Last fall, a friend and I went for a walk through Central Park, together but apart.
It’s not that we were socially distancing—which we were. It’s that we had different goals. I was intent on getting my 10,000 steps in, pandemic be damned, and making it to a store downtown before it closed. She was singularly focused on, well, going for a walk. Savoring an afternoon conversation with a friend. Every five minutes, or so, she would stop walking and point out the way the water was rippling across the lake, or suggest we listen to the birdsong that could be heard in the distance, or talk about how the colors of some flowers in a garden we wandered into had become more vibrant recently.
One of us was walking with a purpose. The other had the purpose of going for a walk.
During this period, when we’ve been told that we have so much more time on our hands (no more commutes, no rushing to Little League games, no waiting in lines if you have things delivered), the reality is that many of us are taking a lot less time for ourselves. We’re likely multitasking more than we ever have before, as working from home ruthlessly blurs the lines between our personal and professional lives.
What’s more, COVID-19 times have stolen from us a lot of the moments we would sit in and savor. Where before we would jealously guard our lazy Sundays, we now rush to fill our every waking moment with too much busyness. Gone (for now) are the days of lingering over a two-hour brunch with friends debating the merits of the latest Netflix binge, losing ourselves in a museum for an afternoon, or immersing ourselves in a movie theater with a bucket of popcorn for a 90-minute adventure. It’s hard to replicate that singular focus in other parts of our life. It’s hard but not impossible.
And when we make the effort, it yields tremendous rewards. It’s in those moments where we allow ourselves the time and space for introspection and exploration that we can increase our joy quotient, understand ourselves better, and even recharge our being. That’s a much higher return on investment than making it to the store on time. So how do you make time for contemplation? Ask yourself the following questions to come up with a list of activities that will not only fill your cup but also expand its depth.
When Can I Switch from Multitasking to Singletasking?
When you’re not asking your brain to constantly switch from mindlessly eating food to watching television to talking to your partner while still scrolling through Instagram, it’s a lot easier to focus on the solo task at hand. Any one of those activities could invite you in for a deeper, more contemplative dive. What would it feel like to sit at a table and just enjoy a pasta dinner? What might you notice about how the noodles feel in your mouth, what the addition of Parmesan adds to the taste, or the overall aroma? What might you realize about how hungry you are (or aren’t)? What would it be like to give your partner your full attention and stare directly into their eyes while having that conversation? To notice the inflections in their tone and their body language? Try singletasking today, and then journal about what you notice as a result.
When Can I Allow Myself to Not Do a Thing?
Now, let’s take it all the way down from doing one task to doing zero. Maybe that means enjoying a lazy weekend morning where you linger in bed letting your mind wander. Or a late night where you allow yourself to luxuriate in a bath instead of sprinting in and out of a shower. Or perhaps you hang out in your backyard, just to soak up some sun. You may have to search to find these moments, but they can be found and are worth taking. These are the quiet times that allow us to turn up the volume on our inner voice. These are the moments when we stop “doing” long enough to ask ourselves if what we’re “doing” is right thing, if our energies belong focused elsewhere, and if our actions are serving us—or if it’s time to change course.
When Can I Schedule Time for Contemplation?
For the past few months, I’ve been holding a journaling class with another coach on Saturday mornings. It’s a dedicated time for self-exploration around a specific topic. I have to admit that my journal pages would be a lot emptier if I didn’t dedicate these 45 minutes every week to filling them up. It doesn’t get any more intentional than blocking time off on your calendar for something to happen—whether you spend that time journaling, painting, working with a life coach, talking to a therapist, or hashing something out with a good friend. Open up your calendar and make a date with yourself to look inward in a way that feels authentic to you. You may be surprised by what you find.
Originally published on Happify Daily
About the Author
Lynya Floyd Lynya Floyd is a national board-certified health and wellness coach as well as a Duke-certified integrative health coach. She specializes in helping clients find the power within to create positive changes in their health and careers.