I know I'm not the only one who's constantly on the go. Spend a day observing others and you will see it. In our drive to be more productive, to get more done in less time, we're all complaining to one another, "I'm overwhelmed. My life is so crazy right now."
I find that the more I have to do, the more I want to check something off my growing to-do list. I tell myself I'll do this one last thing, but that always leads to another and another, and before you know it, the clock strikes midnight. I'm exhausted and pass out, only to wake up at 6am the next morning to start my day at the same hyper pace again. Where did this drive to fill every space with doing come from? Has our society become addicted to busyness?
Life moves so much faster today than it did for me when I was growing up. I remember having a lot of downtime and a lot of unstructured time. With today's social media, mobile phones, and uninterrupted access to the news, we can be stimulated 24/7. This can be addicting, if we let it.
The constant stimulation provides us with immediate feedback, and because we love instant gratification, busyness draws us in. Many times we feel uncomfortable with stillness, so we prefer to find something to occupy us. I'll admit it's tempting to fill every second of our day, but I truly believe we would be happier and more productive if we avoided this overload. I know when I set boundaries on my time I'm much more pleasant to live with (at least that's what my husband tells me).
So how can we flip the switch on busyness? The antidote is mindfulness--allowing ourselves to be present in the moment, the only space in which we exist. Here's three things being in the moment can do for us:
1. Reduce stress. The human nervous system is still somewhat primitive, so it can't differentiate between a real threat to our safety or something we see on TV, for example. If we are constantly striving or overstimulated, our bodies change physiologically and we experience physical and emotional stress. When we allow ourselves to stay in this stressed-out state for prolonged periods of time, our bodies eventually think that is our normal state of being. This burns us out and sets us up for all kinds of stress-related health problems, including depression, anxiety, and aches and pains caused by inflammation.
2. Unblock intuition. When we take time to rest our overactive brains, we give our inner guidance a chance to bubble up from deep inside us. Like meditating, being present in the moment creates space for us to be creative and connect with our deepest self.
3. Enhance productivity. Multitasking is both a goal and a fact of life for many of us. Our culture believes that this is a way to be more productive. Scientists have shown that our brains actually can't handle doing more than one thing at a time. When we multitask, what we are really doing is breaking our concentration repeatedly. While we may get a lot done when multitasking, if we look closely at what we've accomplished, we're likely to see that more is not actually better. For example, it's easy to get sucked in to social media and lose track of time, which takes us away from more important projects.
I encourage you to look objectively at how you spend your time and how you feel. If you are easily distracted, stressed or exhausted, it could be a sign to bring more mindfulness and less busyness into your day.