Ever look at the date on your phone and think, “Wait. Where did the month go?” Maybe you occasionally find yourself in a room and forget why you’re there, or you walk away from a conversation without remembering what the other person said. The fact is, the better we get at multitasking, the worse we get at mindfulness; we’ve figured out how to maximize productivity, but often at the cost of feeling present in the moments of our everyday lives. The more robust our to-do lists become, the less likely we are to stop and smell the proverbial roses.
Mindfulness takes effort and practice, but it is possible to start living in the moment even if you’ve grown accustomed to plowing through the day. Try these simple tips.
Carve out time for stillness
Even as little as three minutes of meditation can help increase mindfulness. And don’t let the word “meditation” scare you—you don’t need a special room, a fancy cushion or past experience to start a practice. Find a comfortable seat on the floor or in a chair, close your eyes and focus on slowing down the pattern of your breathing. Need a little help? Download an app that provides guided mediation. Both Ananda and Calm have free options.
Uni-task whenever possible
Our lives are full of seemingly mundane tasks: washing dishes, organizing receipts, raking leaves. While flipping on the TV or listening to a podcast can help pass the time, giving your complete attention to one of these simple tasks can actually be a great exercise for mindfulness. Try to find the meditative quality in a repetitive motion and notice the accompanying sounds and sensations.
Pick a card
An inspirational card deck can be a great mindfulness tool, especially for more tactile people. There are no set rules for using a card deck, but most people shuffle the deck, pick a card at random and spend a few moments thinking about that card’s words or imagery. Card decks from authors Kris Carr and Marie Forleo are popular options.
As we first learned in our Judy Blume–reading days, keeping a journal can be remarkably cathartic. Taking the time to organize and write down your thoughts—past regrets and worries about the future, included—can help free up your mind and allow you to be more present.
Get a guru
Mindfulness isn’t about isolation. Find someone who values presence and attention and spend more time with them. Your “guru” could be a friend, family member or even a health and fitness expert you follow on social media. Observe the ways they demonstrate mindfulness and learn from them.
It sounds simple, but listening is a skill that can be difficult to master. Since you must be fully present to actively listen to another person, use your next conversation to practice mindfulness. Don’t entertain distractions like your phone, computer screen or outside noises. Maintain eye contact with the person speaking and resist the urge to think about what you’ll say next. Try your best to not only hear every word, but also pay attention to the speaker’s facial expressions and body language.
Pat a dog
Ever watch a cat sprawl out in sun spot or a dog gnaw away at a chew toy? Do you think they’re concerned with anything else beside the pure joy of the present moment? Let your furry friends be your teachers! Find mindfulness by giving your pets your full attention for at least a few minutes a day.
Create no-phone zones
You knew this was coming, right? Your device is a distraction, and not just behind the wheel or in meetings. If you’re constantly checking email, updating your status and snapping photos, that means your actual life isn’t getting 100% of your attention. Pick your sacred times and places — dinners with friends, two hours before bed, your morning run — and proactively put away your phone so you can truly experience those moments.
See also Move Mindfully to Find Peace