Updated: May 3, 2020
Alarm goes off at the crack of dawn. You numbly make your way out of the comfort of your bed and begin the preparations for the day, which might include coffee, shower, getting the kids up and ready, feeding yourself and the family, before throwing together some food and snacks for everyone to take with them to work and school, gather up the necessities in the tote bags and back packs (don’t forget the phone and the homework and the work you brought home from the office last night), pile everyone in the car, and the commute to school, work, or wherever adult life requires your presence Monday through Friday. Your day continues at this pace until your body numbly crawls back into bed that evening, maybe by 11PM where you can hopefully get 6’ish hours of decent sleep before getting up and doing it all over again.
Raise your hand if this sounds familiar.
My experience has been that this has become the accepted norm of our culture. We joke about it, try to make light of our exhausting lives and laugh about how many of us absent-mindedly forget where we left our phone, or how we quickly we forget what we even do with our days because they fly by so fast and with so little time to take notice of what we are doing from minute to minute. We make light of it because most of us probably don’t know what else to do, so might as well be light-hearted about our predicament, right?
While it is kind of funny when we find our phone in the refrigerator (you know it happens!), this lifestyle isn’t all that humorous. It’s actually quite devastating in many ways. For example, according to the website kidsandcars.org, an average of 37 children each year die from heatstroke from being left in a vehicle. We’ve all heard the horror story of a parent innocently forgetting their child in a car seat. While this is an extreme example, it represents the impact of what can happen when our lives are so packed with tasks and routines that we are just going through the motions of our day, and not truly being aware.
This is where practicing mindfulness and self-awareness can become highly beneficial.
In my last writing, we approached the topic of healthy dialogue and how practicing self-awareness can impact our relationships and ability to navigate differences of opinion on heated topics. Learning how to check in with ourselves, and take note of our feelings and state of mind, and becoming more conscious of our mental state as we move through our day, allows you the opportunity to evaluate whether this is the best time to have that tough discussion about finances with your significant other, or determine if responding to your co-workers email asking you when you are going to get that project finished should maybe wait until tomorrow when you aren’t feeling so pressured. Living in a state of higher self-awareness and consciousness will impact your life in many positive ways, including your relationships with family, friends, and co-workers.
Ready to get started practicing self-awareness, or mindfulness moments?
First: Remember this is a “practice”. It won’t be perfect day 1 and it will evolve over time, and some days will be easier than others. Be patient with yourself.
Second: Don’t overcomplicate it. Keep it simple.
Third: Just get started. Do something, even if it seems insignificant or small.
Here’s a super easy way to get started!
Pick a time of day where you are most likely to find a few quiet moments (like 5 minutes) to be able to reflect. For most of you this will likely be either early in the morning or in the evening before bed. If neither of those options work for your schedule, maybe even a few moments at lunchtime can be found? The most important part is thinking about when you can be most consistent.
Just sit for a few moments in quiet stillness. Doesn’t have to be long. I suggest starting out for 3 minutes. Close your eyes, and notice your breath. Feel your belly expand as you inhale, and fall inward as you exhale. Thoughts about your day will arise. That’s fine. You aren’t trying to make them go away. Just take note of what those thoughts are, and then see if you can bring your attention back to your belly expanding and contracting as you breathe. Just allow yourself these few moments to sit and observe. Not trying to change anything. Just being.
Try this out for a couple of weeks, and see what happens.
This practice is a great way to get started on a journey of living mindfully.
Have a healthy & mindful week!