Mindful or Mindless, Which Best Describes You?
I just watched an Ellen Langer speech on mindfulness, and I think it may have changed my life!
Langer is a Psychology Professor at Harvard, and the crux of her talk was how we spend much of our day in mindlessness. Her assertion is spot on, we are rarely mindful throughout our days. We get caught up in our comfortable routines, mindlessly moving through our various responsibilities. We have come to accept that this mindless state is how we accomplish what we perceive as mundane activities in order to make our busy lives manageable. We’re on remote control from how we grocery shop to how we behave in work meetings. If it seems to work, we don’t question or change it. Why would we?
Here are some examples of mindlessness. Do any of this sound familiar?
- Reading and being unable to remember what you read
- Rushing to get something done with little attention to the details or even the process of doing it
- Eating without noticing the taste and texture of your food
- Thinking about something in the past or happening in the future rather than being present in a meeting or conversation
We are all guilty of these! We let our minds drift off constantly. During mindlessness, Dr. Langer said, “We are frequently in error but never in doubt.” I had to laugh because I can certainly see myself in these words. My husband will be talking, I’m in a mindless state pondering where we’ll go for dinner, and he’ll ask a question. He caught me…again! I feel like a heel, and I’ve sent the message that I don’t care to listen to him. This only encourages him not to pay attention to me when I’m talking about something that doesn’t interest him. Can you relate?
How To Practice Mindfulness
Of course, it’s unrealistic to expect we could be 100% present all the time, particularly for tasks we wish we could avoid. However, think of the potential effect on a few key aspects of your life, from your work to your relationships, if you consciously move from mindlessness to mindfulness throughout your day. This could be a game changer!
The solution for practicing mindfulness is sooo easy! Start by noticing new things — it puts you in the present and makes you aware of yourself and your surroundings. I’m not a foodie myself, but my girls are, so now, when we go to a nice restaurant, I eat slowly and notice the taste and texture of my food. I pay attention to the restaurant decor, menu, and service I receive. After dinner, I can describe the experience in a way that my girls relish! It allows me to bond with them on something that is important to them.
Another way to practice mindfulness is to focus on active listening so you can ask questions. This requires being present — after all, we want to be heard and truly understood. I’m able to deepen my relationships. I’ve also started to question why I do something a particular way. Could it be done differently, more efficiently, more effectively, or even in a way that I enjoy more? I have changed how I schedule my days so that I can take a short walk between client meetings. The weather is beautiful, and I love being outside. Not only are these ways to stay mindful, but even more important, to live a joyful life and appreciate all we have to be grateful for.