Be Here, Now
In his 1971 book, Be Here Now, spiritual teacher Ram Dass suggested that we can learn happiness by focusing our awareness in the present moment. Instead of getting caught in the past, with all our regrets and losses, and the future, with all our anticipation and anxieties, we can use mindfulness-based techniques, such as yoga, meditation, and breathing, to be here, right here, right now.
Just Wash the Dishes
Decades later, research supports this premise. Consider, for instance, research from Florida State University that looked at how the simple act of washing dishes could be transformative when approached mindfully . When participants were taught how to mindfully wash dishes, they experienced improved mood and reduced depression compared to people washing dishes without this training. Mindfully washing dishes means fully being present in the dishwashing experience, paying attention to the smell and feel of the bubbles, the warmth of the water, and the physical motions of scrubbing.
This supports us with powerful insight: We don’t have to do big things to feel better about our lives. We just have to actually be doing them when we do them.
Do What You Are Doing
Research indicates that we spend 47% of our waking hours thinking about something other than what we’re doing . We drive and fume about an argument we had with our spouse. We’re multitasking: checking email, participating in a meeting, and remembering our chore list for later. We think this helps us power through our to-do lists. Research indicates that constant multitasking actually reduces our performance and increases our mental stress . We are not good at doing more than one thing at a time. Recognizing this and purposefully committing to doing one thing at a time can be a transformative self-care strategy.
Just Brush Your Teeth
What does this look like? Try two simple exercises to get started. For the next week, whenever you brush your teeth, just brush your teeth. Notice the taste and sensation of your toothpaste as it bubbles, the feeling of the bristles in your mouth. If your mind wanders to what’s next in your day, come back, be here now—and just brush your teeth. Do the same thing when you wash your hair: Feel your fingers on your scalp, feel the drizzle of the water, and smell the scent of your shampoo. Notice how keeping your mind where you are, on what you’re doing, is like taking a mini-vacation, a break from the stress, chaos, and rush of your day. And pay attention to how starting your day off with a few minutes of brief mindfulness in daily life begins to increase your ability to pay attention, to be present, and to be engaged.
Be with Those You Love
Technoference is the interference of technology in relationships. It’s a growing problem in our constantly connected, technological society. One study found that 70% of married couples had experienced relationship problems because of technology . Even more shocking for parents: Research finds that when smartphone usage increases in an area, so do child emergency room visits, presumably because distracted parents aren’t paying attention as their kid goes dangerously exploring (probably trying to capture Mom or Dad’s attention) . For more on technologically distracted parenting, take a look at the recommended reading section at the end of the lesson.
Think about the message it conveys when you stop a face-to-face conversation or interaction to answer a phone call or half-heartedly pay attention to the person talking in front of you while you text message or scroll through social media. Is your smartphone more worthy of love than your child, spouse, or best friend? This doesn’t mean giving up your phone or your laptop, it means being mindful. When you are on the phone, be on the phone. When you are working, work. When you are talking to your spouse, put everything else away and just talk and listen. When you are playing Legos with your child, just play Legos.
For today, make an effort with the people in your life to be engaged, to be actively present in the moment with them. Notice how it expands your sense of love and kindness in your life.
Tomorrow, we’ll try a meditation strategy that can help you further expand your sense of love and kindness.
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