4 Steps to Leading a Mindful Life

Our phone lights up, we hear that all too familiar “ping” and we are hit with a dopamine shot to the brain. It is an addiction that pulls us away from the present moment and sub-sequentially distracts us from the beauty of the world around us. 

It is impossible to be in the present moment and have our phone on loud, or vibrate, or even just on. With every notification we are pulled away from the people around us and the conversation unfolding. When we see notifications we think we are expected to immediately respond. Here is the reality though: it can wait. That email can wait to be responded to, that Instagram DM or comment can be dealt with later, the text from your girlfriend asking if you want to grab coffee… It. Can. All. Wait. With all the different devices we are now attached to, there will always be something to attend to, some issue to deal with, or some social distraction pulling us away from the present moment. The cure is to be more intentional with our devices so that we may lead a more mindful life. 

Scientists are now saying that each time you are distracted by your devise, your brain has a hard time getting back on track and re-focusing on what you were doing before. Recent studies found that it takes 20 minutes and 15 seconds (!!!) for the brain to get back to the thought process it was previously engaged in plus it adds significantly more stress. We are becoming more and more unable to focus on deep or complex problems or complete tasks to the best of our ability. Our society is laden with evidence that we communally believe multi-tasking is equitable to success; however, we are finding that our need to multi-task is taking away from quality work, quality time, and possibly even a quality life. 

To combat this problem, I have begun doing these key things and you would not believe the difference it has made in my life. I no longer feel the compulsive need to check my phone, I have been noticing the world around me in a new way, and my interactions with people are more genuine. Want to get in on the action? Here’s how

  1. When you are working on something complicated or something that requires focus, just turn your phone off. The reality is that you will get your work done 5X as fast and the quality of your work will most likely improve.

  2. Start asking yourself “is this useful?” or “is this serving me?” I often find myself scrolling through my newsfeed without even knowing how I got there in the first place. Now, when I find myself mindlessly staring at the screen I ask myself “is this useful?” and the answer is more often than not a resounding NO. Spending hours scrolling through Facebook or Instagram is not enhancing my life and having this system to keep ourselves in check can be a really useful tool to begin living our days more mindfully.

  3. Turn off the notifications for all social apps that are not vital to your job or family’s safety. For me this meant turning off the notifications for Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, and email. When you aren’t getting notifications every few minutes you naturally check your phone less. Now I go into the app only when I need to and when I have time. This is a useful way to dis-engage with intention, as well as keep yourself in check. (And you wouldn’t believe the relief that comes from not feeling the constant need to check your phone.)

  4. Take intentional I-Breaks. This is my new word I've created and I remind myself daily about my "I-Breaks." This could be done in many forms: choosing one day a month to turn your phone off for the whole day and just be. Or maybe it’s one day a week that you go into airplane mode and spend time with family, outdoors, or by yourself. Another helpful way to take an I-Break would be by having daily restrictions: as soon as dinner is ready the phone is off for the day, or maybe it’s just an hour before bed that you set your phone aside and read, reflect, or relax.

If you want a mantra to aid you alongside these tips to begin practicing more mindful living, try saying “everything I need is here.” When you realize that your life only exists in the present moment, each passing second becomes more precious and profound. If you get off track or find yourself still checking your phone too often try repeating this mantra to yourself or use it as your intention during yoga or mediation.