Day 7 – Mindfulness Year and a Day
I read an article a few days ago (ironically enough, I was on my phone) that detailed a study into how we, as working adults, use our free time, and how that free time usage has changed over the past decade. Here’s a quick visual:
I talked a little bit yesterday about some of my crazy thoughts that have kept me from my own path for so long. Today, I’m going to just be blunt: if you’re like me, the time I spend staring at screens is robbing me of my own life.
Part of living a mindful life is understanding toxic habits and releasing them.
I’m great at saying, “I don’t have time.” Like… amazing at it. I say it to my friends, my family, myself… But, understand this… I’m a recovering “yesaholic.” There was a time in my life when I said “yes” to everything, taking on too much responsibility, to the point where I’d make myself exhausted and crazy.
About five years ago, I made a concerted effort to stop saying “yes” unless I really meant it. I gave up volunteer positions, and I stopped offering to “do all the things” for parties that friends were hosting. I decided I didn’t need to be the “team mom” or take on special projects at work. In short, I got really, really good at saying “no.”
This isn’t a bad thing. I’ve learned to accept roles in life that have meaning for me, and in doing so, I give more effort and energy to those tasks.
However, learning to say “no” opened up windows of free time that I wasn’t sure how to use.
Fortunately for me, there was this little gadget that was so very interesting. I could take pictures, reach the Internet, keep constant track of social media, play games… I felt so connected as long as I had my phone in my face.
I’ve come to realize, though, that the more I connect through my phone, the less I connect to myself and my immediate world. The more I reach out through the internet, the less grounded I become. It’s become a tool to placate anxiety, and yet, the second I look away, my anxiety increases.
Not long ago, I told my husband, “I need to do something other than dork off on my phone.” He asked what I wanted to do, and I sat there, thinking… finally, I said, “I don’t remember what I used to do.”
Except I do remember.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve relied less on my phone and more on my creative spirit to fill those free hours of my life.
I’ve done my daily yoga.
I’ve painted a picture for my bedroom.
I made a wrap skirt out of a couple saris that I bought expressly for this purpose over a year ago.
I helped my daughter make a couple cosplay outfits for ComiCon.
I’ve almost finished reading an awesome urban fantasy novel (Dangerous Ways, by R.R. Virdi… check it out!)
I learned how to format a screenplay, and I wrote a short screenplay!
The accomplishments are great for the soul… but what’s better is the decreased anxiety I’m feeling from not knee-jerk grabbing at my phone. I even had the experience of realizing I hadn’t pulled it out of my computer bag at all on Friday until I went to text my daughter at 3:30 PM. This is huge… because I take the damned thing to the bathroom with me.
They say the first step toward solving a problem is identifying you have one. Well, I realize that I’ve come to rely on living life through what amounts to a 5″ porthole.
I know it’s not healthy, living that way. Yet I do it anyway. That’s a problem. I’ve forgotten something very important I learned from the always-wise Ferris Bueller long ago… “Life moves pretty fast. If you stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Today’s invitation is simple. Put your phone down and step away. If you have kids and you want to make sure they can reach you in an emergency, turn your ringer on. If it dings every 10 seconds because you’re incredibly “connected,” set your quiet hours to RIGHT NOW and only allow calls and notifications from the people who matter most.
Then, when you’ve sufficiently stepped away from your phone, look up. Look out. Do something with your time that brings lightness to your spirit. Revisit an old hobby or start a new one. Read something brilliant… in print… not on a screen. Go for a walk or a hike. Pet your dog or your cat. Finger paint with your kids (even if they’re grown kids and you’re using actual artist acrylics). Sit and tune into your breath.
Take those precious few hours we have every day that aren’t owned by work or sleep, and truly make them yours.