How to Enjoy Life and Gain Energy by Paying Attention
- Got in the car.
- Buckled up.
- Started down the street.
- Arrived at my destination with no clear memory of the drive.
Scary, isn't it? I operated on auto-pilot, and trusted to habit to navigate busy roads safely.
How often do we spend entire days on auto-pilot? No wonder we feel that time is flying past, or that days seem monotonously the same. We're paying no attention to them.
Mindlessness wastes your life. Distracted and busy, you spend precious, irretrievable time without joy.
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12 steps to better attention
1. As soon as you're awake, breathe deeply, stretch, and pray or meditate.
2. Eat healthfully, possibly outside or at least near a window. Relish the flavor of your food; watch and listen to the wind, birds, trees, water, even the cars going by. Notice when you have eaten enough, and realize that you feel peaceful and grateful.
3. Take time to connect with your roommate, partner, or kids.
4. Work at your most important tasks first, one at a time, giving each your full attention. Realize that if something is worth your time, it's worth doing well. Feel less anxiety and stress because you know you're giving your best efforts to the tasks that matter.
5. Don't be distracted by your phone as you stand in the kitchen making your lunch or boiling the pot for tea. Look at the sunlight shining on the floor. Taste the crisp flavors of your salad. Listen to the pitch of the kettle as it gets closer to boiling, and smell the bergamot in your Earl Grey. Feel the warmth as you lift your cup.
6. Don't try to squeeze in more tasks than you realistically have time for, and accept that there will be occasional delays and mix-ups. Allow a bit of breathing room in your schedule so you don't need to be pushy or fear being late for an appointment.
8. Observe seasonal changes and the weather as you're driving home. The radio isn't simply background noise -- if you like a song that's playing you might tap or sing along. If it brings back memories, think about them. Once again, straighten your shoulders and relax your neck, breathing deeply to feel re-energized.
9. Be a good listener when you spend time with your family and friends. Share your successes and struggles and pay attention to theirs. Give and receive congratulations and encouragement. Realize how much each person means to you.
10. Relax by doing something creative, by getting outside, or by moving your body, instead of spending all evening in front of the TV or computer. Pay attention to what you see, hear, feel, smell, and taste. Look for beauty, no matter how small.
11. Prepare for bed by writing in a gratitude journal.* Make a list of important tasks for tomorrow, releasing any worry or concern about them for the night. Breathe deeply, stretch, and pray or meditate.
12. Sleep well and peacefully so your body, mind, and spirit will be refreshed for tomorrow.
Congratulations! You should be feeling more calm, centered, and focused, with more energy for important tasks and relationships.
10 additional tips for superior results
1. You don't have to buy an app or find a guru to learn mindfulness. You don't need to insert one more thing on your to-do list. Mindfulness takes no money and needs no appointment. You simply need to pay attention.
2. Don't worry if mindfulness feels strange at first. It's probably very different from the way you usually barrel through your days without thinking or noticing, but every time you practice it will be easier to be aware.
3. Accept your emotions, good and bad, high and low. Notice when you start negative self-talk or when you have feelings like envy or impatience. We have to recognize and acknowledge these things if we want to replace them with something more positive.
5. Experience each season as it occurs, instead of following the retail calendar. This will not only ground you in the real world, it will reduce the feeling that time is rushing by or that each day is blurring into the next.
6. Designate specific times to check email and social media so you can be efficient and effective at keeping in touch. Then you can get back to people and events in real life.
7. Pay attention to the people who are right in front of you. It will increase your appreciation for them.
8. Doing a kindness for one person will give you far more satisfaction than clicking 100 "like" buttons.
9. Learn to say no, and you'll experience less stress while you devote your best energy and ideas to the tasks you care most about.
10. Find time for silence, and sort out other people's goals, interests, and priorities from your own. When you turn your attention away from ads, news, popular culture, and social media, you can start to make decisions that meet your deepest needs.
Now you're really on your way to a joyful, energized life!
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