The long, sun-filled summer days are the perfect time for most of us to unwind and slow down a bit. Summer provides a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the busyness of our lives. Here are some tips to make this summer one in which you can really slow down, be present, find some true peace of mind, and foster a greater connection with yourself and with those around you.
(1) Become more aware of how you spend your mental energy. This summer, become more aware of the amount of time and energy you spend on technology. The latest research shows that we experience the same reward pathways in our brains from our use of smartphones as we do from the use of drugs, and we suffer real negative consequences from this technology addiction as well -- exhaustion, lack of focus and concentration, poor sleep, and increased stress, to name a few. So, begin to notice your smartphone habits and how often you are on your device. Notice how that time spent on your device makes you feel.
(2) How are your connecting? Although technology can help us stay connected, our devices very often take us away from where we are and keep us from being fully present with those around us. For example, think about how often we take pictures of a beautiful sunset, or take a video of a concert or sporting event, so we can enjoy it later or share it with others, rather than truly experiencing what is happening as it unfolds and being in the moment. Similarly, instead of truly connecting with those around us, we are busy sending snapshots of where we are to all those not present, missing the opportunity to truly connect to the people we are with.
(3) It's OK to do nothing. In our culture, we pride ourselves on our busyness. The more we do, the more "alive" we feel. But are we truly feeling "alive" or are we mistaking that feeling of aliveness for low-grade chronic stress and a false sense of productivity? Is this busyness making us happy? We often feel that if we are not multitasking, we are not making the most of our time and our talents. However, the more we try to cram into our days, the more we find that we are not enjoying what we are doing and we are not doing it well. Try doing nothing for a little while. Experience what that feels like. Be bored. When you immerse yourself in your surroundings it is amazing what you will notice. Being bored is actually quite difficult when you learn to simply be where you are and notice all that is around you. You may find that it is not boring at all, but peaceful, interesting and enjoyable. Boredom also sparks creativity and imagination. Some of the greatest and most innovative minds of our time found their greatest inspiration when they were simply doing nothing (Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, Philippe Starck, to name a few).
(4) Unplug. Leave your phones at home for a while. You will be OK - I promise. Make a rule to only check your email two or three times a day, at a particular time, and stick to it. See how that feels. Studies have shown that people who do this are more efficient, more productive, make fewer mistakes and report lower levels of stress and fatigue. The bad news is that teens and adults are now reporting that their phones are one of their greatest stressors. The good news is that we can do something about it -- turn it off.
(5) Resist Temptation. Begin to notice when you have that urge to check your phone. You may be bored or in need of a distraction from an unpleasant feeling. Notice the urge to take a picture or video, and instead immerse yourself in the moment and soak it in. Enjoy that beautiful sunset or a conversation with a friend. Notice all the interesting people around you when you are taking a walk, in the grocery store or commuting to work. Resist the lure of your device to take you anywhere other than where you are. You may find the world to be an incredibly interesting, enjoyable and peaceful place once you begin to be fully present in it.