When My Mind Grasped Mindfulness

mindful sunset

I have read a lot about mindfulness. I understood the concept and how important it is for a happy life, but my mind didn’t really grasp what it really meant until one day a few weeks ago.

My husband and I were on a walk after dinner. We have a nice nature trail near our home with a creek and small waterfall. It is a really quiet and peaceful place. Justin and I spend our time there planning future trips, talking about our day, or discussing ideas for the blog. While walking we saw a family approach, a mother, father, and two kids between the ages of seven and ten. The father and kids were in the moment, but the mom was walking with her cellphone literally in front her face. I was stunned. It really bothered me. I wanted to say “ hey lady put your phone down! Don’t you realize you will never get this time or day back with your family, because once it’s gone it is gone forever?!?!

Then I realized that I do the same thing in my life. I will get on my phone and before I know it 30 minutes has flown by and I have literally done nothing of value. I asked Justin if he had seen that lady ignoring her family because she would rather be on her phone and he said he had. I told him that I didn’t want to be like that. That is when I actually grasped what mindfulness meant. Be mindful of the moment and knowing that it may never happen again, so enjoy it while you can.

Justin and I started discussing mindfulness and times when we were not in the moment and took things for granted. For instance, we loved to eat at a German restaurant an hour away. We would always order the German Burrito for a starter. What is a German burrito you ask? It is a potato pancake rolled up like a burrito and stuffed inside is ham,cheese, and caramelized onions. On the side is sour cream and applesauce to dip it in. The restaurant is now closed and we will never get to eat a German burrito again. Justin and I can’t remember eating our last burrito because it didn’t enter our mind that the last time we ate it that it would be our LAST time. I regretted not being in the moment and paying full attention to what I was eating that day. Then I thought what else have I missed because I wasn’t in the moment?

I decided right then and there that I was going to start living life in the moment. It didn’t matter how small or unimportant it seems at the time, I would be present for everything. I have decided to cut back on the amount of time I spend on my personal social media accounts. In fact I have deleted the facebook app off of my phone. I didn’t realize how much time I wasted on my phone and how disengaged I had become.

I have also started looking at other ways I can become mindful because it does have a lot of benefits. Some benefits of mindfulness are:

  • Better quality of sleep
  • Helps sustain weight
  • Reduces stress levels
  • Helps shake off negative feelings
  • Boosts attention span
  • Helps diminish anxiety

There are several ways to practice mindfulness. The most commonly talked about is meditation, but there are other less talked about ways as well.

  • Mindful Eating: when you eat do not do anything else like check emails or watch TV.
  • When you take a walk notice your surroundings such as the sites and sounds around you: The changing color of the leaves, the shape of the clouds, the sound of the nearby creek.
  • Pay attention to your breathing: it can take your thoughts from your mind and make you more aware of your body which can free you from your worries and problems.
  • Focus on your senses: How your day’s first cup of coffee smells, the feel of the sun as it warms your face as you sit outside, Hearing the birds chirping as you walk to check the mail, the taste of the summer’s first strawberry, seeing the first snowfall of winter.
  • Truly listen: when someone is talking to you truly listen to what they are saying. People aren’t fully listening because they are thinking about how they will respond, judging what the speaker is saying , or are just in their own thoughts.
  • Engross yourself in the things you love to do: If you love to cook, read, or hike focus your attention on to that activity instead of thinking of your to do list or other mind distracting projects.

Being mindful is different for everyone, what works for me may not work for you. I hope you find your path to mindfulness using my tips or thinking of other ways for yourself. I would love to hear your ideas on what mindfulness means to you.

The Power of Disconnecting

Disconnecting from digital media – even for a short amount of time – can clear your mind and make you more able to focus on what’s important. It can reduce distractions, stress, and make you a happier person.

Do you ever feel like your life is constantly being interrupted by your cell phone? You sit down to work, and you hear a beep or a notification. You want to ignore and just continue what you were doing, but you can’t. There is an instinctual need inside of you to check your phone, driven by the mystery of not knowing what the alert signifies. Is it an important text message? Something interesting on Facebook? An email from a colleague or friend, perhaps? So you check it out, then get back to whatever you were doing.

Then your phone beeps again.

We have become increasingly accustomed to living in a world of constant distractions. Not only is it counterproductive in the sense that it takes time to check your phone and reply, but it also makes it very difficult to give your full focus to anything. In fact, I would argue that it’s nearly impossible to do anything as well as we can if we are constantly living in a state of distraction. It’s also more difficult to enjoy life, because it makes it much tougher to live in the moment. I remember when I was a child, I was able to immerse myself in all aspects of my life. I was present – physically and mentally – for all the important events of my childhood. Now, no matter what happens, my mind is split.

There are a few exceptions to this. I notice that I do my best thinking in the bath. Part of it is because I am calm and relaxed in the tub. But another huge part is that my phone isn’t with me, and I couldn’t check it if it was. I get half an hour of peace and relaxation, and I feel fabulous afterwards. Another exception is when we were on vacation in Spain and France last fall. Sure, I checked my phone when I was on wifi in the hotel, but it wasn’t a constant thing. I was able to go most of the day simply enjoying what I was doing and who I was with. Also, when I am hiking I don’t check my phone. I have written about the mental and physical health benefits of hiking in the past, and this is just another great reason to hike. Being at peace, out in nature, and free of distractions is an amazing feeling.

Disconnecting in your daily life

Recently, I have decided to take some time each day to disconnect. Now, I can’t live without my cell phone, and I can’t expect anyone else to either, but you can set aside a bit of time to be without your phone, away from your computer, with your TV off. Meditating alone in a quiet room is a great way to disconnect. Also, you can take a bath and leave the phone in the other room, or go for a walk and just leave your phone at home. You can have a no-phones-allowed dinner with your family. You will realize how valuable your time is when you take a moment to appreciate the simple joy of being present. And the longer you do it, the better you will feel. Your mind races less. You will be less preoccupied. You will be less distracted. You will focus more on what’s important and what is in front of you right now.

Disconnecting at work

Disconnecting can help with your work as well. You probably have less control over your environment, but you can still set aside blocks of time where you don’t check texts, alerts, or emails. You will quickly find that you are much more productive and focused as a result. Of course, you can’t go all day like this – functioning in your work environment requires communication, and you can’t cut that off entirely. But having a few blocks of time set aside where you can focus will improve your productivity and make you a better worker. You will be a little less ‘available’ – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You may actually find out that people respect your time more if you are not so willing and anxious to reply to everything in an instant.

You won’t miss anything

Your text messages will be there when you get back. Your alerts will be there. Your emails will be there. The world will not end if you don’t reply to someone immediately. The first few times you disconnect, you might have some anxiety. This will manifest itself in a strong desire to check your phone. This is normal! We use our phones to feel connected, and when we don’t have them, we don’t know what to do. But this is because our brains have been programmed by constantly having our phones there to provide instant gratification. But after you do it a few times it gets so much easier.