Experiments in Mindfulness For Folks Who Are Busy
A guest post by Aarathi Selvan
I find myself often caught up in the midst of one too many things every day. I know many of us do. We find ourselves getting to work, switching on our computers while we pick up some files, get some conversations going. And then when the computer is on, we open several windows, read emails (that we’ve probably already read while waking in bed), check in on some spreadsheets and get the morning coffee going.
All at once.
If you are like me and work sometimes from home, then doing this with a toddler running around cannot be easy. And yet, we are forced to sit sometimes, in front of the computer, caught up in a whirlwind of “To-do” lists that don’t include being with our babies, or ourselves for that matter.
And at the end of the day, sometimes, it becomes hard to recollect what we really did that entire day. Whether we enjoyed it, if we really lived it, we don’t know.
It is important to acknowledge that being busy is not necessary being productive.
Busy is not the requirement to be productive.
So, do we want to productive or just busy? If productivity is key then mindfulness is your answer.
Mindfulness means being present.
Being in the now.
Directing our attention in the now so that we can discern where it is needed most.
Here are five mindfulness tools that can enhance productivity in your daily life without keeping you busy.
I invite you to be an objective researcher and try these experiments in your own life, try it out for a day or more and if you find that you are actually feeling more mindful and productive begin to incorporate them in your life.
Keep an alarm on your phone to go off at a random interval to remind you to single task for five minutes. Once the reminder goes off, shut all the extra windows on your computer screen, or stop cooking and cleaning up while pretending to be present with your child and just work on that one task on your computer or just play with complete and single-minded attention with your child. For five minutes.
That is all. If you find that you are actually enjoying the single minded dedication to your work and want to increase it to 10 minutes, do so. Be an objective observer in this experiment and amplify the result if you benefit from it.
Single-tasking as you can see is the opposite of multitasking. It helps you slow down, take care of what is needed most in the present moment and also helps you complete your task faster than if you were multitasking. Don’t believe me? Try it out and let your experience speak for itself.
2) Long Exhalations
In the midst of anxiety and stress, at home or at work, our bodies go into fight or fight mode, which means we lash out (or flee) at anyone or anything that comes our way. This state of being and the reactions that lead to anger or depression diminish our brilliance and strengths. We end up focussing on the negative in our lives rather than the positive.
Taking short breaks during times of stress helps us switch and move away from the flight or fight response we may have. Taking a few slow and deep in breaths to the count of three and a long out breaths to the count of six help relax our brains. Studies suggest specifically that long exhalations help us relax.
Upon taking these short in breaths and long out breaths, acknowledge that you are relaxing. When you acknowledge the process, you will gradually find yourself staying in the present moment. And with practice, this experiment will help you connect to mindful action.
3) Energy Audit
Have you noticed how you spend your energy? One of the reasons for exhaustion and overwhelm is that we allow our energies to spent in ways that are not helpful. This is an especially insightful experiment to conduct when you feel exhausted, off or down and don’t know how you got there.
Choose a typical day in your life and place hourly/twice an hour reminders to take a five minute break to jot down how you spent that hour, how you felt and whether it was energy well spent (hence energizing) or if your energy got depleted. At the end of the day, before you go to bed, make an assessment of how you would spend this typical day in way that energizes you than depletes.
4) Letting Go
Resentment, anger, stress and other difficult emotions create a lot of baggage. We end up carrying them right underneath the surface, waiting to get hurt or upset based on how our day goes.
Instead, when we meet with difficulties and challenges we can tell ourselves to consciously to let it go, let the anger go, let the stress go and focus instead on this breath, this moment and this situation at hand. Often people tell me they try to let it go but at the end of the day they are still angry. I say, let it go too. Try it for a day and see how you feel, try it again and again in the face of difficult emotions and find yourself feel more available for what is important in your life.
One of my favourite tools in connecting with happiness, my strengths, and resilience and the beauty of others in my life is through the practice of gratitude. For seven days I invite you maintain a gratitude journal. At the end of your day get out a pen and journal and write three things that you are grateful for about that day and why. Then add a fourth entry where you include ONE thing you are grateful for yourself and also answer why.
Many people try writing a gratitude journal and feel like it is a wasted practice because they don’t focus and get specific with this journaling exercise. They write about what they are grateful for in general, like family, nourishing food, etc and while these are great it is really important to be specific and talk about what you are grateful about your day. So be specific and answer why.
Research suggests that gratitude enhances happiness. Personally, I have found that when I intentionally practice gratitude for my days, for my family and for difficult situations, I am able to focus on the reality of the situation, that it has both positives and negatives and that where I am right now is not as bad as my brain makes it out to be. This makes me more anchored in my life and helps me choose a more intentional and loving way to interact with others. Try out this exercise and see how it opens your awareness to your present moment.
Which experiment you are going to try today?
Leave a comment below telling me what you are drawn to and how it went.
Aarathi Selvan is a licensed psychotherapist, Mindfulness guide and a Contemplative artist. She practices and teaches mindful motherhood. You can meet her at: