Newsstands now have a plethora of covers with the word mindfulness trying to grab our attention. Funny that. It's almost like as a society we need a smack in the face to remind ourselves to actually look around and be once in a while.
So what exactly is mindfulness?
It's defined as the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
Quite often we are on autopilot. Going about our daily activity without being aware of our surrounding or senses. We rush food down without really noticing the flavours, or how full we actually are. Our eyes are glued to our phones as we aimlessly scroll. We commute to work without really taking notice of the day around us.
There is a lot of distraction in society today. And I believe that with the use of smartphones and various technologies that allow us to be 'on' 24/7 that we are left feeling like our attention needs to be everywhere. When really it's barely anywhere and often hard to focus. With all the apps and social media we are fed second-by-second news and information, updates on people we haven't met and what they are doing in their daily lives, and a stream of products or services that we should buy or invest in.
And there is that thing called FOMO (fear of missing out) that so many of us feel if we aren't constantly glancing at our devices. I see in my husband the angst overcoming him when I ban his phone. His argument is that it's like the newspaper. That it's how we receive updates on what is happening in the world. And yes it is. But do we really need to be updated every moment of the day? It saddens me that we have perhaps forgotten how to just be. Forgotten how to sit in silence and just observe.
I'm not perfect by any means and I'm guilty of it myself. Most of my day is filled with parental duties. But at nighttime when the kids are in bed I quite often sit on the couch on my phone with my husband beside me on his, while we watch TV. I feel this need to catch up on what I've missed. Meanwhile I've devoured way too much chocolate without even appreciating the taste.
But really, what are we missing out on?
Life. Real life. Everyday life that we quite often take for granted.
When we are in a constant state of distraction we miss out on those things that matter. Like the expression on our child's face as they accomplish something great. The conversations they initiate and we miss because we are glued to our phone. How the combination of flavours are in perfect harmony in a meal our partner cooked. How our body feels to just sit still, in silence. And the awareness that we are a part of something greater. That those everyday stresses really are insignificant in comparison.
How do we get out of this constant state of distraction?
It takes practice.
Meditation can help. But that doesn't mean that we need to have a special room designated to it. It means making time to sit still. To allow our minds to quieten without forcing things. Like a boat that gradually goes off course that we gently bring back. Our attention may keep going elsewhere but it's that gentle awareness and movement that over time we become better at doing.
I used to practice mindfulness in my teenage years, without realising what it actually was. I would come home from school and sit in the backyard and just observe. Noticing the surrounding of the bushland where we lived. And how the day feels. It calmed me and helped keep me centered.
Mindfulness can be practiced in our everyday, without actually setting aside time to meditate. And this everyday form of mindfulness is what I believe is key to helping us feel happier and more content in our lives. And feeling gratitude for what we have.
Here are a few examples of how we can practice being more mindful:
- When we eat, practice eating slower. Notice how it feels to chew. The textures. How it tastes. And paying attention to when our bodies are full.
- When we wash dishes, notice how warm the water is. The sound of the tap running. How the bubbles slowly disappear as we near the end.
- When at work, taking ourselves outside for a breather. Notice how the sky looks. How warm the air is. Whether there is a breeze and how it feels as it blows the hair around our face.
- If we are sitting in traffic and feeling frustrated (this one drives me mad!), look at it as an opportunity to sit still. Notice the light reflecting off the other cars under the morning sun. Notice the hum of the car engine.
- Rather than scrolling through our phone mindlessly at bedtime, observe how comfortable and secure it feels to be wrapped in a warm doona, the smell of fresh washed sheets, the quiet.
Like many things mindfulness is a skill. It takes conscious effort and practice. But the more we do it the better we become. And the greater our chances of appreciating the life around us. For noticing those special moments that are fleeting. For those people in our lives. For beauty in its simplest form.
It helps us slow down. It can help bring a sense of calm into our busy lives and quieten our mind. It can help us manage stress or cope with adversity.
And above all it opens ourselves to feeling freedom and happiness. Ahh those sweet words that I'm sure many of us aspire to feel more often in our everyday.