By Jill Schildhouse
Have you ever watched a movie while simultaneously checking social media on your tablet only to discover that you’ve missed a bunch of important dialogue and now you have to rewind it to figure out what’s going on? You weren’t living in the moment. How about arriving home from work only to realise you don’t remember any details of your commute? Your brain was on autopilot. What about running to the supermarket for that one ingredient you need, only to buy everything but said ingredient? You weren’t focused on the task at hand.
If these scenarios hit home, you’re in good company. It seems mindfulness — being aware of what you’re doing, when you’re doing it — is a lost art in today’s fast-paced, multitasking society. So how do we snap ourselves out of this daily trance, especially when we’re already overextended and strapped for time?
“By being present in your body, aware of your breath and focused on what it is you’ve set out to be doing right now,” says Pedram Shojai, OMD, New York Times best-selling author
of The Urban Monk: Eastern Wisdom and Modern Hacks to Stop Time and Find Success, Happiness, and Peace and founder of Well.org. “I recommend doing little bouts of five to 10 minutes of mindfulness practice multiple times throughout the day in order to build a micro- habit. Over time, much like a virus scanner on your computer, mindfulness becomes part of your operating system and is with you all the time.”
Shojai shares a few of his practical mindfulness activities — found in his latest book The Art of Stopping Time: Practical Mindfulness for Busy People — that can easily be incorporated into anyone’s lifestyle:
1. Randomly smile at people.
Practise smiling throughout your day — every time you make eye contact with another person, give them a warm smile from the bottom of your heart. This helps you come out of your shell and engage with others. It also helps break the ice and send some good vibes to someone who may need it.
2. Listen to a song.
Listen for the nuances of the tones, the silence between the notes and the changes in tempo. Let the music bring you into the present as you appreciate the symphony of sounds and layers of complexity.
3. Stop and take five breaths.
Your breath is an anchor into your very mortality. Taking five deep breaths down to your lower belly can trigger a change in your nervous system that’ll pull you out of “fight or flight” mode. Set a timer for every 30 minutes, and when the timer pings, stop what you’re doing and simply take five deep breaths. It’s a quick remedy to reset your rhythm.
4. Notice nature.
Nature is our guiding light when it comes to cycles and rhythms. It has a flow that’s soothing and comforting. Whether it’s a bird in a tree or a leaf dancing in the wind, stop to notice and appreciate this beauty.
5. Stop checking the news.
It’s seldom good. If something really monumental is happening, chances are you’ll hear of it. Get the basics and then disconnect from the bad news for the whole day. You’ll be happier.
6. Get your heart rate up.
What goes up must come down. Learning to slow your roll through meditation is great,
but what about the other end of the spectrum? Work to get your heart rate super high and then allow yourself to fully recover before doing it a few more times. This builds range and resilience.It helps you change the channel and deal with different speeds of time as life serves them up.
“We’re not really good at much when we’re frazzled,” Shojai says. “Slowing down helps us catch our breath and
be more intentional in our actions. We can eat more than we want while being distracted, we can miss our exit or drop the ball on a project at work. Mindfulness makes us better at everything we do. It’s a habit to be cultivated.”