How to Practice Mindfulness in the Digital Age
Life is full of interruptions. We have advertisements not to subtlely placed on the website we visit, notifications constantly popping up on our smartphones, and so many other forms of distraction that blend into our lives seamlessly.
If you're anything like me, you might struggle with the art of mindfulness. According to Mindful, Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us." The ability to multitask, especially on a smartphone, has reached a point where accessibility is complicating our productivity. Today, our phones give us the ability to pay bills on our bank app, send chats over Snapchat, and like photos on Instagram almost simultaneously. We do these things consecutively, all while still holding a conversation on the phone. I use this as an example because I've done it personally. I caught myself asking my friends to repeat themselves one too many times because I was too busy using the other million features on my phone while they spoke.
Ironically, the amount of access we have is growing while our ability to stay present declines. After noticing just how distracted I was by all the apps I had access to during a phone call I decided I needed to reshape how my attention was being distributed. It tarted with putting a limit on my multitasking. There's a time and place for being able to handle five situations at once. While I've somehow mastered this in the workplace, I decided juggling a bunch of tasks was something to limit to 9am-5pm.
There's a time and a place for everything.
Setting up schedule to separate different activities and priorities is a great way to start leading a more mindful life. At first, you might not feel like you can stick to a time block but the beauty in creating it for yourself is knowing you can adjust it. Your main focus here should be achieving a practice that works for you. Change things around as much as you need to until it makes sense. Using a calendar or a notepad to put your goals into segments can help free your mind of clutter. I find that not sticking a task schedule leaves me wanting to do too many things at once. It's easier when I have a planner telling me to write blog posts at 7 and then do dishes at 9 instead of writing and constantly thinking I should be doing dishes. At the end of the day, it's about figuring out what you respond best to.
Take time to reassess your wants and prioritize them.
As someone whose impatience got to the point where she needed to make it a New Year Resolution, I can tell you how much I hate waiting in lines. I went into into 2017 with a goal to practice patience which goes hand in hand with being mindful. During my summer trip to Los Angeles, I successfully stood in two lines both for over an hour. Patiently waiting for something like that would’ve been a serious challenge before I made the conscious decision to change my approach. I gained a new perspective by thinking of things from a mindful point of view. Instead of giving up the second I saw the line wrap around the building. I evaluated why I was there in the first place. Before committing to stand and wait, I made sure I still had the same intentions I had when I decided to come. In both cases, the answer was yes. I've found that taking a minute to reassess my wants ties into how I practice being present. If I know I'm going after something I really want, I can make standing in line for an hour worth it. When my wants and needs change, I can shift my focus and spend time doing something higher on my priority list.
Allow distractions and refocus.
Just because distractions are everywhere, doesn’t mean we have to let them control us. When I first started my practice, I used Headspace. It's an app that helps with guided meditation, essentially leading you to a life of more mindful living. I was introduced to the perfect analogy for being present in a time of chaos through this app. They compared all the thoughts than run through our minds to the all the cars that pass us by on the street in traffic. The key here is to acknowledge them all as they pass instead of fearfully standing in the middle of traffic, feeling stuck and frozen. Just like these cars, are thoughts will be there regardless of our wants. The power lies in accepting their presence and then coming back to our center and focusing on what we initially set out to pay attention to.
Mindfulness isn't something you can master in one day. I've been on this path for a while and there are days when I feel like I've successfully eliminated distractions. Other times, I get sucked into the loop of scrolling through my Instagram feed while I'm supposed to be sending an email or replying to a text. I don't beat myself up over the hiccups. I pause, reflect, and refocus. I'm committed to making this something I practice daily with hopes of eventually being a more calm and focused person.
How do you practice mindfulness? I'd love to hear what tips you have for keeping focus!