Your cell phone can wait; Your family can’t
Last year I wrote my first post about the feeling of guilt as a first time mom going back to work. Today that guilt has been hijacked by the feeling of not being fully present for my children. I am scared to admit it, but I think I am addicted to distraction. I struggle to stay present with my kids and get distracted very easily with everyday chores, responsibilities, to do lists, emotions from the past and worries about the future. Although I breathe toddlers 24/7 and they have taught me to slow down and embrace chaos. I still fight it and find myself doing dishes or buried in laundry and not giving my loved ones the attention they deserve.
I don’t need the research to understand the benefits of living in the present; I see it everyday at home. My 4 and 2 year olds are true experts. And I believe that because they live in the present, they savor and enjoy every little thing with such appreciation and excitement that it is no wonder that children are happier than adults. I want to be more like them, I want to slow down and do less so I can enjoy what is going on around me.
These are some of the things I have started doing and I encourage you to try if you also struggle with this:
1. Forget about your phone, multitasking or any other distraction and spend quality time with your child. Give them your undivided attention and listen with your eyes. I know I struggle with this because it sometimes takes me 2 seconds to respond to something their asking… I am running so many things in my head, it takes time to come back from whenever I am mentally.
There is a mindfulness exercise I like to do with my clients. It is called the 54321. Whenever your mind starts wondering and you feel like you are disengaged from your surroundings, think of 5 things you see around you, 4 things you can touch in that moment, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. This exercise can help you let go of any thoughts about the past or the future. The more you practice this throughout your day, in the car, while cooking, with your kids, the more it helps us build the muscle of mindfulness so we can be more present. If you start feeling overwhelmed about the list of tasks that needs to be done, remind yourself that a lego explosion on the floor or a pile of dishes in the sink is not a sign that you are not doing enough but a reminder that you are being more present and really putting time on what you value the most: the people you love.
2. Block time on your schedule. Don’t just schedule work meetings, classes and doctor appointments. Also schedule time to eat, read, connect, call a friend you haven’t talked with in a year, be in nature etc. Create more space in your calendar that allows you to connect with yourself and your loved ones.
3. Slow down and savor the moment. Try to be more like your child. Tell yourself that the emails can wait and allow yourself to savor different moments with your child such as the cool rush of water when helping them wash their hands. Use different moments of the day to connect with them in their favorite ways. I melt when my son asks me to cuddle with him. It has become one of my favorite moments of the day. I love Virginia Satir’s quote “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”
4. Practice gratitude: Start a gratitude journal where you write down what you are grateful for at the end of each day. I challenge you to try it for 30 days, I promise you will feel happier at the end of the month. Gratitude practices help us to be in the present moment, and focus on what we are thankful for rather than on what’s missing or still left to accomplish.
5. Find an accountability partner: Ask your loved ones or coworkers to remind you if you’re checking your phone, in a daze, or thinking about something else when you should be engaging. And then, when they offer reminders, thank them and refocus.
So how do you stay present in your life?