By Jim Nicolai, M.D. for YouBeauty.com
Is it just me or has life gotten really fast?
It's so evident around this time of year. Right when we land on Black Friday, it seems like the lightspeed button gets pushed, and we instantly go into hyper-mode, even though we were probably moving pretty quickly in the first place.
What's with all of this speed?
I frequently ask this question to guests staying at Miraval Resort and Spa, where I serve as medical director for Integrative Wellness programs. People come to Miraval "to get away from it all" and find a place of quiet calm. We give them permission to turn off their cell phones, computers, even the television, and for a time, to simply be in the present moment.
It's often liberating.
As we sit together, often around a fire, I pose this question to guests:
How did life get so darn fast?
It's interesting the comments I get.
Sometimes, people say it's just a matter of getting older, having more responsibilities or over-scheduling ourselves with too many activities. Some say technology has a whole lot to do with it. We are able to get things done with amazing efficiency; information is an internet search away. We are interconnected -- sometimes when we don’t want to be. And although our virtual communities may be thriving, it seems as if we are having a hard time hanging out with our neighbors (if we even know their names).
So what do we do about the pace?
My answer is two-fold: Turn off and tune in.
Even if it's just for 15 minutes, we should fight for and protect a time each day free from e-mail and cellphones, I-Pads and MP3 players, and just simply be. It is better for me to do this in nature, although creating a meditation space that has some nature in it -- plants, flowers, a bonsai tree -- is perfectly fine from my perspective. If you want music inside, let it be soft, calm, flowing and rhythmic.
If you are outside, go someplace where the sounds of nature can play their melodies -- a park, a pool or fountain, somewhere close to mountains or trees. Let birdsong and waterfalls be your music, and let yourself be within it. Try the following activities:
- Do breathing exercises: Breathe fuller, deeper, more rhythmically even while you walk or sit.
- Practice gratitude: Write about three things or people for which you are grateful or appreciative every day. Express your gratitude internally during this time; allow it to remind you to express gratitude to others as a regular practice.
- Be more mindful: Mindfulness is the technique of bringing all of our awareness to the here and now, to the immediate sensations in our bodies and breathing without judgment of right or wrong, good or bad. Full awareness keeps us from slipping into our to-do list or past history.
- Pray or say affirmations: This can often help us stay mindful of the present moment.
As you tune in, allow yourself to gauge where you are in the quiet of the present moment. Assess your level of harmony, energy and stress. Notice if you are in equilibrium or falling off balance. Set goals for small actions to move toward health, deal with distraction and move away from habitual patterns of negative behavior. Take time to do this first thing in the morning.
It may be the only chance you get.