Have you ever driven home, pulled into the driveway and thought ‘how the hell did I get here?’ I know I have.
It is dangerous to drive this way and even worse to live your life this way.
Everyday our minds are exposed to more information than any other time in human history. Everywhere we go we are blasted with news, advertisements, social media, and mindless chatter. Even whilst calmly putting petrol in my car I found myself mesmerized by a small TV screen on the bowser. Add in the mind clutter caused by work and family life and it is no wonder our minds are going at 100 miles an hour. For large parts of our day our mind and our body are rarely in the same place.
Considering our mind is responsible for our feelings, thoughts, happiness, sadness, innovation, empathy, understanding as well as many other important actions it makes sense to want to look after it.
Yet most of us spend more time on our hair each morning than we do looking after our mind. Isn’t that crazy?
The most important way to look after your mind is to learn to be present.
If you are present it means your mind is not racing ahead or being consumed with the past. It’s about being fully immersed in what you are doing, and where you are at that very second.
It is not having imaginary conversations with your boss whilst your partner is talking to you. And it is not coming home and thinking about work when your kids are trying to tell you something great that happened today?
We live busy lives these days and it important to switch off. In the car is not the appropriate time, so learning to control your mind is vital. The good news is it can be done and with a little effort you can rewire your mind so that it is in synch with your body.
Being present is a skill, and like any skill you get better with practice. Here are some simple practice tips you can try:
- Try walking for 5 minutes and think of nothing but your feet touching the ground –heel toe, heel toe. Feel the ground and how your feet react to it. It may seem simple but you’ll soon realize that you are no longer thinking about something else. It’s a beginners way to start, but it works and can be done anywhere, anytime. If you cant walk then concentrate on your breathing – feel it, listen to it.
- Take a photo each day for 21 days. Download an app like 500px (free) – it allows you to easily upload your photos (they don’t have to be masterpieces) direct from your phone. Taking a photo a day forces you to be present and look for something around you to photograph. 21 days is enough to start to rewire your brain to not only be present, but to notice the positives that are around you each day. Positives you often miss because your mind is cluttered and elsewhere. People can like your photo, which gives your ego a nice boost too.
- Set time limits – when you are with your kids or friends commit to giving them 10 minutes ‘undivided’ attention. Concentrate fully on what they are saying and importantly what they are feeling. Start with small time frames – you will soon see the benefits and increasing the time will become a joy. The same rule applies to your partner – when was the last time you gave them your undivided attention?
- Try some mindfulness. If the thought of meditating sounds too hard, too much about incense and chanting, try mindfulness. In its most basic form it is simply practicing to be present. An app like Smiling Mind has various guided mindfulness sessions that are as short as 1 minute. Surely you can spare one minute to look after your brain.
- Use your senses. Stop for 3 minutes and concentrate on what you can hear, then move onto what you can smell and then what you can see. You’ll be surprised at what you become aware of. Try it when you are waiting for your coffee order, in the elevator, on the train or in the office.There are many great things around you if you would just notice them.
- Turn the tv off, don’t read a book….just sit. Don’t try to ‘think of nothing’, as that’s impossible. Just let thoughts come and go without judgment. For those who need to know how this works scientifically, Google ‘parasympathetic nervous system’ and learn how accessing it allows your body to reenergise and takes you out of the energy sapping ‘fight or flight’ mode that we spend much of the day in.
If all this sounds too hard then consider this – if driving whilst not being present is an accident waiting to happen, surely living without being present is also an accident waiting to happen. Instead of a crashed car you are risking mental illness such as depression and anxiety or isolating yourself from loved ones whilst wasting precious moments, days, years.
Stop waiting for other people or things to make you happy – look around, there are things nearby that make you happy – you just need to learn to look.
To have Nathan talk online to your staff and discuss how they can increase their ability to be present, along with increasing their resilience, please contact us at Nathan Burke Consulting.
Nathans 323 game career for the St Kilda FC ended in 2003, since then he has worked in large consultancies before branching out on his own in 2015. Currently he is also Head Coach of the Western Bulldogs AFLW team.