On Saturday I was listening to NPR (a rare treat with a wee boy who gets into everything!) and caught a bit of this story. It wasn’t the app that caught my attention, but Matt Killingsworth’s comment toward the end of the story.
…[People] are universally happier when they are fully engaged in that activity and not mind wandering, no matter what they are doing. Even when you’re doing something you dislike, like your morning commute… So we spend time worrying or having repetitive thoughts or escaping or disengaging from things we could really enjoy if we just directed our attention toward it.
That last line thumped me in the head because I do this every day. Instead of being fully present, I worry or fume or play solitaire. I studiously avoid eye contact with the teetering pile of dirty dishes rather than taking a moment to clean the kitchen and thank God for the fully bellies those dirty plates represent. I daydream about the projects I could do rather than jumping into the one in front of me because it has entered a tedious phase. I sit on the couch, frustrated at the attention my son is demanding from me, trying to ignore him so I can disengage. But when I crawl on the floor with him? When I wrestle and play – I start to laugh. I enjoy myself as I do the very thing I was trying to avoid.
There are so many tasks and activities throughout the day that I avoid or grumble my way through. Could these moments actual be enjoyed if I was fully present in the right now, rather than counting down the seconds until I can escape? Could I actually enjoy washing the dishes? Revolutionary, no?
If I’m honest this kind of fully-present living sound exhausting. There is a certain amount of daydreaming and introspection that my introverted soul needs. But wouldn’t it be better to collapse into bed, exhausted from truly living, from engaging in the people and tasks around me, than to collapse into bed filled with regret for the opportunities missed or discontented with the life before me? Now that would be a rich life! My challenge for the week: be deliberately deliberate. Consciously engage in the moment. All while loading the dishwasher.