The real reason we're so busy: six ways to reclaim more space and time
It often feels as if we’re on a treadmill, life is getting busier and busier and we are having to run faster and faster just to keep up. We are so busy we feel we can never slow down, for fear of falling off the treadmill and life imploding in one cataclysmic bang.
So, instead, we just keep on rushing on, trying to do more and more, no matter how exhausted we are.
We all imagine the promised land of a less stressful future with fewer demands. We tell ourselves that ‘one day’ we will ‘get there’ to this mythical place where we have more time and more space – ‘Once 'this or that' thing happens, life will get easier/less stressful/more manageable’.
But when will it ever end? When will you actually find a way to reclaim more time and space? Well, what if the day we were yearning for was today and the time was ‘now’?
Here are six mindfulness tips on how you can today, right now, reclaim more time and space:
1. Do it now!
Don’t wait for a project to be over, a holiday, a better mood, for the kids to go to bed, or any of the other stories your mind tells about achieving the right kind of conditions before you can practice mindfulness.
Your current thoughts, your feelings at this present time, your particular external circumstances, your urges to act and the very actions themselves are exactly the ones you need, in this moment right now, to practice mindfulness.
This is the moment you are looking for, just as it is.
2. Free your mind
Whatever you are doing now, notice the thoughts that are arising, watch them and allow them to pass by, no need to try to prevent them occurring (impossible, trust us) or alternatively to get sucked into the story of them. Even in a crisis the thoughts are still just thoughts. When we notice our thoughts, we are freeing our minds, we are no longer chasing or resisting, and a sense of spaciousness is the natural and inevitable result.
It really doesn’t matter if the actual thoughts are incessant, distressing or whatever, even just recognising that these are ‘thoughts’ helps us to become dis-identified from them and to tap into the abundant space around them. You might find that repeating these few words before a thought helps: ‘I am having the thought that (enter troublesome thought here) …’
3. Be here
If you are anxious, feeling that life is too busy and you are overwhelmed, you will find that most thoughts are about the future. The function of this time-consuming habit is to take you away from this uncomfortable emotion, to think yourself to a mental solution for a difficult feeling. But, actually this uncomfortable feeling is happening now whether you like it or not, and the chances are that you can probably tolerate it and you don’t even need to fix it or do anything about it at all!
Perhaps the solution you are seeking is just to let the feeling be, let your thoughts about the feeling go, breathe alongside it, it’s just a feeling, it is not (we promise) going to kill you, and it will pass. As you practice doing this you will be freed up from the time you think you need to spend trying to ignore or get rid of painful emotions.
4. Now is forever!
There is no ‘real’ future or past, there is only reminiscing or fantasising, in other words the past and the future are imaginary. Time is simply the present moment perpetually unfolding. The time you spend thinking about the past or the future keeps you away from now, which is actually where you really are, where your life really is and where you DO actually have time.
We know that recognising this will not reduce the workload, do the laundry or finish the tax return, but chances are you couldn’t do all, or perhaps even any of the things on your list right this moment anyway, worrying about it all just makes us stressed, less efficient and robs us of now.
5. Spend time with yourself
Whatever demands are on you, whatever you are doing, surprise, surprise, you are also there, experiencing life just as it is. As you go about your busy routine make a conscious effort to check in with your present moment experience. Throughout the day, stop and ask yourself these questions, to create more ‘me-time’ and space for you:
- How am I feeling right now?
- How am I standing, walking, sitting right now?
- What thoughts are being produced by my mind?
- What do I really need in this moment?
- How would I like to be in this moment?
6. Use ‘wasted’ time
There is time in all our days while we’re commuting or waiting in a queue that often seems like wasted time and can feel stressful. But you can utilise this time to practise mindfulness – a brilliant way of making it feel like time well spent. For instance, try this exercise the next time you’re walking to work or to pick up the kids from school:
- As you begin to walk in your usual way (even in a hurry), bring your attention in towards your body.
- Notice the sensation at your feet as they touch the ground.
- Acknowledge the weight of your body shifting between your left and right leg and notice the rhythm.
- Notice the sensation of air against your skin as you propel forwards.
- Feel the material of your clothing move against your skin as you walk.
- Expand your awareness to notice your surroundings. What do you see, smell and hear? Take in what is around you.
- As you continue to walk in this way, you are likely to find your mind wanders or becomes distracted. When it does so, gently guide your attention back to the movement and rhythm of walking.