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5 Exercises For a More Attentive Life (and They Only Take 20 Minutes a Day)

5 Exercises For a More Attentive Life (and They Only Take 20 Minutes a Day)

A sizzling ray of sunlight on your skin, a laughing child, the pleasant taste of chocolate, a conversation with a loved one. Happiness is in the little things. All we have to do is pay attention to them.

Pure, unfiltered happiness is everywhere. All we have to do is be aware of it. But that’s just it: in our busy society, it’s not as simple as it seems. Just think about it: when were you focused for hours without being distracted? You probably need a minute to think of something – if you can find an example. Attention and time are scarce these days. Smartphones and social media enable us to be in touch with others all day long. We hurry from one place to another to do all the tasks we have, but we forget to reflect on the things that really matter.

You probably know the expression “Energy flows where attention goes”. Let’s focus on little moments of happiness, meaningful relationships, and gratitude. It isn’t all that hard if we spend 20 minutes a day on it. Besides: training our attention is like training our muscles. The more you do it, the better you get at guiding your mind in the right direction and positive thinking.

Awake in Loving Awareness (2 minutes)

Many people wake up immediately thinking of the thousand things on their to-do lists. An important meeting, the kids’ gym bags that need to be packed. Make a choice to wait a moment: don’t switch yourself on immediately, but start the day consciously. Close your eyes for a moment and focus your attention on your body. Flex and relax your muscles and take a deep breath in and out. Make sure the first thoughts of the day are positive ones. Think about the things that are going well in your life, or think about the people you love and the ways in which you are valuable to them. Hold onto this positive focus when you get up. Feel the cold floor underneath your bare feet, the taste of toothpaste, and the water flowing past your body in the shower.

Go Outside (5 minutes)

A green environment has a positive effect on the mind. There’s a scientific study that proves that patients heal quicker if they have a nice view of nature instead of a brick wall. Most people work in surroundings with lots of screens and buildings. That’s why it feels so good to go outside for a minute and pay attention to nature. It doesn’t have to take hours, five minutes are enough to gain fresh positive energy. A small walk in the park after lunch gives a real serotonin boost. Feel the wind in your hair, absorb the colors of the plants and flowers, and listen to how the birds tweet.

Be Surprised Each Day (1 minute)

Most of us lead a relatively predictable life. We commute between home and office, see the same people each day and if we have dinner in town, we pick a restaurant we know. That’s fine: grownups benefit from routine and regularity. However, they also benefit from surprise. Resolve to notice at least one new detail in your environment, each day. Attention for the details – like an unexpected inspiring quote on a bathroom door at the station – makes us handle our environment more carefully and attentively. Besides, it triggers the child in us, that’s much better at wondering and being astonished than the grown-up mind.

Be Generous with Friendliness (3 minutes)

There’s more than enough bad news, criticism, and complaining in the world. What if we made it a priority to give at least one compliment to a person you love a day? Or to tell a hard-working colleague that they’re doing great? It would make the world a sunnier place. Turn it into a habit to take three minutes a day to focus on what people around you are doing well. Or think about at least one highlight of the day and just reflect on it.

Take the Time to “Come Home” (10 minutes)

For many of us, coming home from a busy working day means being absorbed by a busy family life. There’s hardly any time to let go of the stress from the office or traffic, and thus, we tend to be cranky towards the people that are dear to us – simply because they are around us. It makes sense: our brain is more focused on negative things. Therefore, it’s a good idea to make it your mission to ‘come home’ mindfully each day. How to do that? Take a seat, and just absorb everything around you. Appreciate your own place in the world. Talk to your family members, share stories about the day, or hug your pet. Allow yourself to just be, instead of doing something right away.

Text: Joanne Wienen

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