Use this mindfulness technique to promote presence & engagement during activities.
Notice the activity you're doing. Driving. Selecting an orange at the supermarket. Preparing a presentation for your boss. Acknowledge the task, silently or aloud. E.g., "I am waiting in line at the DMV," "I am deciding between dinner items on a menu."
Now, embrace the activity. Accept that you're doing it. Focus on the activity. Breathe. Give it your honest best. When you find your mind drifting to other topics, or you notice mental chatter complaining about the task, see that as an invitation to reengage the task, to refocus on what's actually happening.
No point in kidding ourselves. We don't have to act like looking for a parking space is as fun as a dream vacation.
That said - can the task be a little more fun, interesting, and engaging than it currently is? Isn't that better than suffering through it?
Typically, when we're not enjoying what we're doing, it's because our mind is preoccupied. We're thinking about the past. Thinking about the future. Imaginging a different present. Or just muttering to ourselves about how little we enjoy what we're doing, bemoaning what a chore or pill or bummer this activity is. This mental absorption pulls attention & energy away from the task, robbing us of our ability to enjoy it. And the negativity drains us & weighs us down, sapping whatever enthusiasm we have.
We don't need to give ourselves a pep talk or chug positivity. We can simply let the mental activity be, and refocus on the physical task at hand.
Focus on the task, physically and mentally.
Give the task your honest best.
And then move on.
Some techniques you might try:
- narration: A short, concrete statement describing what you're doing and what you're about to do. E.g., "I am filling out a loan application, I will bring it to the bank agent when I'm done." Try it out, see what happens. In my experience, this helps me feel more focused and engaged on what I'm actually doing, which is way better than pinballing around in imagination.
- sense: Engage your physical senses as you undertake the task. Most tasks naturally engage the sense of sight. Notice - how clearly are you seeing? Are your eyes a little fuzzy with mental absorption? Gently engage the other senses, too. While you're looking in a cupboard for a particular can of soup, engage your sense of touch, notice your hand touching one item and then another. Engage your sense of sound: hear the cupboard door creak, the can slide on the shelf. See if you can work smell and taste into the experience too, if only subtly. This draws attention away from our reactive minds and toward what we're actually doing.
- pause: Urgency & hurrying make it hard to enjoy what we're doing. Hurriedly telling ourselves to "slow down!" rarely works. There's nothing like pausing. Even a brief pause can help us reconnect with our bodies, reconnect with our activity, and help us bring better attention & focus to what we do. We tend to enjoy things more when we're doing them well. Pausing sets us up for performative success
- positive reinforcement: Give yourself congratulations and encouragement. As you're putting the new registration sticker on your license plate, notice opportunities to give yourself a "nice job" or "well done" or "yeah baby" along the way. Don't wait for the end of the task. Give yourself encouragement and congrats as you complete steps along the way. We enjoy activities more when we get honest positive feedback. Why wait for someone else to give it to you?
- remember the bigger picture: If you find yourself struggling during a task, zoom out and remember why you've engaged the task to begin with. Ask what greater purpose this task is serving. Why am I hauling a bag full of garbage to the trash can? Ah yes - so my house doesn't stink. Why am I licking this stamp? Ah, right - so I can mail in the rent check. Why am I attending this yoga class? Why yes - afterwards I almost always feel better than I did before, and it's so good for my long term health. When we get too caught up in the tasks themselves, we can start to feel like robots, doing one menial chore after another. Zooming out and remembering the bigger picture helps us contextualize our tasks in a meaningful way, which instills our doing with a greater sense of purpose & importance.