Slowing down to the present

Article written by Mary Metten, Health and Well-being Extension Educator. 
Originally published in the Kenosha News.

How often are we reading, and listening, and talking, and eating, and thinking?

Having the ability, or perceived ability, to do several things simultaneously is how many of us attempt to keep up with high demands at work, home and everywhere in between.

We live in a fast-paced society where high stimulation is more and more a way of life.

Multitasking is often presented as a strength and essential to survive.

There is absolutely a time, need and function for multitasking; however, probably not at the rate we utilize it.

Single tasking

Research from Stanford University suggests that people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time.

It takes time for your mind to switch and shift its focus from one thing to another and back again.

Aside from doing a challenging task, we spend a lot of time only partially focused on a particular thing.

This can be due to physically multitasking or allowing our thoughts to have a mind of their own.

Single tasking, or monotasking, is the notion of devoting full time and attention to a singular objective or task.

This method allows you to apply your complete attention to one thing and truly experience what is in the present moment.

Simplifying down to one thing at a time can be difficult when it differs from your normal pace.

You can begin to retrain yourself and build the habit by devoting moments of the day to single tasking.

Living in the moment

Breath — When you start to feel stressed, angry, frustrated, shocked or cannot stop thinking about something: stop. Bring attention to your breathing for the moment.

Sounds — When you hear things like birds chirping, laughter or the rustle of leaves, use them to bring you back to the present.

Joy — Whenever a moment gives you a rush of joy or makes you feel alive, take a deep breath. Imprint the experience and feelings associated to your mind.

Movement — When you are doing physical activity, bring your attention to the muscles you are using.

Taste — Pay attention as you eat or drink. Notice the sight, smell, taste and textures.

Listening — Bring awareness to listening and talking. Can you listen without agreeing or disagreeing, liking or disliking, or planning what to say next?

Waiting — Whenever you wait in a line or are stopped in traffic, use this time to check in. Bring awareness to your breathing, body sensations, thoughts or emotions.

Challenging yourself to try different strategies for things you do daily will take little or no extra time.

It may take conscious effort to focus only on the activity at hand when your mind naturally wants to jump around; take notice of how easy or difficult it is to practice single tasking to continue to build a new habit.