“Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.” ― Sharon Salzberg
Staying in the “present moment,” is one of the most difficult things to do in a fast paced busy world. We have so much to do we end up rushing through life in a mental whirlwind. Just going through the motions, in a trance, completely oblivious to our surroundings and inner experience. We start neglecting the small things and lose sight of what’s most important. It’s at this point we start feeling stuck and thinking negatively. We end up on life’s familiar and unassuming treadmill to nowhere. Our work becomes a drag, our relationships lose their luster, we stop taking care of our health, and meaning slowly fades away. We forget to enjoy life. We become so busy we don’t have a chance to appreciate it.
“We’re so busy watching out for what’s just ahead of us that we don’t take time to enjoy where we are.” ― Bill Watterson
In the book Mindfulness by Mark Williams and Danny Penman, the authors provide some examples of what they call “habit releasers.” These are simple behavioral changes to help us break out of our “old careworn ruts and give us exciting new avenues to explore.” I love some of the simple suggestions they provide and wanted to create a few myself. These suggestions are nothing drastic. Frankly they’re pretty easy and simple tips, but can give us the little reminder we might need to be mindful and shift our focus to the positive things in life.
1. Sit somewhere different
Be honest, how often do you sit in the same seat out of habit. Whether it’s the couch at home, at the office, or at the dinner table, if you’re like me, it’s easy to fall into such an automatic comfortable routine. So this week, instead of further molding an impression of your ass in the couch cushion, sit somewhere else, and use this as a cue to shake things up and be present.
2. Take a new route to work
Weeeoooeee, Weeeoooee, Autopilot alert! Sorry, but it scares me how easy it is to zone out and visit La La land when driving. This is last place we should be daydreaming, but after driving the same route over and over again, it’s natural to go on autopilot. To break out of this trance, find a new route to take when driving to a familiar place. Mix things up a bit, check out some new scenery, and become aware of your experience.
3. Take on a new challenge
If there is one thing a comfortable, unchallenging life will get us, its boredom and apathy. When we aren’t challenged we don’t get in the zone. Life seems stale and uneventful. We need to be challenged to keep life fresh and get us absorbed in our day to day experiences. Decide where you could step-up your life. It may be a new hobby, starting a new venture, or learning something that doesn’t come easily to you. Whatever you are willing to do to add a healthy challenge to your life, do it!
4. Start a project you have been delaying
What have you putting off that you really really want to do? Be totally honest here, because your passion is on the line. For many people, there passions are put by the wayside because they are so busy with everything else. They end up stuck, going through the motions of life and never really doing what matters most to them. What is one project you have been putting off because you haven’t made time? What is one step you can take to build some momentum on this project?
5. Put down the remote for one day
I don’t watch much television these days, but there was a time when I could get lost in the distracting world of the idiot box. Hours would pass without me even realizing it. Watching TV can be a very mindless activity. It steals from time we could devote to other valuable things, and can even have a negative impact on our mood when we aren’t being a conscious consumer of the content. Don’t watch TV as much this week, and notice your experience with the present moment.
6. Take a cold shower
This is an idea that Joel Runyon of ImpossibleHQ encourages people to do to break out of their comfort zone. It can be hard to intentionally freeze your “you know what off,” but it’s a sure way to break the monotony of your routine and bring you back into the present moment.
7. Go for a walk/hike somewhere new
Walking can be a very relaxing activity, but we can get so used to a certain path we don’t even have to think about the next step. Get out in nature (weather permitting) and find a new trail or path you can explore. Go for a walk and be present and mindful of your experience. Notice the sights, sounds, and physical sensations with each step you take.
8. Brush your teeth with the opposite hand
I know it’s mundane, but the goal is to become aware of when you’re out of touch with the present moment. How much more would you have to be present and thinking about this activity if you switched it up and used your non-dominant hand? For the ambidextrous out there, sorry you’ll have to get a little more creative.
9. Find mindfulness mementos
In my opinion, one of the best ways to practice being aware of our thoughts and feelings is create a reminder that we take with us into our day to day life. For instance, wear your watch (or any other accessory) on the opposite arm you would usually wear it. When you look down at your watch or bracelet it will be a reminder to break out of your trance. I carry a mindfulness stone to help me shift out of autopilot. Every time I feel it, it’s a reminder to take a breathe and let go of unnecessary stress and tension.
10. Throw away the clutter
It’s spring cleaning time, so why not make this an opportunity to shake up your surroundings a bit? There is something refreshing about cleaning out the old and making room for the new. Rearrange your furniture and create a new ambiance. These are just a few ideas to help you pay more attention to life. If you’re feeling a little stuck, pick one, or a couple of these ideas to help you bring more awareness to your experience of life. Use these as a reminder to be present, and focus on gratitude, joy, and peace of mind.
“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.” ― Mother Teresa