Ever have weeks pass so quickly that it all seems like a bit of a blur? Or have times when you can barely recall what you did yesterday without consulting the iCalendar? In our overstuffed lives, it’s not uncommon to not know which end is up, as we speed through life on autopilot, trying to do it all. And while yes, most of us do accomplish lots of line items on the to-do list every day, all that nonstop activity can leave us feeling a bit empty and disconnected, taking us away from the moments in life that truly matter and far away from the ones that truly nourish the mind, body, and spirit.
The fact of the matter is we all want to live meaningful lives, but do we take the time to create them? And are we guilty of sometimes overlooking the little moments that feed into making that meaningful life? If you answered ‘yes,’ then it’s time to turn the ship around. But how to get back on a more meaningful path when there’s no time to take off for a head-clearing beach getaway or mountain retreat? Start by taking your foot off the gas, take a few deep breaths, and try a few of these ideas to help you weave more meaningful moments into your day.
Here are nine ways we here at Be Well like to do it.
1. Do one thing at time.
Multitasking is a myth. Mono-tasking is the way to add meaning to the things you do. Contrary to popular belief, doing five things at once simply isn’t physically possible. Yes, you can change gears constantly by rapidly switching back and forth between tasks, but how well is each one being done? Make the art of task completion a more meaningful, even meditative experience by pouring your energy into the task at hand, completing it well, and then moving on to the next with the same level of focus.
2. Connect with your inner child.
If you need to retrain yourself to do just one thing at a time, reconnect with your inner child’s sense of play. Do things that encourage your full attention while also making it difficult (if not impossible) to do something else ‘at the same time.’ Outdoor activities like swimming, cycling, hiking, rock climbing, and bouldering, or indoor hobbies like painting, dancing, or even knitting keep mind and body working together as a whole, while adding meaningful moments, a sense of accomplishment, and even joy to your daily repertoire.
3. Rise to the occasion.
Rushing to pull yourself and the family together for full days of school and work makes the idea of ‘morning’ synonymous with mayhem for many of us. How about putting the brakes on some of that? Start by laying out everything you need for the morning at night — clothes, bags, car keys, breakfast ingredients — and going to bed a 30 to 60 minutes earlier than usual. Rise when the sun does, or even before, to take advantage of the early morning quiet time. Ease into your day with a few morning yoga stretches or a brief meditation. Then follow with a soothing cup of tea as you watch a few beautiful moments of the rising sun. Nothing like a little ‘time for self’ with a side of awe to add meaning and balance to your morning.
4. Make meals more meaningful.
When you eat, just eat. Don’t watch TV, text, make calls, or drive. Just eat. Focus on — and savor — the aromas, the taste, the sheer pleasure of the moment. Good, healthy food is a gift — unwrap it, relax, and enjoy. Paying attention to the sensory experience of eating with a sense of gratitude makes the experience a richer, more meaningful one, that satisfies beyond just the physical level. As you enjoy your meals in a more meaningful way, do, however, feel free to talk with your mealtime partners. Connecting with others is an equally important part of the enriching equation as well.
5. Bring peace to your commute.
When you step on the commuter train in the morning, it’s easy to get swept up in the constant news cycle and non-stop ‘breaking news’ alerts scrolling across your screen. The antidote? Instead of reading or watching the news on your phone throughout the morning or evening commute, use the time to do a deep dive into a book. Gift your mind with the opportunity to delve into one subject and really consider it, instead of hopping from headline to headline. Yes, reading a book can help to turn down the digital noise for a while — there’ll be plenty of time for that when you hit the office! Another way to add meaningful and mindful moments that matter to your commute? Use the time to do a guided meditation en route and arrive at the office calm, refreshed, and ready to take on the day.
6. Connect with the natural world.
There’s a reason so many of us crave connection with the great outdoors — we all used to spend a lot more time in it, either by choice or necessity. Instead of spending most of your waking hours staring into a screen that’s probably giving you far more stress than pleasure, get out there. Spend a few minutes every day outdoors. Walk around the block at lunchtime, sit on a park bench, find a public garden to dine in al fresco, no matter the temperature. Drink in the sounds, the sights, the peace and quiet — and don’t even think about checking your phone! Give your mind some precious time to space out, to just be. Having a few meaningful moments in nature every day is a simple way to connect with the larger world. No time during the day? Then step outside at night to gaze at the stars and reconnect with the beauty of the universe. On weekends, take in the sights and sounds of nature, as you let your feet touch the ground on a long walk, a hike through a local nature preserve, or a stroll down a deserted beach.
7. Really be — and connect — with others.
Keep in mind that adding more meaningful moments to your day isn’t just a solitary pursuit. Companionship and community are important parts of the mix, too. Shared real-life experiences, good conversation, laughter, and camaraderie, not surprisingly, deliver longer-lasting satisfaction than material goods. The recollections of shared experiences, the tales you tell about them, and the relationships that grow from them become a meaningful part of the story of your life. Being able to revisit those meaningful moments via memory or conversation can rekindle happy feelings, making time with others well worth the effort. Just remember to really be present in the experience and forget about taking selfies. You’ll make a more meaningful time of it when you’re fully engaged and able to notice the telling details than if you’re ‘busy’ trying to digitally document the experience.
8. Give a bit of yourself.
One of the best ways I know to bring more meaningful moments into your day is to practice ‘ubuntu,’ which is a Xhosa word that serves as the spiritual foundation of African societies. It basically means: what makes us human is the humanity we show each other. It articulates a basic caring, respect, and compassion for others. Ubuntu is a belief in a universal bond of sharing that unites all of humanity — the conviction that no person can be truly full while his neighbor remains hungry. It represents a worldview that sees humanity as a web of family, rather than a mass of individuals. This philosophy affirms that a person becomes a person through other people, that we are all related, interdependent, and connected to each other. This concept is similar to what we know as compassion, compassion for ourselves, our families, our community, the global community, and the Earth itself.
9. Make space for fun, and lots more of it.
Now hear this: have more fun! Yes, we are living in serious times — but that’s exactly why we need to make space for moments of carefree, unselfconscious fun. Not only does it let you stretch your wings physically and mentally—having fun allows surprise, curiosity, and creativity to flow — as well as those feel-good endorphins. Fun also helps you to bond more deeply with others. Many a long-lasting friendship has been built on a foundation of silly adventures and goofing around. Fun exists to connect you with your sense of joy — a meaningful pursuit if ever there was one — so indulge frequently!