Have you noticed when you have time to relax, you do everything but that? Creating mental lists, responding to texts, and mindlessly scrolling through your phone, when suddenly 2 hours have gone by, and you don’t feel any better. Those are not bad things, they just fail to allow your brain to actually take a break, by diverting your attention elsewhere. Your physical body is relaxing, yet your mind is in outer space. Here are 5 tips to keep your mind in the moment and take full advantage of your time.
Catch a (deep) Breath
Breathing is supposed to be an involuntary body function, yet our minds have a unique way of stealing it from us when we get stressed. My oxygen is the first thing to leave my body when I get a weird text, upsetting email, or when a cute boy looks in my direction. However, knowing how my body reacts reminds me to make sure I am, in fact, still breathing when I get in those situations. Like most things, being aware is the first step to creating change.
To get in the habit of intentional breathing, practice when you first wake up or are going to bed, this way you won’t forget. It’s hard to learn to control your breath when you’re stressed, so mastering it in a calm state is key. There are many forms of apps, videos, and timers that can guide the breath for you, yet you are still in charge. I find similar benefits by directing my attention toward how freely I can let myself fill my lungs and let it go. Repeating this 3-5times for 3 seconds in and 3 seconds out can have a calming effect on your entire body. You can also take this time to relax your jaw, shoulders, and muscles to check in with yourself.
Limit Screen Time
At this point, my phone is my top-ranked way to waste time and procrastinate. One moment I am replying to an important work email, then the next, I am the newest FBI agent investigating my ex-roommates new boyfriend’s sister. It has to stop. Time limits are the procrastinator’s worst enemy but are essential in breaking this toxic cycle.
On an iPhone, you can access this feature in settings-screen time-app limits. From here, you can manage how long you can spend on each app a day, and you can also turn on focus mode or do not disturb to silence notifications customized to your schedule. At first, this will be difficult, yet you will realize the habit you’ve developed of unconsciously checking your phone. In my experience, this was very eye-opening to me. I hadn’t realized how many times I would check my phone out of habit, but for no real reason. Spending limited time on your phone will help you acknowledge and reframe what you do with the downtime you do have. Perhaps you may realize you have more time than you originally thought.
Take a Hike: Mindful Walking
If traditional meditation is something you struggle with, there are other ways to reap similar benefits. Meditation doesn’t have to take place in the same form for everyone, whatever works for you is best practice. Meditation videos, recordings, and timers are beneficial for many people; however, a moving practice is something I have found that’s more my speed.
Moving meditation can take place in yoga or walking, I found walking in nature to be surprisingly comforting. Try taking a solo walk with no music, just you (and maybe your dog). Take time to just look around and let your mind wander. You can admire the neighbor’s pretty house, listen to the sound of your footsteps and let yourself just be. You can schedule this separate walk in your day or implement this into your daily life by noticing what surrounds you on your way to work or at the grocery store. As long as you take a moment to look around and take in the moment, is a good start. You might be surprised by what is around you when you begin to make that effort.
Many people think that mindfulness is too time-consuming and unrealistic to suit their lives. However, everyone has to eat. Make eating a time to be more conscious, focus on the textures, temperatures, and flavors to anchor you in the moment. This sounds ridiculous but guiding your attention toward this moment instead of scrolling, watching a show, or video is an easy way to allow yourself to get more out of your meals. By sitting in this moment, acknowledging your intention to be present, you allow yourself to actually enjoy your food.
This is less about actually eating and more about directing your thoughts and trying to control their wander. When we can control the wander, we can start to be more intentional about their direction in more complex areas of our life. This is good practice to begin to get your thoughts under your supervision.
Recognize Little moments: Look at the Rocks
Going about your day, it is easy to get “caught up in it all”: someone cut you off on the road, your friend canceled plans last minute, you’re SO busy. By focusing on these significant stressors, we can overlook some of life’s best moments- I know cheesy, but hear me out. When I seem to be at my breaking point, I take a breath and just look around, looking for something to distract me. Here I realized that I am actually craving something good, trying to gain perspective on the situation. Kids are very good at this. They will find the perfect rock on the ground of a target parking lot, and it’ll be better than Christmas morning. Finding joy in the rocks on the ground is something I’ve tried to implement into my life. Practicing recognizing these little moments is actually increasing your awareness. To be able to pause and acknowledge moments of gratitude is mindfulness, you are practicing intentionally directing your attention.
By Kennedy Baker