Smart phones have taken over our lives. I recognize it on a daily basis and when I came across Please Stow All Electronic Devices in The Chronicle of Higher Education, I knew this was going to be the subject of my next blog post.
It’s common to see couples on a date at a restaurant staring at their phones instead of each other…on vacation and at performances, the audience is more concerned with documenting their experience than actually experiencing it, and this behavior carries into the workplace. Especially if I’m in a meeting with five or more people, chances are that someone is on their laptop or phone, as opposed to paying attention to the meeting. It wastes everyone else’s time in that room.
What all of this means for humanity is that feeling focused and present is harder than ever these days. For the holiday season, give yourself the gift of increased presence in your life. Pay attention to what’s happening around you, as opposed to focusing on the next thing ahead.
Yoga helps me with continued practice, since instructors consistently bring you back to breathing and focused on what’s happening on the mat.
Currently, I’m reading Kelly McGonigal’s book, The Willpower Instinct. Although she concentrates on how to cultivate willpower in your life, she spends a chapter on dopamine and the promise of reward, which I found fascinating.
In this chapter, she chronicles how we spend more time on the promise of happiness instead of the direct experience of happiness. We’d rather play the lottery instead of getting a sure amount of money; we’ll eat fatty and sugary foods that make us feel bad later, we’re always on Facebook checking updates – even when we’re currently with a group of friends and we respond to buy-one-get-one sales even when we don’t really want what we’re buying. Instead of being present, we’re focused on that feeling of trying to attain something greater. This ultimately means we feel unsatisfied.
McGonigal offers several exercises to help us figure out what does actually make us happy, and in her book, states, “according to the American Psychological Association, the most effective stress-relief strategies are exercising or playing sports, praying or attending a religious service, reading, listening to music, spending time with friends or family, getting a massage, going outside for a walk, meditating or doing yoga, and spending time with a creative hobby.”
I offer up her advice in helping us all get re-centered and focused on what matters to us most in life – ultimately, that’s what the holidays are really all about. When we are fully present with one other, everyone benefits from the attention.