Have you ever spent time getting things done only to think a bit later that you are not sure if you have actually done them? In today’s live-by-the-minute, see-the-world-through-a-screen environment it is easy to go into auto-pilot and miss a great deal of what is happening around you.
How many conversations have you had where you realize mid-way through that you haven’t really heard what the person speaking has said, or read the same page in a book half a dozen times still not knowing what it is saying? We have become a world of distracted pseudo multi-taskers (no one really does it well), and the art of being mindful and present in your own environment is quickly being lost.
What is Mindfulness?
Simply put, being mindful is the practice of actively paying attention and exerting the effort to be purposely aware of your surroundings and the people with whom you interact. Being mindful also requires us to focus on what is happening now and everything that is a part of that “now” – things like sights, sounds, touch, smells, thoughts and feelings.
For many of us the focus each day is “getting things done.” We have lists and we rush from one task to another. In this state of constant hurry it can often feel like we are literally running and constantly on the verge of hyperventilation. Our focus is always 10 steps in front of us instead of where we are at the moment.
Why Be Mindful?
If we are moving through our days and weeks and things are getting done, why should we change? Perhaps because the measure of quality in life is not the checked boxes on your list but whether you have really enjoyed and been present in your experiences.
Being mindful requires us to stop worrying about the next thing we have to check off and to focus on the present. By pushing your brain through constant gyrations of “what’s next, what’s next,” you are more likely to fall prey to anxiety and stress. Living like this can at best cause unhappiness and at worst cause health problems. And whether we think it causes stress or not, trying to think through future tasks while attempting to complete a current task means you are not only overworking your brain, but you are also likely to miss something. That something could be important details or special time with those you love.
We can’t possibly fully enjoy the current moment when we are already pondering so many other things.
How to Be More Mindful
Becoming more mindful incorporates a number of practices and it isn’t something that happens overnight. Beginning the process, however, can make an immediate difference in the satisfaction you feel at the end of the day and substance of your relationships. So how do you begin being more mindful? Check out these tips for ways to get started.
- Slow down. Yes, deadlines are everywhere, and many of us feel like we need to hurry through each thing in order to experience the next. The truth is that moving too fast leaves us open to mistakes, both personally and professionally, and experiences that happen in a rush are not fully experienced. Slow down and pay attention to what you are doing. You are likely to be more successful and also find more enjoyment.
- Breathe. Sounds easy, right? Mindful breathing, however, forces you to slow down and focus. Doing this will slow your heart rate and begin reducing stress and anxiety.
- Be Aware. At different points in your day stop and just look around. Consider the people you see and what they are doing, the smells that surround you, and the sounds that you hear. It seems basic, but this is where you are right now, have you really noticed all the aspects of your present experience?
- Meditate. The act of quieting your mind is a powerful way to gain control and focus. It also gives you time to sort through the jumble of thoughts that you have stashed to the side in all the busyness of the day. This doesn’t have to take long, a few minutes a day is enough to allow to feel centered and calm.
Given how fast we move each day and the pervasive feeling of needing to “get it all done,” many of us find ourselves stressed, anxious and feeling constantly behind. By making the effort to be more mindful we can begin to focus on the things that make life worth living. Because measuring each day by how much you have checked off your list isn’t truly living.