A few weeks ago, I noticed a sticky note on my father’s computer monitor that read “BE AWARE, BE PRESENT.” I never saw him as the type of guy who was into mindfulness or meditation—yet there was the note.
Seeing the words written there in all-caps got me wondering: was I doing enough to stay present in my own life? For the average person like myself (and presumably my dad), it’s tricky to find the time to meditate. Personally, I struggle to calm my brain, which is constantly racing a mile a minute, and the mere thought of trying makes me squirm.
Still, if Dad can do it…
For help, I asked Marilyn Fitzpatrick, a psychologist, and the program director of the Counselling Psychology Program at McGill University, to share some simple ways to “be aware, be present,” no meditation required, during the day-to-day.
Eat like a French person
In France, food is not just eaten, it is experienced. Take a page from our European cousins and savour your next meal—notice the smells, the plate, the temperatures before you sink your teeth in.
Really listen to music
Music has a way of transporting us. Embrace this. When a song catches you, travel with it down into the melody and rhythm, noticing the intricacies and appreciating the way it makes you feel.
Face a challenge like a child at play
Have you ever watched a small child try to master a set of blocks or an older child try to keep their balance on a new bike? Their concentration is fierce—they are totally immersed in the challenge. Face adult challenges with this sense of childlike wonder and make work play.
Appreciate your sheets
Some nights you toss and turn, unable to find that place in your bed where sleep is hiding. Take this often frustrating moment and use it as an opportunity to become aware. Feel your sheets’ softness around your toes or their crispness under your face.
Listen to an opinion you disagree with
We sometimes make up our minds to disagree with people before they’re even done speaking. Instead, challenge yourself to really listen and understand what they mean.
Smell the air after the rain
Mother Nature provides many opportunities for mindfulness, the smell of the air after it rains being one of the great reminders to take a moment. Appreciate the cool, fresh air and feel lucky to be alive.
Touch someone with care
In many cities around the world, two-cheek kisses are custom. Every once-in-a-while, that kiss is held a fraction of a second longer or accompanied by a touch on the shoulder or a meeting of eyes that brings you into a moment of caring. Being present in these daily interactions is a great way to be aware.
Say good morning to a homeless person
Are you embarrassed by homeless people? Do you want to pretend you have not seen them or they have not asked you for money? Save your coins and try making eye contact, and wishing them a good day and really meaning it.
Notice when you have done well by your own standards
Take the time to acknowledge a task you’ve successfully completed. We take the time to applaud our peers’ successes, but rarely take time to celebrate our own.