To be honest, when I first heard of mindfulness, I thought it sounded pretty dumb.
Just pay attention, I thought as a colleague explained the idea while I played Wordscapes on my phone.
But I pay attention to important stuff. I soothed myself with the thought while I googled, “Is it impolite to play games on your phone while people are talking to you?”
Once the concept was introduced, I had trouble keeping it out of my mind. Am I being thoughtful right now? Am I fully immersed in my present experience? The notions kept rolling through my brain until I realized mindfulness is more challenging than it sounds.
In our world of constant distractions, it’s not a bad idea to have some tricks up your sleeve for staying mindful. I’ve accepted that I need to constantly stop and check myself to make sure I’m present. It keeps me from feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Also, it allows me to focus and enjoy my days more, because I remember them better.
Here are three hacks that I use to stay mindful:
1. I take five deep breaths.
Between tasks at work, I take 30 seconds to breathe. While I’m breathing, I focus on my body. I try to deliver my breath to different parts of myself—my fingers, my shoulders, my feet. It helps me to focus and silence distractions.
Why it works for me: First, it only takes 30 seconds. I can do anything for 30 seconds. Second, I can do this while people are talking to me. I can even encourage other people to do it with me. Third, I have something to concentrate on (breathing) so I don’t get distracted by work.
2. I sit with my thoughts.
At the beginning or end of the day, I take between two and five minutes (depending how long I have to catch my train) to sit with my thoughts. I close my eyes and acknowledge whatever is present in my mind. The most important part: I don’t judge the thoughts, I just let them pass through my mind.
Why it works for me: The things that anchor my day come up in these thoughts. Afterward, I can analyze why I thought a particular moment or conversation was important. Then I like to train myself to pay better attention during those types of moments or conversations.
3. I focus on one task.
I set a timer for 10 minutes and give one task my full attention. I’ve tried this method during all kinds of activities: cooking, talking, or crafting emails. When I feel a distraction, I acknowledge it, release it, take a deep breath, and continue with the task.
Why it works for me: The whole idea of mindfulness was intriguing for me because I wanted to apply it to things I was actually doing. This allows me to focus and bring the concentration I develop with my breathing and meditation into my daily activities.