As Americans, Memorial Day is a time to honor those who risk their lives for our country every day. For many of us, it is also a long-awaited 3-day weekend and opportunity to unwind. The concept of “me time” probably sounds like a fairy tale to most of us. Whether you live here in Brooklyn, or anywhere else in New York city, sometimes just getting to work in the morning can use up a lot of your energy. But very often, we extend the distractions of these busy days by being buried in our phones or worrying about tomorrow before today is even done. At North Brooklyn Marriage and Family Therapy, we see all the time the effects of these daily diversions can have on our relationships with our partners, friends, children, coworkers, etc. To kick off the summer season, commit to taking a little time to slow down.
1) Be More Mindful
A few months back we offered a Mindfulness Group here at North Brooklyn. The goal of mindfulness is to help you slow down, be in-the-moment and aware of your surroundings. How often do you find yourself out with friends or talking to a spouse and half-listening because you’re thinking about that RSVP you forgot to mail out or an interview you’re concerned about the next day? Most of us are guilty of this at some point. But for many, mindfulness feels like just another to-do item on our ever-growing lists. Here’s a VERY simple technique that you can try now. Set your phone timer for one minute. Breathe in and out naturally for 60-seconds, focused only on your breathing. If your thoughts stray, take note of that, and re-focus on your breath. That’s it. Sounds too simple? It’s not. It works to start slowing your mind. Try these other 1 minute mindfulness techniques.
2) Put Down Your Phone
This one is a no-brainer. Research shows that our cell phones negatively impact our relationships. Try this: put your cell phone somewhere unreachable for one hour each day. You will probably be surprised with how distracted you are once you realize you can’t just grab for it. See above. Practice slowing down and being present in the moment.
3) Make a (small) Plan
This one might sound contradictory to slowing down your already busy life. The idea here is not to add to your to-do list, but rather make a spontaneous plan. Try taking an after dinner walk over the Williamsburg Bridge, color for half an hour, or finally reach out to the old friend you’ve been meaning to call. It doesn’t actually matter what the plan is, the smaller the better! What matters here is that you commit to doing something different and just do it. Don’t save it for another day.
Most of us are guilty of doing too much and being too tired. We might not be able to slow the pace of the outside world but we can incorporate some things to help us slow down and take notice of our own worlds.
By Linda Nelli, LMFT