These days, we are super connected— through the email, Skype, Facebook-Twitter-Instagram-Snapchat that are rarely less than an arm's length away. We can connect with anyone, anywhere, at practically any time— and we're expected to. It's difficult to get connected with the moment when you're alerted each second to what is going on somewhere else. Being so highly connected demands your ever present attention— gone are the days when you can pretend you didn't see that email or message (unless you're like me, and you don't own a phone, in which case, rock on babes). Though social media is an incredibly powerful tool, and I wouldn't be able to do what I do today without it, we are sometimes missing out on other connection, with our selves, our partners, our friends, and our surrounding. Here are 9 ways you can get mindful today, and bring yourself into that wondrous place: now.
1. Ditch Your Phone
I know this one is going to be really hard for most people. I'm not saying go completely phoneless like I have (although if you're willing to take that one on, I totally recommend it). What I am recommending is getting completely disconnected from your phone for a while. Turn it off, put it in a drawer— even for just one hour a day, or one day a week. People often ask me how I make it through the day without my phone. Well, very much as people have for most of time. When you're hanging out with friends or spending a date night with your partner, make a pact to put all of the phones away— you'll be amazed how your interactions change. Studies have suggested that even the presence of a phone on the table will alter your behaviour.
Dedicate a few minutes of each day to simply sitting and being in the moment— even if you only have five minutes to spare. This is one that I am just starting to incorporate into my life, and I sit for five or ten minutes each morning and simply be.
The goal here is not to have any thoughts— thoughts are natural. Accept them, acknowledge them, and return to your breathing. If you feel really uncertain, you may even decide to rock a guided meditation. Zen Habits has some fantastic tips for beginners which I recommend checking out.
3. Break your routine
Habits are incredibly powerful— we often wake up, make coffee, check email and get ready for work without ever really thinking about what we're doing. When you drove to work, pulled to the end of your driveway, did you think about which way to turn? Of course not. Habit.
Breaking these habits every now and then allow us to live more presently, to approach something from a different angle and see it in a new way. Change the order in which you do things on a Saturday morning. Clean your house differently. Walk a different way to class. Try a task using your non-dominant hand. Tripping up your expectations and your perfectly polished habits allows you to focus on what is actually happening around you or to you.
4. Write about or draw something ordinary
Take a moment to get really familiar with something you see everyday. We get desensitized by these things, and even things that we once coveted and loved become ho-hum and ordinary. Get out some paper and draw or write about an ordinary object in your space. Pick it up. Look at it from different angles, flip it upside down. How does it feel? Is it cold? Rough? Chipped? Dusty? Write about the way the light falls around the object. Draw some of the details. Write about how it smells. Where did it come from? How do you feel about it? How old is it? Did it belong to someone else?
You might find the ordinary things around you become a little bit more wonderful. It will also help you get in tune with the object that take up space around you— you may find you didn't have the connection an object you thought you did. Keep only those possessions which are useful, or bring you joy.
5. Stop talking
It's easy to get into bad conversational habits— especially with the people you are closest to. Can you remember the last time you cut someone off, or finished their sentence, even if your intentions were good?
The next time you're having a conversation with someone, whether they are a stranger or a lover, listen closely to what they are saying. Don't do anything— don't text, don't let your eyes wander all over the place— just focus on what they are saying, and how they are saying it.
6. Do something very slowly
Have you ever rushed your way through a meal while standing up, only to head back to work? I know I have. I've eaten so quickly that I barely remembered what I ate, let alone what it tasted like. Try slowing down regular tasks such as eating or bathing or even putting away clothing. Let yourself feel each piece of clothing, it's texture and scent as you fold it carefully and put it in it's place. It's not such a bad thing to be folding freshly washed clothing. Let it become a treat.
Next time you have chocolate? Really take the time to enjoy it. Sit down, get in the bath or in bed. Let the chocolate melt on your tongue and think about the texture and the flavours. Do you notice anything you hadn't noticed before? Where does the chocolate come from?
7. Observe your breathing
Our breath can tell us a lot about how we're feeling— even if we are not consciously aware of it. When you first wake up, spend a few minutes simply observing your breathing. Is it smooth and free flowing or tense and restrictive?
Next time you're feeling a little stressed, take a moment to follow your breathe, feeling the air passing through your nose and between your lips. Breathe out long and slow and feel the sense of calm that comes with intentional breathing.
8. Ditch multitasking
I'm all for productivity and organization, but sometimes we're simply doing too many things at once. Whether it is at work or at home, it's okay to simply focus in on one action— in fact you'll probably find that when you ditch multitasking you become more productive. Focusing on one action to completion allows you to dedicate all of your skill and awareness at once, rather than being plagued by distraction. You're not writing quality if you're also scrolling Instagram. Give everything a time and place. There is a great sense of satisfaction that comes from completing a full task, rather than getting a start on seven.
9. Be in your body
Have you ever been sitting at your desk or on your couch for ages only to realize that your shoulders are hanging out somewhere near your ears and your head and neck have a good shot in a turtle imitation contest? Many of these behaviours get worse and worse over time because we're simply not aware of them. It takes time to become aware of what you are doing with your body, but take some time— maybe at lunch each day— to sit for a moment and be aware of how you are feeling. Where is there tension or pain? Where can you correct your posture? Does your mouth feel like a desert?
Stretch it out. Roll your shoulders a few times or try eagle pose (this one has saved my shoulders and back more times than I can count). If you're sitting at home working, get up and move for a few moments, or take a walk around the block with your coffee. Be aware of how different your body feels after.
What is your biggest struggle with mindfulness? How do you practice mindfulness each day? Let me know in the comments!
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