Mindfulness is a term lots of us toss around in self-help land.
What does it really mean?
Major religions encourage mindfulness as a channel to divine guidance.
Psychology uses it to help alleviate everything from depression and anxiety to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, to addiction relapses.
On the physical front, mindfulness is credited with improving everything from insomnia to digestive disorders.
It changes our brains for the better. But, I’ve always been really bad at it.
When I’m at my most frayed, difficult to be around and grumpy–when I eat the most junk and get the least done, it’s always because my mind is somewhere else.
Usually, I’m ruminating about something that has happened in the past (something, by the way, that I can’t do anything about. Past=over). Or, I’m projecting into the future with scary, sarcastic, negative or fear-laden stories about how things might turn out.
All of this mind meandering also costs me enormous amounts of time.
I once spent 20 minutes frantically searching for a missing receipt that I managed to misplace somewhere in the 50 feet between the checkout line and the door at Costco. Not kidding.
Don’t get me started on the number of times I’ve missed the exit, or the chance to really connect to someone meaningfully, or the free time I’ve given up–all by getting lost in thought about old stuff or worrying about future stuff.
“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.”
Bottom line, being mindful is really about noticing what’s going on around you and in your brain, without judging or assessing. It’s practicing presence. Still sound a little airy fairy? Mumbo jumbo-y?
For me, the simplest route to experiencing more mindfulness is just awareness. It’s noticing what’s going on in this moment.
3 ways to be more mindful.
1) Choose a world or set of words that helps you connect to right now.
For me, it’s awareness.
Now. Here. Be present.
Here I am.
These are all good mantras to reconnect you to mindfulness.
Take a deep breath, or three.
Then, take a second to turn your head and notice, really notice, your surroundings.
And… do it without judgement (that’s the most challenging part, for me).
When you mind starts shooting off a string of commentary and “not enough” thoughts, simply notice them and imagine them like a ticker tape or scrolling words at the bottom of a TV screen.
Then, shift your attention to something beautiful or interesting in your surroundings.
Notice what’s happening in your body. Does it want to move, shift, or be fueled? My body being physically hungry and telling me it wants to eat is different than my mind feeling bad about some thought I’m having and wanting food to stuff down the lousy feeling. Just notice and give yourself permission not to act.
3) Recognize the myth of multitasking.
Our brains convince us we can multitask, yet, those same brains let us down miserably on that front. Research tells us multitasking cuts our productivity by more than 40%.
Smartphones may be the #1 culprit for continuing our worship of destructive multitasking… and they can turn us into inconsiderate jerks. In just one day at the mall, I nearly accidentally knocked over a woman who was texting directly in front of a swing-out door at a store.
Then, I was nearly run over by somebody else who was walking and texting and didn’t realize where they were going.
Stepping off my soapbox, now.
To summarize-multitasking=time suck and manners sabotager.
For this week, play with calling your mind back when you find yourself lost in thought. Then, let me know how this mindfulness thing works out for you.