Guys, I probably don’t have to tell you that I’m not an authority on ANYTHING. I’m a mess. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m just taking things that I’m learning and trying my best to apply them to my life in order to hopefully increase my happiness and live a life I can be proud of.
That being said, what works for me, might not work for you.
But it might.
Which is why I’m sharing with you.
That being said, the thing that keeps coming up over and over-both in therapy and spirituality studies- as well as from anyone who claims that they have found the secret to happiness, is the principle of mindfulness and “living in the moment.”
In theory, it sounds so easy. It also makes a lot of sense. If I’m only concerned it what is happening right now, I can’t stress about the future or worry about the past. I will only be content with the present.
Turns out, it’s a lot harder to practice.
Luckily, there is a lot of great advice and techniques available to help you practice staying in the moment. You can meditate, pay attention to your breath, pray, implement yoga techniques…. the options are endless.
Over the last few months of really working at this, I’ve found a few methods that work for me.
10).Eavesdrop: Sure, it might be rude, and it’s probably a little creepy, but it is my favorite way to be in the moment. This one especially works when you’re alone on a bus or in a crowded restaurant.
All you have to do is listen in on a conversation, really listen. Try to figure out the story behind what is going on. Try not to make any assumptions based on appearance. Just listen to the facts, and piece together the story. Try not to judge the people on what you’re hearing but be compassionate.
9).Just Listen: Even if you aren’t in a place where there are any conversations to eavesdrop, using your ears promotes concentration and keeps you from listening to the negative voice in your brain.
There are almost always sounds around you. I try to separate them and figure out where they are coming from.
If I’m outside, I listen to the birds. Really listen. Try to count how many different types of sounds you hear. Where are the birds calling from? Is there a pattern to it?
If I’m inside, I listen closely for the tick of a clock or the hum of the air conditioner. I try to hear the lyrics in the music that my neighbor blasts at all hours of the day. I count the snores of my dog. I hear the food digesting in my belly. The water dripping from the faucet. Hear everything.
8).Pick a Color, any Color: This is my go to for when my mind is racing and I can’t seem to calm myself down. I think a therapist actually gave me this one, but it wasn’t until recently that I decided to give it a try. It’s so simple.
Pick a color. Any color.
Look around you. Count how many items you can see that is that color.
If your mind is still racing, pick another color and try again.
7).Don’t Break Your Mama’s Back: This one’s for when you’re walking. I’ve read that a great exercise in mindfulness is to simply walk with intent and pay attention to everything along the way. That doesn’t always work for me. As with driving, I usually walk from place to place without any recollection of how I got there or what I passed along the way.
The easiest way to get back in the moment? For me it’s something that I’ve been doing since childhood. I put every single bit of my attention into not breaking my mama’s back. For those of you who grew up under a rock, this simply means not stepping on any cracks.
I’m sure I look silly walking with my head down, sometimes leaping to my next step and sometimes shuffling, but it doesn’t matter. I’m not paying attention to anything except those cracks.
6). Sing a Song about whatever you’re doing: If I had put these in a ranking order, this would have been my number one.
It doesn’t matter that my singing is so bad that bugs fly into my windshield, or even if I choose to do it in my head. This always works as a quick reset for me.
Whether I’m trying to stay on track at work, doing housework, or brushing my teeth, singing about what I’m doing brings me back to the moment, and it makes whatever I’m doing to be more fun.
I know your probably rolling your eyes at the cheezyness of it, but don’t you secretly want to be one of those people who enjoys everything that they do? I don’t know the key to happiness, but I do know the key to happiness while doing dishes. Sing about it. Sing about every single utensil. You don’t even have to rhyme.
5). Pretend your life is about to change: I often have the most difficult time staying present when I should be present the most-when listening to someone.
I know I’m not alone in this. Someone, (either a stranger or a loved one) is talking about their dog, and that triggers the worry that maybe I didn’t fill my dog’s bowl up with water before I left. Then I imagine coming home to a dead dog, which makes me sad. That makes me start going down the list of other things that make me sad. I lost my favorite hat. I’m getting old. Everyone dies.
Either that or I’m so concerned with planning whatever it is I want to say next, that I can’t even take in the information that I’m receiving.
To keep myself from going down those inevitable wormholes, I try to start every conversation with the same intention.
“This person could change my life.”
Because that’s the absolute truth. I can learn something from everyone, and I have no idea when that information could change my life. Plus I find that the more often that I can listen with intention, the better my relationships and the stronger the connection.
4). 3 Positive Things: This is the one that gives me the most difficulty; therefore I know it’s the one I should practice the most.
I do A LOT of things begrudgingly.
When my dog poops, I let out a huge sigh and a grunt as I go to pick it up and throw it away. It’s something I know I have to do, but it is so freaking annoying that I have to pick up poop every day of my life.
My challenge to you (and to myself) is to think of 3 positive things about whatever task that you aren’t excited about.
When I pick up poop: 1). Keeps everyone else from stepping it 2). Makes the grass look pretty 3). Someone else won’t have to do it.
It still might not be the most pleasant act of my day, but at least it gives me a reason to do it that I can feel good about. It works for anything!
3). Jump From Object to Object: This is for when riding or driving in a car. It’s something I have done since I was a kid, and it’s really actually kind of silly but it gets my brain out of a slump.
It takes a little imagination, but I simply imagine myself jumping from object to object as we pass. Sometimes my imaginary self does acrobatics, sometimes she flies, sometimes she just runs and touches things.
All I know is that it makes me pay attention to the shape and details of everything I pass.
2). Smell Someone: Here’s another creepy one that I love.
Lean in and smell the people around you. Try to figure out if you can tell what kind of shampoo they use of if they use face moisturizer. Do they smoke? Did they eat Mexican food? Did they work out?
Try not to use judgment, just explore with your nose. Like a dog!
1). Name Everyone and Give them a Story: This is partially something I learned in improv-giving someone a name gives them significance, even if it’s just a name that you made up.
You can do it with anyone and everything. You can name trees, cacti, people, animals, birds and cars. Then you can give them stories. You can create a reason of how they got there, and what they are wanting to achieve. Try to be compassionate with your stories and to refrain from judgment. Use the details to determine facts, and go from there.
It may not be the most “mindful” exercise in terms of being completely present, but it can do wonders in turning your mind away from problematic thoughts.
What do you do to stay in the moment?