I read this story once, on Facebook I think, about a father and son. The father, we’re told, would spend afternoons playing with his young son, and any time the father would leave the room, even if it was only for a moment, the son would shout “Daddy, where are you?” The story goes on to tell us that one day, the father was playing with his son, and they were interrupted by a notification on the father’s phone. The father paused for a moment to check his phone. The son shouted “Daddy, where are you?”
This story has stuck with me for a long time. I don’t know if it was a true story, or just something made up to make a point, but the end result is the same either way. Children are so often the embodiment of living mindfully. They are in the moment, they are aware, and they don’t question what they feel, they just feel. The young son in the story was as aware of his father’s physical absence as he was of dad’s emotional absence. A cute story to remind us that being there is not the same as being present.
So what does that mean for us, in our day to day lives? By now, we’ve all heard of living more mindfully, but in practice, how do we do that? Here are 5 ways you can live more mindfully starting today.
1. Be Creative
As a creator myself, this is probably my favorite tip. Mindfulness and creativity go hand in hand. Engaging, challenging creative work can take you into a state of heightened awareness and consciousness, and being more mindful can lead to more expressive creativity. When you get into the flow of your creative process, whether you’re painting or writing or cooking or singing off key in the car on the way to work, that flow and rhythm you find is a lot like finding your center.
Today’s world moves at a frantically fast pace. Everything is due yesterday, there are 100 chores and errands to do, and countless distractions created by technology. Lauded are those who multi-task unflinchingly, who juggle task after task, who keep all the plates spinning and balanced. But more and more, we’re beginning to recognize that multi-tasking is not in our best interest. According to Sharon Salzberg, author of Real Happiness At Work, studies show that divided attention leads to more errors and longer completion times. She says:
“While we may be able to talk on the phone and stir coffee simultaneously, we can’t carry on a conversation and text at the same time without losing information and time.”
If you can give your full, undivided attention to a project, you would be amazed at how effective you can be. Not only that, but because you were present and focused on the work at hand, your memory of the process will be much more clear. It’s science!
The best advice I ever received about meditation was this: “You should sit quietly for 10 minutes every day to gather your thoughts. Unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour.” The busier and more hectic our lives are, the more time we should take to get our heads together. It’s almost impossible to live mindfully if your mind is scattered. Meditation, though, doesn’t have to be you sitting in a chair with your eyes closed. You can meditate and be mindful while washing dishes, while drinking a cup of tea, even while out shopping. The only requirement is that you pay a little more attention to your daily activities while you’re carrying them out.
4. Feel what you’re feeling
Mindfulness isn’t about being happy all the time. It’s about accepting whatever we’re feeling in the moment without trying to control or resist it. Mindful people don’t neglect their negative feelings or force themselves to always be positive. Instead, mindful people allow both positive and negative emotions to coexist, and in doing so, are able to cope with life’s challenges in a mindful and balanced way.
5. Seek out new experiences
This is probably the most challenging tip for me. I like my comfort zone, I exist in a bubble of familiarity. Venturing outside of that is scary for introverted me. The thing is, new experiences and a little adventure can naturally teach us to be present as we savor the new and revel in the simple joy they create. There is a moment when you’re venturing into new territory that you have to decide if you’re going to hold on or let go. Your fear coexists with excitement, and you are so very aware, and in that moment, living more mindfully than the moment before.
Living mindfully, like anything new, takes time and practice. Look for little ways to incorporate mindfullness into your daily routine. You’ll be surprised how much progress you can make in a short amount of time. Try implementing just one of the steps above for 1 week, and then take stock. Did it help? Do you feel more connected and involved in your life? Feel free to chime in the comments below!