When I first started my stress management business in 2009, I did a lot of writing. I was soon a contributor to a prominent online publication. I enjoyed reading all of the articles written there, each focusing on different aspects of well being and taking care of the world in which we live. When I submitted a piece, I’d notice that the editors would select certain words and make them links to other articles. It was the first time I’d seen that done and thought it was an interesting way for readers to gather more information. I even started adding links in some of my own blog posts.
As the years passed, my business evolved. My primary focus now is how to live in the moment – what a lot of people call “being mindful”. To be specific, I teach people how to become more aware of their surroundings and to pause, not only to appreciate what they enjoy but to also remain present and unperturbed when things are not so pleasant. The practice has physical, emotional and spiritual benefits beyond just reducing stress, and requires focused attention on the moment, even if it’s not for long.
For instance, a way to practice mindfulness during a typical day would be to choose one task and be there fully for it. If you’re brushing your teeth, you might notice what the handle feels like in your hand, how the bristles feel against your teeth and gums, or how the toothpaste smells. You might pay attention to what thoughts come and go while you brush and what emotions arise with those thoughts. You simply continue brushing while expanding your awareness of all the things that you feel, sense or think. If your mind wanders (and it usually does), you take note of those thoughts, and then gently escort your focus back to the task at hand – brushing your teeth.
This morning a friend encouraged me to read an article about reaching out to people in need. As I began, I couldn’t help but notice all of the blue text that lay ahead of me. One after another, they popped up, almost begging for attention, distracting me from my intention. Was I supposed to stop each time and click on every link? How many articles would I end up reading? Wouldn’t I confuse them? Would I have the time or even remember to get back to my original article?
Just in considering my options, my heart seemed to beat faster. I could feel myself becoming stressed. Furthermore, in a time when technological advances would have us believe we are more “connected” than ever, there is a growing sector of society that feels isolated, lonely and misunderstood. It’s no surprise then, that we are seeing a rise in violent behavior, depression, and even suicide. Tania Singer, Ph.D., a longtime researcher at the Max Planck Institute asserts that a “perceived feeling of loneliness is the best predictor of mortality”.
You don’t need as much information as you think. It’s okay to stay informed, but attempting to keep up with every new piece of information can lead to stress, confusion, and angst. Is reading giving you the blues? Feel calmer and stay more connected to the world around you by reading one thing at a time and giving it your full attention.