Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. Instead of letting your life pass you by, to be mindful is to be aware of your thoughts and choosing to be present in the moment.
One of the things I’ve struggled with most at home is being present. Not physically, but actually being mentally present for the benefit of my family. Can you relate?
I strongly suspect the reasons for this struggle will differ for each of us, depending on our situation and our personal make-up. However here’s three reasons I think are often at play in peoples lives.
We are constantly distracted
Distraction comes in many forms, however I think that without doubt the biggest distraction in modern society is our devices. In a moment of silence, even when others are around, everyone seems to reach for their device. Adults do it, teens do it even young mums do it when they are breast feeding. All of us would rather be distracted than go deeper with those around us. All of us are training our minds to sign out of conversations, to sign out of the moment and be in the present just a little less each day.
We don’t like our present
Probably the most valid reason for not being present is not liking your current environment. Worst case scenario is it can be emotionally and or physically abusive, causing you to withdraw. Or perhaps you didn’t like your present as a child and you trained yourself to disconnect. The result is that you train your mind, without knowing, to disconnect from reality. To fantasise, dream and isolate yourself from others. This brain training may occur as a young person and be with us in adulthood, even when we love our family environment. So we need to focus on retraining ourselves to once again be present.
We are stressed
We can be stressed for all sorts of reasons…work, finances, relationships, health, or…the goat pooing in your car. Yes that happened and yes I was mildly stressed for some time.
But not everyone, or anyone else on the planet for that matter, will have goat poo impregnated in the carpet of their new car. So in reality the reasons for stress will look very different for all of us. But what I have found with stress is that it causes us to be less present. But not only that, it causes us to self-medicate. Whether it be drinking, drugs, porn…these are all just medications to help make the present more enjoyable. The funny thing is these things all just contribute towards the problem, they don’t actually help…even though at the time we think they do.
So below are some better forms of medication. I have proven them to work in my life and I recommend them with confidence.
- Have Dinner Together
It’s interesting…research actually shows that families that eat together regularly have kids who do better at school. They don’t get in as much trouble. They are less likely to smoke, drink and do drugs. Why…because they get to connect with you. Practice connecting. I’ve had to train myself to stay at the table when I’ve finished eating. I use to be the first one to get up and when I got up others followed. If I stay at the table after I’ve finished eating then the whole family stays longer and we connect more.
- Play one game a night
If you often don’t connect with your kids in the evening, you may have trained them not to ask you to play with them anymore. My kids have been like that. Often I felt I was to tired or stressed or whatever to play. But to be more present I have taught myself to ask the kids to play a game. I aim for one game a night, I figure that’s doable, even though it often ends out being more. But if you are low on energy, aim for just one game.
- Stay one more minute
This one is hard…maybe too hard for some…but I highly recommend choosing a time in the evening, when you can connect with others, to take your phone out of your pocket and place it somewhere else in the house. Then connect, but when you are tempted to go and get the phone just stay one more minute, ask one more question, go a bit deeper with someone. Practice connecting.
- Exercise and eat well
From my experience a lot of stress can come from what we do with our bodies. We probably all know this deep down, but aren’t prepared to make the changes needed for our or others benefit. A simple food allergy can stress us, leaving us with insufficient energy to be present. Let alone alcohol, drugs, sugar, coffee. All these things have an effect. We are often just too stressed to care or too busy to think about it or to listen to what our body is telling us. So this leads me to my last point…
- Take time for yourself – meditate – practice mindfulness
Are you present at home or would you like to be more present? What is holding you back? Do you know? If you are not practicing mindfulness, chances are, you won’t know. As a Christian I place a high priority on having a daily quiet time. If you’re not a believer you might call it meditation. Except what us Christians do is submit our minds to God’s transformation. Yeah we are messed up people too, but what is most important is that God wants to work actively in our minds to transform our thinking. In this quiet time we can ask Him what he wants to work on and allow Him to bring clarity to the issues in our minds. If you need help getting started I highly recommend a book called Switch On Your Brain by Dr Caroline Leaf. In it she provides a transformational quiet time system that I can’t recommend enough.
This whole area is a journey for me. Perhaps others don’t struggle with it as much as I do. Perhaps others are just naturally more present. I’m still working on it and am keen on hearing your ideas on how to be more mindful and present at home.