By now, surely you’ve noticed that the word mindfulness is everywhere. Everything is marketed to keep you mindful these days, from fitness classes (yoga/Pilates/ballet/cross fit/running—”Do them all!” ads read, “At the same time!”) to candles, apps, and aesthetic office decor.
Where do you begin? For those of you who are just beginning a mindfulness practice, your options can be overwhelming. To relieve some of the stress, I’ve outlined some tips for you to try and get some clarity.
The practice of mindfulness itself sounds incredibly simple: focus on the present, step back from your emotions, observe your reactions to the stimuli around you, and expect positive change. Easy, right? Not exactly. Being present is difficult due to the distracting nature of, well, everything in our lives. Hence the millions of products pushed our way to achieve mindfulness. If we could do it ourselves, wouldn’t tools be unnecessary?
Enter “monotasking”, an even newer buzzword that starts with an “m” and teaches basically the same thing as mindfulness, only with a slightly more practical aim. FastCompany dubs monotasking The New Multitasking, and for good reason. Monotasking preaches the concept of focusing (no, really focusing) on one task at a time. Turn your phone off, get your work done, focus on the people around you, and don’t allow yourself to simply do nothing.
Monotasking seems utilitarian but is effective because it addresses our microscopic attention spans that are doomed by endless texts, notifications, emails, real human interaction, and our own thoughts. Mindfulness addresses our same issues with distraction, only it pertains more to our emotional needs.
By combining monotasking with mindfulness, you not only avoid becoming overwhelmed, but also begin to be more in touch with your feelings and the reasons for them. Here’s how:
- Prioritize being present
Starting your day in positive spirits is probably the best thing you could possibly do for yourself. Your buzz needs to be generated by more than caffeine, though. Jumpstart your day by making a to-do list and actually stick to it.
Lists are important because they keep you on track. Lists make us feel like your daily goals correlates to a larger one, and that alone keeps us present.
- Have goals of all sizes
Goal setting can be tricky and oftentimes discouraging. Start with small goals to accomplish that week or even that same day. And yes, being more mindful is a goal. Word to the wise, however: don’t create too many goals, or you’re just creating more distractions for yourself. Stay realistic, and write precise steps on how to achieve each one.
Set larger goals over longer amounts of time, and smaller ones as you go along. Feeling frustrated with menial tasks? Ask yourself why you’re performing them: if they aren’t helping you reach your larger goals, reevaluate their role in your schedule and their effect on your mood. Monotask!
- Make presence a task
Make a point to really focus on yourself, your surroundings, your emotions, and the correlation between them all. This is your moment of mindfulness. Give yourself ten or fifteen minutes per day just for some Zen focus. Schedule it on your to-do list. By objectively looking at your feelings toward specific situations and people, you learn a lot about the importance (and unimportance) of the stimuli in question.
Checking in with your mental wellbeing daily is key. Choose the same time every day to devote solely to yourself and focus on what you consider to both be good and bad in your life in order to avoid only using mindfulness as a way to think your way out of a problem. Think of it more as a regular exercise.
Often, we are too caught up in the stress of our daily lives to truly sort out our feelings for one situation without dragging along unaddressed feelings pertaining to something or someone else. Evaluating your personal, professional, and emotional responses to your surroundings helps guide your emotion and energy to the right source. By doing so, you’ll not only amp up your confidence and productivity, but you’ll feel more at ease with all your responsibilities.
By following these three steps, a present state of mind becomes a task to devote all of your attention to. In other words, you become the most important task on your list.
As a wellness expert, I strive to help you reach all of your lifestyle goals, including stress management! Feel free to consult with me on the topic of mindfulness in order to maximize your wellness potential.
Best of health,
Dr. Chad M. Hoffman