How To Turn Boring Moments Into Life-Altering Mindfulness Exercises
I recently watched Oprah interview author Michael Pollan. During the interview, Pollan explained one of his life rules: "When chopping onions, just chop onions." It's kind of funny, but also highly profound: Pollan makes a conscious effort to be present and appreciative of what he's doing, even in the most mundane situations. How wonderful, right?
This got me thinking about how many opportunities there are in our everyday lives to be mindful and actually get a lot out of the task at hand. Too often, we're so busy rushing around or looking at our Smartphones that we buzz through the day in a zone of haziness.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are tiny opportunities throughout your day to be more mindful, to stop multitasking and to boost productivity. Here are four of my favorites:
1. Make time to eat breakfast without distractions.
I like to take my time in the mornings. I wake up early and slowly get ready. Having a relaxed start makes my whole day feel more serene. An important part of my morning ritual is breakfast. I find it’s best when I just eat. That’s it. No other distractions. I don’t read the newspaper, I don’t check my phone. I just eat. It helps me come up with new ideas and focus on enjoying my food.
As a result, I often find myself better able to be present for the rest of my morning.
2. Start taking mindful showers.
When we think of taking a shower, most of us probably think of a rushed morning routine. By contrast, baths are normally associated with relaxation. But showers can really help to kick-start your morning in a productive way. So many people think of good ideas when they’re in the shower that someone invented waterproof sticky notes so that these pearls of wisdom aren't forgotten. Isn’t that brilliant?
3. Take a walk!
Being indoors can make us feel stagnant, so get outside and go for a walk. Going for a stroll is also a great opportunity for people watching. Is the old lady sitting on the bench waiting for someone or just hanging out? The couple walking silently next to each other — are they fighting, or just quietly content? The people in cars driving by, where are they going?
I make up stories about people I see on the street all the time — it’s a fun little habit I picked up as a kid, and it's a strange exercise in being present! Other people can be a great source of inspiration for new experiences and new ideas.
4. Relish sitting in traffic ... yes, really.
Being in traffic is one of the most frustrating experiences out there. We fixate on all the things we could be doing, all the places we need to be. But the reality is that traffic happens, and there’s nothing you can do about it. So be present with the time traffic is affording you to simply be.
Sound crazy? When you feel yourself starting to obsess and get frustrated, instead allow your mind to wonder; it’s not very often you get the chance to sit and relax. Plus, a study at the University of California at Santa Barbara found that when people are given tasks that give them a chance to daydream, they're more likely to be creative.
These are just a few examples of ways to turn the mundane tasks of your day into magical moments that will help you feel greater happiness, less stress, and be more productive!
You can get a free chapter of my book, Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed here.