BreakingModern — Our lives are filled with distractions. Most of us walk around with at least one mobile device within reach, placing the world of the Internet at our beck and call. If you think back even 10 years ago if you had to wait for anything — a doctor’s appointment, a bus, even a phone call — you would usually spend those few minutes alone with your thoughts. Now any length of time can be easily filled with a browse of Facebook, a glance at a website or a quick round of an online game.
One of the dangers of this constant influx of information is that it becomes harder and harder to concentrate on one task for any length of time, and increasingly difficult to spend any time alone with our thoughts.
Many people are paying attention to just how distracted we’ve become. A few months ago, I interviewed Manoush Zomorodi, host of the Note To Self podcast about her Bored and Brilliant project where she set challenges to help people step away from their phones for long enough to get bored and stir some of their creative juices.
Zomorodi definitely isn’t an advocate for getting rid of mobile devices and neither am I, but I do think we need to pay attention to the information overload.
I’ve taken to adding “mindfulness breaks” into my workday, in part to help me manage feeling so overwhelmed, but also to help me avoid the trap of multitasking and really enable my brain to focus on one task at a time.
Here are five helpful tips to infuse some mindfulness into your day.
Sit back in your chair, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Focus your attention on pulling the breath in, holding it for a moment, and then releasing it. If you notice at any point that your attention has become focused on something other than your breath, gently redirect your attention back to your breathing.
Choose a Mindful Task
Choose a task you have to complete multiple times each day (like turning a doorknob or picking up a telephone), and turn it into a mindful task. Each time you complete the task, take a second to pause and notice how you’re feeling in that moment before proceeding with the task. It’s subtle, but by taking the time to be mindful of some of our repetitive tasks can help us to be more present in our daily lives.
Let it Go
I find this to be a handy tool for dealing with a situation where the best action is no action at all.
Maybe you’ve received an email from a coworker or a supervisor that you can’t respond to without making things worse, or you’re dealing with customers blaming you for something that’s not your fault.
Start by taking a deep breath and think or say the number “five.” As you exhale, think or say the words “let it go” and focus on letting go of whatever thought or idea you are stressed about. On the second inhale think or say the number “four” then exhale and think or say “let it go.” Repeat these steps for three more breaths, counting down to one.
Think about something that happened today that you are particularly grateful for. If you’re having trouble thinking about something that happened, think about a person you are grateful for. Hold this grateful thought in your mind for 20-30 seconds. Think about why you feel grateful for this person or thing. Think about how it makes you feel. Think about holding onto this feeling as you move through the rest of your day.
Select a coloring book or print some coloring pages of the web (Pinterest is actually a great place to find free coloring pages) and spend a few minutes focused on coloring. Think about the colors you are selecting, notice the strokes of the pencil or the shading you are creating. Try to keep your attention as focused as possible on the task you are engaged in.
If it’s impractical (or perhaps embarrassing) to use an actual coloring book and pencils, there are some great apps out there. I’ve been using Colorfy which is free to download for Android on Google Play and Apple iOS.
One tip to help you remember to stop and take a mindfulness break is to quite literally add it into your schedule. Add a recurring event in your Google Calendar or a recurring to-do item to your to-do list (I like Wunderlist) and set a daily reminder. Two times I find most helpful to schedule mindfulness breaks are the late morning mid-afternoon.
Hopefully you’ve found a couple of tips in this article to help you build more mindfulness breaks into your workday. I’d love to know if you are finding them helpful. Please leave a message in the comments or reach out on Twitter and let me know what you think.
Featured Image Credit: Birds. Wikimedia Commons
Image Credit: Woman on a rock. Wikimedia Commons
Image Credit: Smiling women. Wikimedia Commons