What a great quote! In our increasingly connected world, taking time to unplug and smell the roses has become a luxury. Instead of saying “Hi! How are you? What a beautiful day!”, we go “Hi! How are you? I’m so tired/busy/stressed”. It’s easy to get caught up with staying overwhelmed because it has become a common state of being these days. It’s a new way of life many of us mindlessly slip into.
That said, we need not stay in this self-created prison of eternal busyness and burnout. In very small ways, we can reclaim our power as we go from one frenetic day to another. We need not scoot ourselves away to exotic resorts, practice hours of meditation or join mindfulness retreats. All we need is to do a little differently what we already do everyday and be surprised at how much our life quality improves with these tiny shifts!
Below are eight simple yet effective ways which we can slow down and practice mindful living.
1. In each moment, awake your 5 senses and paint the scene in words
How often do we go through the motion of certain life routines absentmindedly? I would guess it’s as high as 40-70% of each day. No single day is the same. The weather is different, the sky is a different shade of blue/grey, new things unfold at work/school/home, businesses start/close, romances begin/end, lives born/lost, our body feels different, our moods are different, conversations we have are different and the list goes on!
Notice what’s new in each moment even if it’s something familiar. Employ your five senses and describe the scene like you would as a writer. What do you see? What do you smell? What do you hear? What do you feel? Do this when walking down the street you always take or when talking to a good friend. Pay attention to where you are and what’s unique about that very moment.
2. Look in the eye of the person you’re talking to
Time slows down when we are fully immersed in an activity, instead of multi-tasking. This state is called “flow” and when one is in it, he/she experiences an energised focus, a complete engagement and spontaneous joy or even rapture in the activity.
Are you guilty of texting while talking to a friend/colleague? Make the decision to stop that for good. Unless it’s a matter of life and death, that text message can certainly wait. People say the eyes are the windows to the soul and I can’t agree more to that! It’s amazing how we can truly connect with someone when we can not transfixed by our smartphones. It’s ironic that we complain about being lonely yet we waste away opportunities for meaningful connections with people by being distracted with our gadgets.
Do you sometimes feel you completed countless tasks yet you’re far from feeling accomplished? I get that all the time. My lack of patience often drives me to switch between tasks / multi-task because I cannot stand the necessary waiting or transition time in a single task. At the end of each multi-tasking session, I would find myself frazzled as I’ve been operating in the complete opposite state of ‘flow’.
Which of your everyday task are you most guilty of multitasking? For me, it’s would be switching between browser tabs while waiting for sites to load, texting while cooking, eat while watching a movie on my laptop, listening to audio articles or books while going about my morning routine, checking my phone while out with friends and more. If you try to complete one task before starting another, instead of doing both concurrently, I promise you’ll feel immensely different. A sense of satisfaction will fill your being in a way multitasking can’t. I’ve tried it and it truly makes a difference!
4. Practice the 80-20 rule
I’m a big believer of the Pareto principle, which states that 80% of the effect comes from 20% of the causes. More often than not, we confuse activity with achievement. We think if we do 100 things in one day, we are successful. Truth of the matter is, while we can claim to be productive for squeezing that many tasks in 24 hours, we can hardly tout that feat as a hallmark of effectiveness. If we take time to dig deep into the cost-benefit analysis of our actions, we would see that we’ve been spending effort on many nice-to-have tasks. This is often because we think that we merit success only when we are working extremely hard for it.
Take time one weekend, brew a nice big cup of coffee and start listing down your goals and the actions you have been taking to achieve those goals. Next to the actions, review their effectiveness and ask yourself if there’s a better or easier way to do it. Ask yourself too, if you’ll actually have much to lose if you stop doing it and use that extra time and energy to enjoy life more.
5. Enjoy the silence & practice deep belly breathing
Every so often we overcomplicate life by making the simple act of relaxation a monumental task! We wait for the perfect setting to unwind by planning retreats to paradisiacal destinations. Life is happening right now. Every moment is an opportunity to release the tension that’s built up during the day, week, month or year. All we need is to close our eyes and breathe.
Here’s a simple practice of deep belly breathing which you can do anywhere. Close your eyes. Inhale through your nose to a mental count to four. Feel your belly expand. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Now exhale through your mouth to a count of eight and feel your belly contract in the process. Repeat the process for four breaths in your first month and increase that to eight breaths in the second month.
The aforementioned 4-7-8 breathing technique is developed by Dr. Andrew Weil. He recommends doing it twice a day to feel the tranquillising benefits to the nervous system. Check out the youtube video below on how it’s done.
6. Enjoy “cloudporn” whenever & wherever possible
How often do you walk with your nose buried in your phone or your mind absorbed by the items on your to-do list? For the majority of us these days, we move from one “box” to another – our home to our car/the bus/the train to our office to a bar or restaurant and repeat. You have all the time in the world when in any of those “boxes” to send that text message, check out your newsfeed or plan your to-dos for the day.
Relish the rare opportunities in your day to enjoy the expansive sky and the fresh air. Enjoy the “cloudporn” and save mental images of the picturesque sky and recall them during the day whenever you need a moment of calm. Make the effort to take a 15-20 minutes walk around the block or in the park every day. Turn your phone to airplane mode and concentrate on the joy of being part of a living and moving masterpiece, namely the sky, the fresh air and the sounds around you.
7. Walk as if your feet is kissing the floor
Did you really need to run to catch that train or that green light? We are wired to think that time spent waiting in commute is a waste of life. We develop the reflex of chasing after the bus/train or the green light, even when we’re not in a rush to get somewhere. When getting from one place to another, we walk in a crazy fast pace as if reaching our destination is all that matter and the journey has nothing to offer us.
For a change, try walking as if your feet is kissing the floor! This inspiration came from the Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh and this simple philosophy changed my life profoundly. Engage in every single step like you would in a sweet kiss with someone you love. As you do this, you’ll find the journey becomes the joy and is as rewarding as reaching the destination. Some days when I have the extra 5 to 15 minutes, I would take a detour instead of my usual most time-efficient route. It’s amazing how the small act of exposing ourselves to a different path can inspire us in new ways. I hope you’ll try it too!
8. Eat mindfully and enjoy your showers
Every meal time is an occasion to slow down and enjoy life. It’s the time in the day to not just nourish the body but also the soul. How often do you find yourself racing through a meal or eat mindlessly with your thoughts somewhere far away? Worse still, do you eat while watching TV or reading a book?
Similarly, how often do you rush through a shower? As much as 50-75% of our bodies is made up of water. We underestimate how much staying hydrated and regular exposure to water can rejuvenate us. That’s why people love going to the beach, swim in the pool or soak in hot baths.
Next time, when you sit down for a meal, make it a point to be fully present with your meal. Chew your food, feel the texture and appreciate the flavours, colours and presentation of the dish. When taking a shower, enjoy the sensation of the water running off you. It’s wonderful how a mundane everyday task can turn into a little treat to recharge our weary souls.
I hope you enjoyed this article! Please share it with friends if you like it. 🙂 Do you struggle with finding space and peace in your everyday life? What do you do to slow down? Share them in the comments below. I’ll love to hear from you.
Read More : 8 Steps To A Good Night Rest