The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love they bloom like flowers. — Thich Nhat Hanh
Reading the news on your phone while you make coffee and give the dog his breakfast. Instagramming lunch while giving advice to a friend and ordering another cup of coffee. Sneaking in a morning session on the elliptical while listening to a business podcast and scanning the headlines.
Are you exhausted from reading that paragraph? I’m exhausted imagining those scenarios — and most of us live some version of that every single day.
It’s incredibly tempting to multi-task our way through life. It seems like a sure-fire way to squeeze more productivity from every minute. In reality, we usually end up doing several things poorly rather than one thing well.
If you’re not familiar with it, the concept of mindfulness can sound painfully hippie-dippy and not particularly useful given our packed schedules and never-empty inbox. But mindfulness is simply the practice of being aware of what is going on around you and inside you. It means living in the present and consciously making the most of each and every day.
With the rise of social media and our ever-present smartphones, it’s hard to appreciate a moment without putting it through the snap/filter/upload/tag process. And we’ve all been deep in conversation only to be interrupted by an incoming message or email. It’s maddening, it’s unhealthy and — the good news is — it’s 100% reversible.
We can change this by just being more cognizant of our behaviors and how they affect our daily lives. By incorporating just a few mindfulness techniques into our lives we can all lead more mindful, abundant existences. Here are some ideas for you:
1. Have real meals.
When you’re ravenous, nothing will stop you from getting fork to mouth as fast as possible. When you’re busy, meals frequently become a series of snacks consumed in front of a screen. But what if you actually set a place at the table — place mat, cloth napkin, glass of ice water, the whole bit?
What if you made sure that each meal included a main and a side (and maybe half a cupcake for dessert)? What if you spent a few moments thinking about how the food got on your plate? Who grew it, nurtured it, transported it and stocked it on the shelf?
Giving your meal, your food, and your health the attention it deserves is a gift that you can give yourself three times a day. "Conscious chewing" is a nice way to look at it.
2. Wander with no destination.
When I’m running errands, I practically triangulate my route to use my time as productively as possible. You too? We all run from one destination to the next, while working our way through mental to-do lists and evaluating our days based on what we’ve accomplished. But have you ever considered stopping for a moment and just … being?
Try driving to a new part of town and going for a walk. Do some window shopping, check out the landscaping, maybe pop into a new coffee shop. Explore a state park with no agenda other than counting squirrels and identifying flowers. Give yourself the space and time to view the world around you without schedules or expectations.
3. Make your car a calm space.
The next time you set foot in your car, take that opportunity to be more mindful. When stopping at a red light, breathe deeply, filling your lungs and emptying them completely. Notice what’s around you: the little girl waiting for her school bus, the family in the minivan next to you. How many times can you do this? You’ll be calmer every time the light turns green.
Consider making your time in the car tech-free. Don’t use those long drives to catch up on phone calls and (obviously) none of that texting-at-the-red-light business. Make your commute quiet time, "me time," silent reflection time. Brew some herbal tea for the drive and sip it while you take those deep breaths.
When we commit to slowing down and engaging with the present moment, amazing things happen. We’re calmer, kinder, more centered people. Our days stretch with meaning and intent and life gets a lot sweeter.