switching off everything electronic that our brains tap into, such as mobile phones, computers, and the television. No longer confined by social expectations, potential problems, or bombarded with adverts and the trivial incessant chatter of life, one can automatically feel lighter. Try to create an environment and routine that has less distractions and helps you be more present. Introduce daily deadlines to switch off devices and online notifications.
Set aside some time each day to do something that is purely in that moment. You will feel the benefit and as you improve your ability to live more in the moment, you will be able to bring greater focus to work tasks to achieve more and find it easier to relax and unwind, which brings health benefits too.
We can achieve this sense of lightness and calm by taking a walk in the park or closing one’s eyes to listen to the gentle rhythm of flowing water in a stream, or just sitting quietly in our homes allowing our minds to empty and our breathing to slow its pace. Although, our cats would like us to think we can only achieve Zen-like emotions by stroking them — they could well be right.
Did you know?
Mindfulness is maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, helping us to be more present. Many people actively practise mindfulness using a variety of techniques including meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, or simple activities provided by online apps and guides.