I was eating lunch at my desk about half a year ago, quickly wolfing it down in the 15 minutes before the afternoon session started. The following is a list of everything I was thinking and doing in that 15 minutes:
- Eating (of course)
- Answering patient messages
- Refilling medications
- Intermittently answering questions from passersby
- Figuring out what to make for dinner
- Making a grocery list
- Charting patient notes from the morning
- Making lists of gifts I needed to get for birthdays
- Making a list of chores I needed to complete that evening
- And on and on…
What did I eat? No idea. What did it taste like? No idea. What did I get done? Not much! I got a lot of partial stuff done, probably forgot to do some stuff. Also, at the end of my 15 minute break I felt stressed!
What if I had taken the 15 minutes and paid attention to what I was eating? That 15 minutes could have been enjoyable and even relaxing. I probably would have done a better job concentrating in the afternoon session if I had been able to stop all the chatter in my head and stopped the fruitless “multitasking”. It would have given my brain a break, like a computer reboot.
That’s when I decided to attend a series of Mindfulness classes at UNC. Among other things, I learned to eat mindfully, drive mindfully, get ready for work in the morning mindfully, and to breathe mindfully. What does that mean? There is a practice to train your brain to pay attention to what you are doing in that moment, rather than cluttering your mind with all the “I have to do” lists, like I was doing. It allows for increased clarity of thought, decreased anxiety, and a different appreciation for day to day activities.
A quick activity, if you’re interested, involves eating a raisin, which is a lot more complicated than one might think. Check it out on Mindfulness Meditation’s website, Exercise 2: The Raisin.
I have to go now and pick up dry cleaning, get the groceries, stop at the bank, pick up dog food, do my afternoon charts, make patient phone calls…of course mindfulness is a work in progress.