There’s so much stimuli in today’s world. Just walking down the street, people can easily become overloaded with information. A dog barking, a phone buzzing, a car honking at another car that didn’t start moving immediately when the traffic light turned green. Not only do we have outside distractions happening all the time, we have our own internal monologues constantly running through our heads.
What are some things that a person could be worrying about? These are all too familiar. You could be thinking about: your daily schedule, if you need to put gas in the car, if you’re going to miss the bus, if your boyfriend will ever forgive you for whatever the hell you said to him. Did I forget my phone? Did I remember to put my clothes in the dryer? I unplugged the toaster, right? Ugh, I forgot to scoop the litter box! The Bachelor is on tonight, but I have a meeting scheduled! Is today the day that I’m finally going to get fired? I’m so unprepared for class, this is gonna be bad.
For people with anxiety, these thoughts can be even more brutal. They can seem like they may never end. It’s this chatter and endless worry in our heads that can really start to bog us down, turn into negative self-talk, and keep us from focusing and being able to rest. My senior year of college, I was in this same spiral. I was worrying about things that would probably never happen, the worst of the worst scenarios. I couldn’t focus on anything. Also I couldn’t sleep or eat. The only thing I was really doing was distancing myself from where I was in the moment. I was shoving myself into a dark world of my own thoughts.
That was about a year ago now. Since then, things have drastically changed for me. Mindfulness is much more important and natural to me now. I also make efforts to acknowledge the little things in life that I took for granted before. I want to share with you all the ways I am able to keep myself out of that black hole of worry.
In a modern world with technology and so many other distractions, it is important to find things to clasp on to in everyday life- things that bring us back into the moment.
1. Focus on Your Senses
Find things that can really feed your senses and cling onto them. Order a cup of coffee and look at the little bubbles in the foam on top. Take in a deep inhale through your nose and smell that bittersweet aroma. Try to taste every note that you can identify. Feel the smooth sides of the mug in your two hands. Key in to the music, maybe test yourself and try to guess what song it is or what artist it’s by.
Being able to intensely focus on these small details that we usually don’t even process keeps the mind busy and also creates curiosity and a feeling of calm. This is why we’re told to eat slowly or to not drink with a straw. Take time to slow down and give your senses some attention.
2. Acknowledge How You’re Feeling
Are you super tired today? Admit it to yourself. Didn’t study last night for an exam? Just tell yourself that. It is important to accept our emotions and physical conditions. Either say it to yourself silently or even out loud. Writing these things down can also be helpful. We’re taught to always act like everything is fine. “Don’t let them see you sweat”. With these lessons ingrained so deeply in us, we don’t think about how these philosophies can actually create a wall between our true self and the outside world. We can sometimes be using this mentality defensively and not even realize it. Living in this kind of “denial” can be exhausting. Take time to have a talk with yourself and process what is actually happening in your mind and body. You will feel a greater sense of peace for sure!
3. Focus on What’s Important
Forget about multi-tasking. Schedule ample time in your day for everything you want to do. Instead of trying to make dinner and watch TV and eat and do your homework or work assignments at the same time, separate the tasks. While this will take a little more time and planning ahead, the result will be more efficient. With your full focus on each task, nothing will be “half-assed” (is there another word for this??). Don’t check your phone while you’re watching Netflix, don’t open up tabs you’re not using on the computer while doing work. Focusing on each thing will allow you to notice more details of each hobby or task, and this is extremely gratifying.
4. Have Your Rituals and Break Them
I have a morning and nightly routine. On slower days, my morning routine is what follows: I wake up and check my phone (exactly what you shouldn’t do, ha!). Sometimes, my cat will come in bed with me and I will take this time to love him up, pet him, and also listen to his purring, which is actually really soothing! I’ll delete emails and other things before looking over my schedule for the day. Then, I get up and brush my teeth and do all the other typical morning things. Sometimes, I’ll make breakfast and then get dressed; sometimes I’ll do the opposite. Other days, I’ll go to a coffee shop to get breakfast. And some days, I’ll put on my eye makeup before I fill in my eyebrows and vice versa.
It’s important to switch things up, even if they seem minuscule! It keeps you from going on autopilot and focusing on what stressful things could happen during your day.
5. Find Beauty in the Little Things
This, again, has to do with focus and the senses. There are so many beautiful things in life that go unnoticed. Some of my favorites are: crisp air on a fall day, how light falls onto the floor through the windows, unique grains in each piece of wood, birds’ little tiny legs, milk swirling into coffee, snow dancing against my window, light reflecting and creating little rainbows everywhere, cute flowers, fuzzy fat squirrels, an amazing chord in one piece of music, small and unexpected sayings on the sidewalks or packaging of products. These things bring me so much joy!! Even just typing these things right now, I feel uplifted and so, so grateful.
In practicing these different techniques daily, I have experienced immense growth and change in my identity. I feel like I’m a completely different person in this regard now compared to a year ago. While these habits take a bit of time to form, they will help you become a more present and mindful person in the long term. Embracing the current moment is so important and helps you feel alive and at peace.
Thank you so much for reading! If you have any other tips for staying aware and in the moment, leave them in the comments! I’m always looking for new things to think about and try.