Relationships

How to Be Present

Brooklyn Heights

For the past few months, I’ve been trying something new…

I’m definitely the type of person who can get — and stay — in her head. Are you? Is everyone? After a hectic workday, I would come home but still feel keyed up, running through my mental checklist, feeling compelled to check my phone, and having a hard time being in the moment.

But nowadays, when the boys and I are hanging at the playground, or Alex and I are walking to a restaurant, I’ll stop to look around. REALLY LOOK. I’ll notice a neighbor returning from the store with a rotisserie chicken. A garbage truck grumbling down the street. Halloween decorations that nail it. A dog careening around the corner.

It’s funny how such a small thing — taking a moment to take it all in — can pull you right out of your head and set you up for a calmer, more present, more relaxed evening. After a busy afternoon, it’s like splashing water on your face.

And, honestly, seeing the world is just nice. “I do get a deep pleasure from looking,” says artist David Hockney. “I mean, I can look at a little puddle on a road in Yorkshire and just have the rain falling on it and think it’s marvelous.”

Do you ever truly look at the world around you? It sounds like such a non-event, but my life has felt really different because of it.

Don’t be these dudes!

P.S. Slow parenting, and a trick for worriers.

(Photo from my Instagram. Illustration by Liam Walsh/The New Yorker. David Hockney quote via 3 Chairs).

  1. It is a process, really, “decluttering” our heads. We get too caught up with things going on in our lives!

    “It’s funny how such a small thing — taking a moment to take it all in — can pull you right out of your head and set you up for a calmer, more present, more relaxed evening. After a busy afternoon, it’s like splashing water on your face.”

    I couldn’t agree more with this! Often, we think pausing and really looking will just lessen the time we spend on “more important” things. But in reality, this reset enables us to be more efficient. Love this as I too, often forget how important it is to take a mental break – a real break, that is.. Keeping this reminder.

  2. Jennifer says...

    YES. I have been re-training my brain since January to be present in the moment.
    It’s been especially helpful to check in with the senses… what do I smell, what do I hear, etc.
    I’m so much more at peace.

  3. Catarina Batista says...

    For sure, I have been doing this on the bus. Looking at what is going on outside the windows and also to the people that come in the bus, what they do, what they say, etc~

  4. Leslie says...

    Could not agree more – I take the same road to work everyday – have been for years – and it only takes being stuck in traffic to notice something different every time – “has this restaurant/store been there all this time?”

  5. I feel like I read a notion similar to this before and it resonated with me so deeply. It’s something so obvious, but really – being present is just paying attention to what’s happening, paying attention to your surroundings! Thank you for the reminder, as this has been something I’ve been struggling with lately. <3

  6. Afternoon walks with the pups. No music, no phone. I like looking into people’s homes, imaging the potential in run down homes, feeling the cool breeze on my face, looking at what’s in season in other people’s planter boxes.

    It’s amazing how much it can do for the soul. Now, following my own advice, I am getting off the computer now to take a walk. . . sometimes you gotta force yourself to. Worth it, though!!

  7. Yes! I don’t do this often enough, but when I do it helps so much and I feel like I have a blissful moment of peace. To further pull me out of my own thoughts though, I have to engage additional senses , I ask myself to name at least one sight (pretty yellow leave), sound (birds in the trees), smell (crispy fall leaves) and feel (sun on my face).

  8. When I was 25 I had a medical scare that forced me to improve all of my habits. I wasn’t eating well, exercised moderately, but I also had a lot of anxiety. The anxiety happened to be a huge component for the auto-immune disease I was showing signs of, so I needed to get a handle on that quick. It really forced me to stay present, to slow down, and to beat back the constant chatter in my head. Photography has also helped me a lot with that – you have to really LOOK in order to find compositions, and that means you have to be paying attention to where you are and what you’re doing. I try to do yoga as well!

    I’m curious to know how your anxiety has changed since you’ve had children? I could see it being very challenging to stay mindful when you’ve got less time and more worry.

  9. Dear Joanna, I’ve been a very longterm reader of your lovely blog – thank you for the beautiful, funny and real articles you post. This is the first time I’m commenting, so I’m a bit nervous :) But your words struck a cord and I wanted to be a part of the conversation. I came to meditation and Buddhist philosophy a few years ago, in the midst of a personal meltdown. Sitting by myself for 10 minutes a day a few days a week had such an incredible effect on my mind and my awareness – I was suddenly so much more present in my own life – that I was almost a bit shocked at how I had managed without earlier. As you pointed out, really being where you currently find yourself, really taking things in and being present is really approaching life so differently and so much more intentionally and for me, its just improved my life so much. It has also taught me to watch myself and to get in touch with my thoughts, my feelings and consequently my reactions or responses more. Much more peace, much more of a feeling of being aware and not controlled by external circumstances. I’m excited to hear how things go for you in this aspect! Love from Frankfurt, vatsala

  10. Isabel says...

    I LOVE doing this! It’s so easy to get caught up staring at your phone or to lose yourself in thought, and you wind up missing out all of these weird, awesome little things happening around you. Taking a moment to concentrate on the physical world (be it your own breathing, the task you’re working on, the scenery, or the people around you) can be a real game changer. Sometimes, when everyone else is in Phone Land, it feels a little magical to be the only one scoping everything out; it’s a bit like being a child in a room full of busy adults–all this neat stuff is still happening around you, but you’re the sole observer of all the tiny details.

    On days that I find it hard to stay present because anxiety is rearing its ugly head, listening to a short guided meditation seems to help. Psychologist Tara Brach’s meditations (and her longer talks) are awesome and available for free download on her website (tarabrach.com)–they’ve even helped me come out of some gnarly panic attacks. The Insight Timer app is another great (free!) resource that features tons of talks, ambient music, nature sounds, and a timer tool if you just need a few moments of quiet concentration. A good number of them are 15 minutes or under, and listening to at least 1 daily has helped my anxiety and mood considerably. It’s like a cool-down for my brain, and I find that it helps me notice and enjoy those quiet, observational moments more often.

  11. I too am working on practicing mindfulness and being in the moment. I began meditating with the Calm app a few months ago which has been a great tool!

  12. Cree says...

    You should really check out the book Finding Yourself in the Kitchen by Dana Velden. The author does a brilliant job of showing how presence (and awareness and appreciation) are keys to a happier, more engaged life. And how the kitchen and cooking are a perfect opportunity to practice it.

  13. sounds like the “observe” skills in DBT therapy.

  14. Caroline says...

    I love this quotation from Georgia O’Keeffe: “When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment.” So simple, so true, and such a lovely reminder that ‘seeing the world’ can be as easy as stopping to admire one little flower.

  15. Kathleen says...

    Dog walks are a perfect opportunity… but I’ve been wasting them! Usually I focus on what my dog is doing that he shouldn’t be doing…. sniffing forever, staring at a dog too long, just being his crazy puppy self. When my husband and I go together we end up talking about work stress or things we have to do on the to-do weekend list. Recently we’ve started that we can only discuss/vent about work for ten minutes then no more work talk in evenings (suggested by one of your readers in a previous blog post – this has been great). Now I’m going to suggest to my husband that on our dog walks we only discuss non-judgemental notes of our neighbourhood….trees, lovely porches etc. Great ideas discovered here!

  16. Diana says...

    I always wondered how people ever met on the subway. Recently, my phone AND kindle died and I sat there staring into space. The guy next to me struck up a convo and we talked for several stops. I’m now making it a point to not be so busy on the subway!

  17. Jen says...

    I literally went to counselling this week to help me deal with feeling overwhelmed with work and little kids! She encouraged me to try and have ‘healing moments’ which are essentially mindfulness exercises where you try and use each of your 5 senses to help you be in the present! I don’t get much past breathing in deeply the scent of my babies, but being conscious about it being a ‘healing moment’ seems to also help!

    I’m also going to try this suggestion as well; life is just so full on at the moment, every chance to de-stress helps to deal with it a bit more!

  18. Ah this rings so true, I just showed it to my husband and he thought the first paragraph was written about him! We’re both going to try to do more of this from now on so thank you for the nudge x

  19. katie says...

    YES. I am definitely in the “too much in my head/overthinker” camp and I love the peace that comes with looking up and around. I would like to return to it as my default way of moving through the world, instead of always being slightly distracted. Dogs help with this, too (I’m pulling for you, Alex!). Those furry homies are nothing but living in the moment.

    And, thanks to COJ, I’ve been taking an indefinite break from social media (I forgot my phone at home & thought of when you wrote about doing that & agree: it’s NICE). It’s been a couple of weeks now and I feel so much more. . .calm? Still? I’m into it. Here and now can be quite the destination.

  20. Isabelle says...

    I’ve been reading and learning a lot about mindfulness in my therapy sessions lately (which have been so amazing — first time seeing a psychologist and — if your benefits cover it or you can afford it — I would recommend it to ANYone). One thing I read about mindfulness made me think of it in a different way: The idea that mindfulness means seeing what’s going on the present moment in a non-judgemental way. In other words, seeing reality and accepting it. That really hit home for me, and I feel like it goes beyond the idea of simply looking around and noticing to the WHY behind mindfulness. We are mindful so that we can then respond to our situation in the best way. I am still learning, so not sure if that makes sense, but I love it!

  21. Yes! Nearly a year ago, I started doing a drawing a day for my Instagram, and I’ve found that it forces me to pay closer attention to everything around me. Even just taking a few minutes to sketch the most mundane object makes you look at it differently. And, as Erich Ohser says, “If you draw, the world becomes more beautiful, far more beautiful.”

    • Sophie says...

      Love that quote.

  22. Kathy says...

    I like to do this when I walk the dog in the morning. My husband always listens to a podcast but I just like to spend that time feeling present in the moment. Today I admired some really great Halloween decorations. This house was covered with these huge spiders – very cool!

  23. Nicole says...

    Yes this is a tenant of mindfulness. A very excellent practice

  24. J says...

    The sky. Ever since I moved out of the city (Philadelphia) and into the suburbs – over 1 year ago now – I find myself completely fixated on the ever changing sky. I spend time marveling at it daily. After a stressful day I simply look up… it really works (!) & it’s always different than the day before :)

    • Jess says...

      I do this too! Sometimes it’s the only time I am mindful / present in the day but I just take a moment to really look at the sky and see the clouds / sun or whatever is going on and think ‘wow, that is pretty neat’. :)

  25. Thanks for posting this Joanna! It really made me think. I felt like I was much more mindful before the creation of smart phones! I recently had a baby (she is 2 months) now and I noticed in the OBGYN office that all the patients are on their phone, that no one is poring through the pages of the glossy coffee table books or even making conversation! I was rather disappointed.

    A couple of years ago I had a health issue and needed chemotherapy. One weekend I was assigned to get blood work at the local hospital and when there I was in a room waiting that contained patients waiting for new livers. These 3-4 patients were men, did not know each other, did not have their smartphones out, and were just soaking up every minute of health they had. It made me stop feeling sorry for myself and my health issue and to appreciate the good that we have. Smartphones-be-gone! When was the last time you had a conversation in a waiting room with another patient??

    Anyways blogged about it here:

    https://reemfaruqi.com/2015/02/06/the-troubles-of-strangers/

    • I meant to add they were conversing about trivial things like the weather and bigger things such as what number they were on the waiting list for their livers. Eye-opening!

  26. Faith says...

    Perhaps someone else already mentioned this, but your lovely post reminds me of Haley in a recent “Modern Family” episode! I won’t spoil anything, but I believe it’s season 9, episode 3. :)

  27. Photography is always what helps me look closer. I can be super oblivious and in my own head in general, but suddenly the way the light is playing through leaves will catch my eye and it snaps me into the moment and the world around me. Even if I never share that photo with others, it’s a great exercise!

  28. Melisa says...

    It doesn’t sound like nothing. I’m 100% convinced this is the key to happiness.

    • Julia says...

      It is! I always feel truly grateful when I find the peace to really look at the things around me. I then feel alive and worship it!

  29. I couldn’t agree more! I also love including a big deep breath – it’s like a huge reset button for me. And leaving my phone at home absolutely helps. It used to make me panic – like I would miss a call or a message or a chance to photograph something – and now I yearn for walks sans-phone. My dog Hank is very supportive of this new strategy too.

  30. Sam says...

    For me, the simplest way to stay present is in the hugs I’m giving. Hugs has sadly become like that quick handshake, you meet someone you know, put your arms around each other and let go. Sometimes you hardly even touch.
    I hold on. If the hug is extended just for a couple of seconds, you really connect with the person you’re hugging.
    I know, some will find it disturbing. Who is this crazy person clinging to me, haha! But it is not a desperate act at all. It’s sincere.
    Those few seconds will force you and the person you’re hugging to be there, in the present. And believe me, it opens up for more real conversations. It’s like a barrier’s come down.
    I’ve taught my children too. Something happens, they connect with people, take part and feel more secure.

    • Julia says...

      If I speak for myself, I can say that I do not dare to hug for a little longer but if a friend does it with me, I really appreciate it, it feels so good to be hugged, because it expresses so much sympathy!

  31. Thank you for sharing this and for your honesty. I feel the same way – it helps me to stay present when I write myself little Post-It notes or a jot to know when I can complete whatever is running through my brain. My goal as of this week is to really stay more focused. I found a helpful passage about this and wrote about it on my blog. Take a peek if you’d like … https://rudeysroom.com/2017/11/01/november-inspiration-do-one-thing-at-a-time/
    Have a wonderful weekend.

  32. Isabel says...

    I once read somewhere that a nice trick when commuting (or walking, or, really, just living) is to think something nice about the people you encounter around you – the young woman engrossed in a good book on the train: “she seems intellectual,” the man walking his kids to school: “he seems like a good father,” literally anyone: “nice shoes! stylish backpack! good hair day!” When I remember to do it on my walk to work, this little trick keeps me present, but also puts me in the best mood. You realize pretty quickly how easy it is to think negative thoughts – or nothing at all – about the people around you, and adding an intentional dose of positivity really brightens my day.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s so nice, isabel!

    • Helen Ng says...

      I’m going to start doing this!

    • Love this! Thanks for sharing!

    • Dawn says...

      I try to find one person a day I can compliment on something…”That blouse is pretty on you,” “I like your necklace,” “That color really works for you.” It not only helps me notice more about the world, and people, around me, it’s really satisfying to see how people light up when you give them a small compliment.

    • I love this, thank you. I want to remember this everyday.

  33. Katherine says...

    Something I do to help myself stay in the moment and appreciate the wonderful city I live in is to take different routes to and from home. I like routine and schedule, but I find when I veer off my normal path, I’m more likely to notice the special magic and nuances of Austin. There’s beauty and wonder everywhere, every day; being with and around young children are a good reminder of this too! Kids are experts at noticing and paying attention to small details. Follow a kid around for awhile and delight in their curiosities. You’ll be reminded of just how precious this world is.

  34. Nina says...

    A trick I like to use for when I’m out for a walk and struggling to really look (stop the mental chatter) is to pick a colour and notice things that are that colour. Green’s easy, the primary colours just a little bit trickier, and when you get on to things like orange, purple, pink etc you start having to look in a very detailed way. You can do similar things with sound, too – try to pick out the highest pitches, or the lowest, and then try to hear both at the same time.

    • Ann says...

      I like this idea! I will be trying this, thanks.

  35. Heather says...

    Any fans of the movie About Time? It has the most wonderful message which has really stuck with me, and I try to live by it.

    The main character can travel in time, and his father instructs him to “live each day twice in order to be truly happy: the first time, live it as normal, and the second time, live every day again almost exactly the same. The first time with all the tensions and worries that keep us from noticing how sweet the world can be, but the second time noticing.” (quote from Wikipedia which put this better than I could have).

    Can you imagine reliving yesterday knowing that whatever tensions and worries we faced weren’t actually big deals, but just noticing the sweet moments that we might have missed? And how can this notion impact how I choose to go through today? It really inspires me.

    • That movie has honestly changed the way I interact with the world. I make sure to watch it at least once a year, because it always re-orients my perspective. One of the best movies I’ve ever seen!!

    • Carrie says...

      That’s awesome! What a great way to challenge my everyday perspective. Thanks for sharing, I’m going to remember this!

    • Mary D says...

      LOVE that movie!!!

    • Patti says...

      I loved this movie. Thanks for the reminder!

  36. Claire says...

    I try to do this and am pretty ok at it mostly. But the hardest thing is to lift my attention and be in the moment and in the midst of stressful things. Sometimes problems can seem so big I can’t see anything beyond them. But when I am able to shift my attention, observe, and see the world the problems can shrink and sometimes dissolve and life seems overwhelmingly worthwhile and full of wonder. Even if it doesn’t last, the problems don’t come back to me quite as big as they were.

  37. Rachel says...

    I really enjoyed this post but the illustration by Walsh at the end (people crossing a street looking at their phones and using canes) makes me feel uncomfortable. I work at a nonprofit that serves children and young adults who are blind or low vision. A lot of my work revolves around employment and inclusion. One of the most pervasive barriers to inclusion is the stigma surrounding blindness. Images like Walsh’s perpetuate that idea that blindness is “bad” and should be pitied. In reality people who are blind lead happy, fulfilling lives. People who are blind can do (with the exception of driving) all the same things as sighted people – they just do them a little differently. I’d encourage you to check out blindnewworld.org, a social change campaign aimed at breaking down these barriers to inclusion by providing a platform where individuals can share their stories.

    • bes says...

      yes, thank you for posting this because that was my reaction too. Being blind and being mindful are not opposite notions – nor is being blind “bad” in any of the ways suggested by this comic. Ugh.

    • Gaby says...

      Thank you for posting this!

    • Caitlin says...

      So nicely said.

  38. KL says...

    Double post here, but I’m just thinking about an activity that I do sometimes when I walk. I’ll focus not on what I can see, but what I can hear. I’ll pay really close attention to one noise at a time, and I’ll see if I can tell what it is, if it’s close or far, what direction it’s coming from, etc. Really makes you focus!

  39. KL says...

    Just today I walked on the opposite side of the street to get to my train and I couldn’t believe how many gorgeous buildings I never see because I’ve taken the same route pretty much every day. I slowed down my usually brisk-so-I-can-make-the-train walk and took it all in (I live in a historic New England neighborhood). A new perspective really can improve your day.

    • Martha says...

      Yes! this is a podcast from a few years back but I think my favorite; I’ve played it several times and it always uplifts and inspires me.

  40. Nicole says...

    I had a professor in college that encouraged and challenged us to do exactly this, to go for a walk and really notice the world around us. He pointed out that at first we’d think it was a coincidence that we’d see things that made us smile or wonder. But then, as we got more into the habit of paying attention and taking it all in we’d start to realize that these things are always going on around us and we just didn’t take the time to notice before. He was completely right. Over ten years later and I still try to remind myself to notice and take in the world around me, just like you describe in this article. I always smile and think about how right that professor still is. Plus, I too find myself feeling more calm. It also makes me feel more connected to all other humans. :)

  41. Maggie says...

    I find that having a three year old helps with this! He notices and points out EVERYTHING – birds on railings, chipping paint, a woman with super-long hair, alllll of the Halloween decorations in our neighborhood, and every single thing for sale at Target :) And he’s so excited by it all. It’s a fun little reminder to look around.

  42. Em says...

    You’re right, it does seem like such a non-event. I’ve written about this exact topic before and as I typed it out, I thought it sounded silly and simplistic. (“Hey guys, don’t forget to look out of your eyes!”) But it really does make a big difference. Instead of being locked inside your head, or looking at the backs of your eyes, take a second to look through them and out at the world around you. It’s the tiniest shift in focus and intention, but it’ll instantly de-fuzz your brain and make you feel 100 percent more present.

  43. Jennie says...

    I have to admit, the mindfulness movement is a bit lost on me. I have spent 43 years working, building the life that lays all around me. All too soon, pieces of it will break off and gone forever. To me it is common sense to take it all in, be grateful for all that it is, without even the audacity to hope for what it may become.

    I also am a marketing director, so I have the power of cynicism. I consider the word on my phone to be contrived, curated and edited within an inch of its’ life; but what is before my own two eyes, REAL!

    • Natalie says...

      Jennie – this sentence of yours really resonated with me and I think you stated it so so beautifully: “To me it is common sense to take it all in, be grateful for all that it is, without even the audacity to hope for what it may become.” Such simple terms and so clear, it’s inspiring me to think more like you! How dare I even have expectations of the future when my present is already so full of blessings? Why worry when I have everything I need now?

    • Jennie says...

      Emma thank you so much for recommending the podcast. I have been on the hunt for new ones and I will be taking a listen this weekend. And looking back, I hope my comment did come off as critical to anyone whose personal journey has them working on being more in the present . Applause to those who recognized what they need and are striving for it! I just think women have a tendency to ruminate in a way that men do not and we OWE it to ourselves to enjoy the lives we are working so hard for!

      @Natalie, you made my day! Have a lovely, reflective ;-) weekend.

  44. This is so good! I had a “big” birthday this year and it hit me hard. I started having those “this is it?” moments where you feel like all of the big accomplishments are behind you. I’ve started adapting mindfulness and gratitude practices and it’s been completely life altering.

  45. Maranda says...

    I feel like I disconnect from my phone a lot more than the average person. When I take my dog for his walk in the morning and when I get home from work, I won’t bring my phone. We don’t go super far, but it’s nice to just walk and look around and take in the day. When I workout I also don’t listen to music and prefer silence. When I first started running I would listen to music but stopped for a few reasons: 1) The music would interfere with my natural tempo and I found myself altering my pace, 2) I couldn’t hear my breathing, and 3) I couldn’t hear anything around me which is a safety issue. At first I thought I would be so bored not listening to anything but I really enjoy it! I just zone out and listen to my breath and the sound of my feet against the pavement.

  46. JB says...

    As a therapist, if my clients could take only one thing away from our work together it would be THIS! Mindfulness is such a powerful tool to help us manage our own stress and anxiety, and the bonus: you can literally do it anywhere. One favorite exercise that I share with almost all my clients is this:
    1. What is something you see around you? Describe it. What color is it? Are the colors dull or bright? What is the shape? How big or small is it?
    2. What is something you hear around you? Describe it. Is is loud or quiet? Does it have a rhythm? It is soothing or jarring?
    3. What is something you taste? Describe it. The bitter aftertaste of your morning coffee? The mint you just finished? The lingering chill of your water?
    4. What is something you feel? Describe it. The chair beneath you? Is it firm or soft? Do you feel supported? The gum in your mouth? Is it soft and minty or hard and flavorless?
    5. What is something you smell? Describe it. Is it pleasant or unpleasant? Is it faint or strong? Can you recognize the origin?

    When you’re focusing so intently on your current state of being or what is around you, it’s hard to be in your head.

    • molly says...

      Wow love this, thank you!

    • Heather says...

      I love this too, thank you for sharing!

  47. Elise says...

    To get really focused on my daily world, I read quotes from “Our Town.” Guaranteed to work!

    • Mona says...

      Brilliant!

  48. Thanks for the link to this post … I’ll be giving it a try!

  49. Erin says...

    When walking my dog, i typically try not to bring my phone (but because it’s dark now when i walk her, i have to have it with me) but in the daylight hours, I just soak my surroundings in and enjoy it! i’ve seen some pretty sunrises because of this!

  50. Coline says...

    Thank you for this. I feel exactly the same way. I’m in the final stage of my PhD and I spend my days in an office writing my dissertation. At lunch, I go out for a short walk without my phone and I look at people, I take the whole scene in and I remember that the rest of the world exists, I feel its existence.

  51. Erin says...

    I go for a 2.5 mile walk or cross country ski with my dog through the woods after work probably 3-5 days each week. My big thing is not to have rules about the hike. Some days, I want to listen to music. Some days, I want to listen to a podcast or take pictures for my Instagram account. Some days, I just want to let my mind wander in silence and step away from technology. When I started this tradition 3 years ago, I thought it was great exercise for me and my pup. Now, I realize how much that walk is like meditation and how the woods are like my church. I give my brain an hour to hash out whatever it’s been stuck on all day and I’ve got activated endorphins to keep my perspective positive. However they find it, people need this moment to return to the basics – I really believe they do.

  52. Laura says...

    Slow living, mindfulness, whatever you want to call it, has been my goal for years. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes its not. But as someone who definitely gets lost in their head and has severe anxiety, it is so worth striving for! These days, being busy and attached to social media are all glorified as showing ones success and importance. I am trying to remind myself and teach my son that life is made up of the small moments of beauty and connection to other people.

  53. Sarah says...

    Tonight my Mum FaceTimed me after reading this post, labelling it her “Cup of Jo” moment. It was the best part of my day just to take her in and catch up for a few moments. Thank you :)

  54. Laura says...

    I have been doing this more and more since my daughter was born- soaking as much of each moment in. My days are infinitely better when my work day is followed by a walk- I never listen to music or podcasts just take in my sweet neighborhood. Now that my little girl is here, having a destination (the park) and someone to recount my day/observations to, while seeing everything fresh through a babies eyes… pure magic.

  55. Amy says...

    I am amazed by the timing of this post. I am currently trying to make sense of the slow dying of my husbands brother( he has throat cancer). He now has only days left and after visiting with him in hospice I realize that he will never see, feel or touch the beautiful things in this world. Even if it is just a small yellow fall leaf, or the wind that lightly blows across your face, the moon, the mountains or dew hanging on the tip of a blade of grass. Maybe he just wont be experiencing these things with us here on earth- who knows. But being in the hospital made me realize to take a little bit of time to appreciate the beautiful common things around me. I now take a moment to look around and appreciate everything.
    It does make you feel present and full filled.

    • Angela says...

      Hi Amy, I relate.

      I am coming to terms with my dad having lung cancer in the final stages, and mindfulness and gratitude has helped my family cope and somehow make sense of this mess.

      I hope your family finds some peace, too.

    • Blythe says...

      Thinking of you and your family during this incredibly difficult time xoxo

    • Brooke says...

      Hi Amy, I totally understand what you’re going through. My mom’s husband died from multiple myeloma (cancer of the bones) 8 months ago. The last weeks were incredibly hard and I felt so depressed because he was so depressed. He never really understood what was happening to him or why. However his last words were, “I get it now!!” It was amazing. I know angels swooped him up and ever since he passed, there have been SO many signs he is still near us. I am more present than ever because I am always waiting for his next hello ❤

    • Heather says...

      what beautiful words. thank you for sharing, and I’m sorry for what your family is going through currently

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Amy, what a beautiful note. I’m so sorry you’re going through this difficult time and am holding you close in my thoughts. xoxo

    • molly says...

      Amy – such a beautiful sentiment and really makes your look at the big picture. Thinking of you and your family during this incredibly hard time. Brooke- that was beautiful as well!

    • Carrie says...

      Amy, thinking of you and your loved ones. xo

    • katie says...

      Oh Amy & Angela –
      I teared up reading your post. Much love & light to you & your families.
      It’s hard to bear up in fragile times.

  56. I, too, struggle with being too “in my head” and I have one recommendation that may sound strange: Adopt a cat! Cats are beautiful, independent creatures and here’s the thing: they notice the present. All the time. It’s what they do.

    I have 2 cats. The slightest change to our (small) Brooklyn apartment is treated as if the universe has been upheaved and they need to re-sniff everything accordingly. I recently moved a dresser across the room and the cats spent hours investigating. But that’s not all: Every bag you bring home from a store, every box you get in the mail, the cats inspect. (Related tangent: Every item you leave on a counter, one of our cats knocks onto the floor.)

    Also, I have one cat who is snuggly and one who isn’t, and any time my non-snuggly cat decides to jump on my lap and purr, it literally forces me to stay in the moment because I won’t move unless I absolutely have to.

    I never had any dogs or cats growing up, so when my husband wanted a cat (his family had always had them), I was not enthused. I am now a full-blown cat convert, and think anyone with the means and time should consider adoption from your local shelter/rescue. As a disclaimer, they are A LOT more work than I thought they’d be, but they also bring me so much more joy than I expected! And since I can’t resist, here’s a picture.

    • Catherine Keene says...

      I feel exactly the same way about my non-snuggly cat. It is such a wonderful event when he decides to sit on me that I try to enjoy it as much as possible.

    • katie says...

      Joyce, those cats are so choice! Super cute. Thank you for sharing (:

    • Julia says...

      I am the same way with my dogs! I have one dog who absolutely insists on undivided attention while she is being petted and it has helped me get off my phone and “meditate” at least once a day. I love to bury my fingers in her fur and just let my mind go blank :)

  57. Jessica Camerata says...

    I am so guilty of staying in my head its terrible!

    xo Jessica
    My Style Vita

  58. Lisa says...

    Love reading all these comments! For my part, I’ve stopped listening to music or podcasts when I walk somewhere. At first it felt like I was wasting time, but now it feels so soothing to me to walk to the gym or the library or the train just being in the world.

    Speaking of podcasts, so many folks talking about trouble with their phones – I highly recommend the Note to Self podcast and Manoush’s new book, Bored and Brilliant. So many great thoughts on technology in modern life.

  59. joana says...

    hey :)
    it’s funny, i’ve always been like that and i thought it was so normal. then i realized most people didn’t do it and found it weirdly cute that i commented upon every little thing around. friends that don’t even know each other have compared me to “joy”, from inside out, because i always find something beautiful and good in everything and everyone. lately it hasn’t been so easy. after 32 years of seeing the world with rainbows, flowers and unicorns i got so let down in so many ways i feel the way i view the world and people is just silly. and it’s funny that such a great quality could be so hurtful. because i always think the best of people and trust the best of people and people disappoint. so lately i find myself thinking maybe the world isn’t meant to be seen full of rainbows, flowers and unicorns…
    i’m sorry about the weird comment, which got completely off-topic! i just needed to say this, or write this, and for some reason it’s easy here. it’s been a shitty year… but i actually still notice every little thing around, so there’s hope :) thank you for reminding me!
    (and i don’t think i’ll ever see the world with no rainbows, flowers and unicorns – it’s just a little cloudy and rainy these days)
    joana

    • Ruby says...

      I like how you said it, it’s just a little cloudy and rainy these days. I know exactly what you mean. Just hold on, the rainbows, flowers, and unicorns will return. Don’t let shitty people steal them from you!

  60. I am in my head so much of the time, and a lot of that time I’m in my head about being in my head! I use exercise to help ease that. I specifically choose exercise that engages my brain (Jazzercise, Zumba, dressage) because it gives me a break from thinking about anything other than trying to get the steps right or trying to get myself balanced on the horse. It’s amazing what happens when we use our bodies and brains at the same time, with full-on engagement. I find the results last for several hours, enabling me to focus better and, strangely, become more aware of what’s going on around me. I feel calmer and more balanced, which is saying a lot for someone with a mind like a hamster wheel. :)

  61. Laura says...

    This reminder was so needed. It’s so, so strange– as I’ve gotten older, I’ve reached some of the goals that I had when I was young. Some things took a lot of hard work, years of it. I pictured myself being elated when I reached them, buoyed up by the achievement. Instead, I just worried more! What if I fail, what if I’m doing it wrong, what if, what if, what if… It helps so much to just sit back and breathe! Thank you for your lovely blog.

  62. Ana says...

    I just recently discovered the freedom of eliminating all distracting apps from my phone whenever on vacation. No more FB or Twitter for me while on holidays, just Instagram and I only allow myself in to post, no to check it. I just came back from Oktoberferien and feel truly liberated and “away from it all”. It works wonderfully. Also, ever since reading the post on Slow Parenting, I decided that I would try harder just to be there – may it be in swimming classes or walking around the neighbourhood. It does make a complete difference. And funnily enough, whenever I’m reading a proper book(even on my Kindle), my children pretty much leave me alone. I think they take it a lot more seriously than watching me on the phone :)

  63. Caroline says...

    I love David Hockney. There was a massive retrospective of his work at the Tate Britain in London this year. My favourite piece was called The Four Season. It’s a square room, and on each wall a video is projected of a camera slowly going down the same road. Each wall is a different season – Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. It was such an amazing reminder that the world is made new each day, and if you sit and watch as everything changes even a country lane is interesting. There’s a video about it here: https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/multimedia/the-four-seasons/

  64. Giulia says...

    Joanna,

    I am sure your timing is not just perfect for me, but for many others too. But these last few days I have often been on the brink of tears at the perception of how hard I find it to be present. My mind constantly battles with a million thoughts, my hands go to my phone automatically, I simply “don’t see” and hear what is around me, and as much as I perceive all this, I seem so hopeless at fighting it. I remember the days of being bored, as a child, and not having constant possible resources – netflix? instagram? you name it – to keep me busy, and just looking at the sky, at the leaves, at my hands, and I sorely miss that ability I have lost. I feel stupidly trapped in my head. Thank you for voicing this, which, as much as it is a first world problem, is really hindering our abilities to be present, compassionate, and active. Love, as usual, Giulia

  65. Alice says...

    I look up a lot. The scene from Away We Go where the plane reflection bounces across the skyscraper, and the plastic bag in American Beauty, really made me think about the beauty of above. Rooftops and clouds and flocks of birds: there’s a lot of lofty fleeting beauty that slows me down. Literally because you have to stop!!

    I take walks with my 18 month old and 3 year old looking for the minuscule – spiders, centipedes, woodlice, pavement cracks that split into three etc.

    And we don’t have a T.V. I haven’t had one since 2002, though we watch stuff on a projector/laptop, it’s conscious and limited. That definitely helps.

    My dad teaches mindfulness and meditation, and I think we were raised in a fairly ‘present’ way. That must be hard for today’s teens, everything is quicker and multi-faceted. I try and get my kids outdoors, nature wins every time for slowing me down.

    Like someone else said, I love the detailed specifics you’re mentioning here, getting great tips!

  66. This is so well-written. What a beautiful, important message that came to me at a perfect time! It really does make a lot of difference, I’m even breathing differently after reading this. <3
    Have a lovely weekend!

    Joanne | With Risa: A Lifestyle Blog

  67. Allison says...

    Yes. I have been taking a moment to enjoy views outside during my day and it really shifts my mindset. But I also try to be present with other senses too .. the feel of my soft, cozy pj socks, the warm smell of roasting veggies, the scrunch of dry leaves when walking. Sometimes noticing the other senses gives me the most satisfaction of a moment enjoyed.

    • I love this comment. All of those sensory details make life so much richer. I’m going to pay attention to this today. :)

  68. Emily says...

    Yes! I’m a naturally very observant person, but with the stresses of adult life and technology all around, sometimes I don’t utilize that skill as much as I should. this is one reason I’m a museum educator — I love taking the time, and teaching others, to REALLY look and be present. I also feel this way when I’m with my boyfriend, whatever we’re doing. it’s one thing I’ve loved about him since the moment we met.

  69. Johanna says...

    Love this post! It reminds me so much of my favourite quote from ‘Pilgrim at Tinker Creek’ by Annie Dillard. ‘Beauty and grace are performed, whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try and be there.’

    • Sarah says...

      What a lovely and relevant quote!

    • Love this quote! Thanks for sharing, Johanna!

    • Meghan says...

      Love this book <3 If I had just one book for the rest of my life it would be that.

  70. SSR says...

    I totally relate. Someone recently recommended that when I feel distracted or too much in my head, I wiggle my toes as a reminder to be where my feet are (i.e. to be present in the moment). It really helps!

  71. I love everything about this post! I struggle getting out of my own head at night, too. Refocusing to observe the little things is a perfect way to clear it.

    That cartoon…. wow.

  72. I love this. Thanks for sharing your particular technique.

    It seems like every other listicle that’s written has some form of “be present” or “practice awareness” on it, but none of these are specific about what exactly that means. I love that you’ve located your advice to be present to a particular technique and a particular sense, sight. Telling someone to stop and look around and try to notice everything that they see is so much more visceral and helpful than just saying “practice being aware” or to take a few deep breaths.

    It’s like doing the Vonnegut thing and taking the time to say, out loud, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is” (http://mydearsabrina.com/happiness/happiness-project/happiness-project-attitude-adjustment/) whenever you notice that you’re having a nice moment.

  73. Jean says...

    I loved this post. Lately I’ve felt like I’m on a hamster wheel constantly going, burning the candle at both ends, but this post made realize that I need to take more opportunities to notice the beauty in this world. the other day I was on a walk with my kids. It was a beautiful sunny fall day, with a slight breeze. My son noticed this small red leaf circling around in the air and brought it to my attention and we both stood there for a moment admiring it. This also reminds me of a saying that was printed on a little girl’s shirt in his preschool that said “La vie est faite de petit bonheurs,” which I learned translates to be “Life is made of small pleasures.” Thank you for reminding me to take the time to notice.

  74. Megan says...

    I’ve struggled with anxiety my whole life with bouts of depression after both of my babies were born. Finally, I decided to see a therapist who told me that the happiest people live in the present. ‘People who live in the past are depressed, people who live in the future are anxious, it’s the people who live in the present who are the happiest.’ She taught me that when my mind is racing with anxiety, I should stop and take in my senses. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel? Then, she taught me how to meditate. Just focus on your breathing. When I tried it the first time, I was taken aback by what it felt like to breathe. I don’t remember ever really thinking about what it feels like to breathe-the cool air on my nostrils-how did I not notice that before?! Training my mind to be present by daily meditation and noticing my senses is really helping to ease the anxiety and I do feel happier.

  75. Megan Flowers says...

    The past few years have been pretty excruciating at times (death of my father, divorced the father of my son, discovered my baby sister had a 10yr heroin addiction which had lead her to live on the streets) When everything seemed to be crumbling around me I would pull myself back in my a beautiful sunset, my son making silly voices and doing them back with him. The little moments of beauty that would otherwise be looked over. Because in the end this is all we have, this very moment right here. right now. There’s beauty in the breakdown.

    • Carrie says...

      Megan, I read your comment and I hope things are getting better. Those are some heavy things to go through. My thoughts are with you!

    • Julia says...

      That’s what I also noticed when we had a severe health crisis within my family: I tried to escape my worries by cuddling up in bed with my two little kids, by listening mre intensely to their stories, by focusing on the little joys in life. I only noticed this way of dealing with difficult cirsumstances later. I guess, our soul knows exactly what it needs to be comforted!

  76. I’d be so curious to know your Enneagram number. Have you taken this personality test? I’ve recently become a little obsessed. I am a 1 and spend a lot of time in my head. You seem like you could be a 6. I’d love to know!

  77. Terry says...

    I try to get out for a short break every work day and notice what is outside the door. There is a tree I look closely at most every day– it’s the biggest one around and looks so solid and reassuring. If I feel stressed, I sometimes reach out to touch the tree and feel it’s presence and solidity.
    Watching a tree each day can be a great way to notice how different each day is.

    I take a bus to work and often just watch people walking by. So many different gaits and so many ways of walking down the street–from the skipping of a child to someone who looks like they could be recovering from an injury. I try to send compassion to those who look like they are struggling.

    • Alice says...

      I love this. I adore trees and I find nature very calming and slowing. I’m going to look for my own tree!

  78. Olivia says...

    I LOVE this post. I started practicing taking walks and just observing the world throughout college and now, in the sometimes overwhelming uncertainty in the time since I’ve graduated, I’ve found that being observant and really taking time to look is what keeps me sane. Sometimes, the best part of my day is the way that sunflowers at the farmer’s market look in the golden sunset hour! I feel silly when I say that but it’s totally true.

    Looking is the most concrete way I’ve found to realize that the way we experience the world is so contingent on perspective. It helps me to emphasize and provides a really nice way for me to think about how, if the world is all a matter of perspective, other people all have their own perspectives too! So simple and so easy to forget. Definitely helps me feel so much more empathetic/less upset through all of the little annoyances that happen through out the day. I try to think of them less as inconveniences and more as opportunities to shift my perspective and find a way be at peace. Looking is the foundation for this!

    I’ve been reading Cup of Jo for YEARS and never commented but this resonates with me so much! I love what all you ladies do, keep being wonderful :)

    • Olivia says...

      Oops! *Empathize

  79. Molly K says...

    Yes, I agree that noticing those little things and practicing mindfulness is life changing! I do it sometimes, (I just noticed rain falling in a puddle the other day, and it brought me so much joy – or something – that I had to video it! Haha! Now I’m self conscious saying that, because I pulled out my phone during a mindfulness thing. Oops.) But I also get caught up in everyday stress, so I’m happy for a reminder today. I realized that I love that I’m forced to stand there for a few moments while I fill up at the gas station, with nothing else to do. I got into a habit of looking at my surroundings (just like you do at the playground) and I pretend I have never seen any of it before. I try to experience it as if for the first time. You other drivers should start doing this too while you fill up. Makes a mundane task kind of refreshing for your brain.

  80. Yes, I definitely agree with this! I love using my commute to reset myself. For a long time I took the bus, and despite seeing the same things out the window every day, I still took the time to really look at everything. Recently I moved closer to downtown Portland, where my office is, and have been walking home as often as possible. I love taking the time to take in my surroundings. On the weekends I just stare out my windows for a while each day and notice how the light bounces off the buildings. It’s calming.

  81. Lindsay says...

    You’ve perfectly articulated how I feel about running outside. It gets me out of my head and I observe the world. It’s always surprising and lovely to see everybody just going about their day. It’s very comforting.

  82. Sometimes I just love to focus on one sense at a time. Like touch, for example – noticing, specifically, the feel of the ground beneath my feet, the breeze against my face, the touch of my sweater. Just listening is nice as well!

  83. I try to do this as much as I can. When I left work today, I was walking out of the building with another woman from my department and we just stood in the parking lot for a few minutes just admiring the fall leaves. Definitely a nice contrast to the ranting we were doing only a few minutes prior!

  84. jess says...

    My psychologist recently offered me the best advice which has made a significant difference to my ability to get out of my head.

    It’s a basic grounding technique (did I just not know about this?) which is to stop, take a breath and then describe (out loud – no thinking!) three things which you can see, three things you can hear and three sensations you can feel. I do it over and over again until I’m back in the present and it is so soothing and effective.

  85. Rachel says...

    Yes. I love this. Sadly, it’s difficult to do this when you live, as I now do, in a not-so-beautiful place. I still try to be mindful, and enjoy the morning light, etc, but it’s not as easy to look around & soak things up as it was when I lived near the ocean, or in a town that had cobblestones. You New Yorkers are lucky that way!

  86. Margy says...

    Anxiety girl is hilarious!
    My daughter calls me “the master of disaster.”

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha love it

  87. Rebecca says...

    Thanks for your post!

  88. BLG says...

    Ever since taking up gardening and mindfulness concepts–I have now noticed wonderful creatures right under my nose: tiny green tree frogs, an ugly slimy salamander, a white-faced hornet’s papery nest, a beautiful barred owl (!) seen in the trees during the day no less, all because I took the time to stop and LOOK around me.

  89. Thank you for the important reminder. I try to have at least one moment of conscious, aware, attentive LOOKING each day, and even if it’s just for seven seconds, it’s so grounding. I find that when I do this on walks, or even on drives, I notice brand new things in places I’ve been a thousand times. A charming house down my block that I’ve never noticed! A creepy, decrepit building along the highway I’ve driven down a million times, but have never seen! The world is full of new discoveries. LOOKING makes all the difference.

  90. Rachel says...

    Yes yes & yes! (The irony is that I’m reading this on my phone…)

  91. Rachael says...

    You should listen to this week’s episode of the On Being podcast – it’s all about mindfulness! I just listened to it, and there were some interesting insights.

  92. Katy says...

    Talk about timing! I just got home from walking my dog on a really, really beautiful night in Asheville, North Carolina. I was staring at my phone when a light breeze hit me and I instantly put my phone in my pocket and closed my eyes and just felt it. It was so lovely to be in the moment and take notice of the cool temperature, crickets chirping, and empty street. Then I came home and read this post! I think I’m generally pretty good at taking moments out of my day to really notice what’s happening around me but now I’m going to try to do that even more often because it’s a really wonderful thing.

  93. TjP says...

    I am usually the only one at a table (of people…friends!) or in a work elevator who is not on her phone. I like to watch people and stuff. A LOT. Haha

    I do love my audible books though…

  94. Abbey says...

    When I’m walking down the street I play a game by myself where I imagine other peoples’ secret skill. I’ll think maybe the guy crossing the street makes a mean tiramisu or another person loves to garden. Or someone else is a talented painter…that kind of thing.
    Once you walk around believing that each person has something unique to offer it makes being in the world less stressful and more fun.

    • Lizzy says...

      I love that idea!! Thanks for sharing:)

    • Kathleen says...

      I love this so much!!

    • Lily says...

      Love!

    • That’s beautiful; I love the idea and want to try it.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love this, abbey!

    • Laura C. says...

      I will totally try this, Abbey!

    • katie says...

      LOVE THIS, ABBEY! Do you watch “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” with Seinfeld? In an episode with Kristin Wiig shes does a bit where she’s tries on sunglasses and says, “These say: I make my own salsa.” Now when I see someone rocking sunglasses, I wonder what their salsa game is, if any.

  95. Courtney says...

    Love this post. I’ve been trying so hard to get out of my head and while it’s hard to do all the time, I have these amazing moments when life just seems a little bit lighter. This podcast has been so helpful with the process! Something about the visual of physically stepping aside to let the negative thought go by really struck a cord with me. Happy almost Friday!

    http://www.supersoul.tv/podcast/michael-singer-free-negative-thoughts

  96. After reading “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle I noticed myself doing this a lot. Just looking around and thinking, this is so wonderful. Little things become extraordinary.

  97. Yes! Especially with young kids! We take time to look at ricks, birds, bugs, flowers.
    I found a species of moth that hadn’t previously been documented in Washington just by looking around.
    I always say put the phone down and look around!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      no way! that’s incredible, katrina!

  98. Becky says...

    My mom is an artist and taught me at a young age to take in my surroundings with an artists eye. It does make you appreciate the most subtle details of everyday life!

  99. Laura C. says...

    The thing is, I wasn’t that anxiety person a few years ago. But now that I am, I just hate to think that I don’t have to think. Don’t know if I explained. Lately the only thing that keeps me in touch with my present is listening to music. I was a music lover and I realised a few weeks ago that I wasn’t REALLY listening to music. Old songs that I used to sonh and dance, new songs, and I truly tell you, I have stopped overthinking- not always but sometimes it works. Looking at the world around just makes me overthink more and more.
    I’m weird, I know.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s beautiful, laura.

  100. Arielle Parker-Trout says...

    I love this. I have a four month old and I’m trying to stay as present as I can in every moment-I know they will fly by!

  101. brianna says...

    Eternally in my head. Eternally mindlessly watching Insta-stories of people who I will never meet to cure my FOMO. I think it might be time for a social media break.

    • I so know what you mean. Feeling like I’ll miss out on this cool or funny thing someone is doing, but if I didn’t watch then I actually wouldn’t be missing anything and wouldn’t know what I had missed. I really struggle with phone use in general.

  102. This book! I think it was on a reading list in grad school :)

    Outside Lies Magic: Regaining History and Awareness in Everyday Places by John Stilgoe

  103. Charlotte K says...

    Like another commenter said, this is everything.

    I have a couple of things I do when I’m walking down the street and realize I’m completely in my head. One is to pick a color and then gaze out and try to find everything as I walk that is that color. It completely gets me out of my thoughts and focused outwardly in my surroundings.

    The other is do what you do, stop and just LOOK around. And smell and listen!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      the color thing is interesting! definitely feels meditative. when i went to a workshop about being phobic of certain elevators/subways, they said if i felt panicky, to look for everything green in the area around me. (another one was to choose baby names for all the letters A-Z — just ways to keep your mind calm!)

  104. Allegra says...

    I just participated in a 7 day photo challenge: take one B&W photo each day and post it w/o any text. Just a photo of something from your day (no people). I loved it because it really made me be aware of what I see around me, encouraged me to really look and NOTICE. I want to continue it, maybe do the 365 challenge.

  105. Cara says...

    The other day my family was driving to a dinner, and my dad, who is admittedly a little socially awkward, interrupted the flow of the conversation to point out the window and say “Those clouds look different than those other clouds.” My husband thought it was the funniest thing, and we gave my dad a hard time about not paying attention to what was happening, but he was! He was just paying attention to a different sort of happenings.

    • Stephanie says...

      Aww that is really sweet!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      your dad sounds awesome. love this line: “He was just paying attention to a different sort of happenings.”

    • Laura C. says...

      So sweet, Cara!

  106. Vicky says...

    Sounds like your practising mindfulness

  107. This is everything! x

  108. AJ says...

    Love this. You are so right – little everyday things are the answer. I’m glued to my phone too much at the moment and I don’t like it. Gonna try and channel this…

  109. Lulu says...

    I do take time to really look around me every day. My husband might say I’m too observant, and we both have different relationships with technology.
    I made the conscious choice to not keep the television on, or sit in front of the computer more than a half hour or so every day. My phone has one app, I get to check it when I have a glass of wine at the end of the day. I get more done and I reap the benefits of being present. Plus, by looking up and outside of oneself, I feel like you can always find “the helpers”, lovers, gorgeous sunsets, happy animals, children laughing, the first change of a season, hilarious comments between friends. It’s much nicer than my phone.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      so beautiful xoxo

  110. Laura M says...

    I’m recently retired (early) and have very purposely only a dumb phone for emergencies. I make a point of stopping and thoroughly enjoying the sunrise, sunset, my dog and cat and their developing personalities and my relationships with the people I deal with at the bank, grocery etc. and my friends when they visit and my family when I visit. Oh and my husband :} I admit I spend waaaaay too much time on my desktop computer but at least I can physically walk away from it. We ask guests to leave their phones and some of them get a bit antsy but they understand they came to visit us. I loved this article.

  111. Lizzie says...

    Yes! I love this idea and practice it too. I bike to and from work each day and often on the bike ride home I find myself still engrossed in work. I try to take time as to look at the sky, the trees, the sunlight on the clouds. I even recite the observations aloud and think about how grateful I am to see such beauty. Its the perfect reset tool. Sometimes if I am really stressed or my brain just wont be still, I notice that if I close my eyes (off the bike of course) and just listen to the sounds around me, that can be helpful too. So simple but powerful! Thanks for this reminder. :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i find this really inspiring, lizzie, and now i want to take a mindful bike ride too :)

  112. Cooper says...

    I love this! I’ve been struggling with being on my smartphone too much, and often when I’m choosing my phone over being fully present, I think, “This is not the person I want to be.” Your suggestion seems like a good place to start!

  113. Erin says...

    I’ve been really struggling with this lately. I’ve been building my own business and have run into some challenging situations that have taken all of my attention and time, even when I’m not actively working. I’ve noticed that when I’m with my loved ones it’s a challenge for me to stay engaged, resist the urge to check my phone and be present. One of the things I’ve been wanting to try is the “Bored and Brilliant” challenge from the Note to Self podcast, which posits that you do your most creative thinking when you’re not being pinged by your phone and a million distractions every day.

    http://www.wnyc.org/series/bored-and-brilliant/

  114. Katrina says...

    I really love this post, it’s so relevant for everyone I feel. My partner and I especially try to stay present when we’re travelling. We make an effort to be looking around us at everything, taking it all in, rather being distracted by worries and thoughts that might still linger from life at home. To fly half way around the world and bring your stresses with you instead of experiencing an amazing new place, would be such a waste. Thanks for this post Jo. It has really made me think.

  115. katherine says...

    One thing I’ve been doing is going for walks without my phone–if I’m listening to music or a podcast, then I tend to focus on that. Once a week, I try to go on a designated walk (or errands, as long as the errands aren’t too rush-y) and just sit quietly and notice.

    I started this because a few months ago I was on an airplane, sitting across this aisle from a quiet older man. As the flight was about four hours, I had like, seventeen thousand things to entertain myself with (books, podcasts, snacks, movies, work, etc…) but the gentleman across the aisle had nothing. NOTHING. He folded his hands in his lap, got a glass of water from the flight attendant, and just sat quietly for the whole flight. It was incredible to me, a highly-stimulated millennial, to watch this man patiently sit.

    I just kept thinking about how wonderful that was, to just sit and be present and quiet. I’m not about to start taking four hour flights with no books or anything, but I have made an effort to go on a weekly walk with no technology or other stimuli–to just walk slowly and pay careful attention to the sounds and sights of the little bit of world around me.

    • brianna says...

      That is dedication, to sit for an entire four hour flight and do nothing. It would take me a lot of years of practice to do that.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, that’s incredible, katherine!

    • Giulia says...

      Katherine, thank you, this older gentleman is helping me (and others, I am sure) a lot, through your gentle voice.

    • Agnes says...

      This exactly describes my father, now age 91. He would just sit and stare at the wall, smoking his pipe, for hours. We would ask what he was doing and he would say, ‘I’m thinking.’ I have never struggled to be mindful, in fact I’m often too MUCH in the moment, and need to work on getting some perspective! But I attribute this ability to him. So much joy in just BEING. What’s it all for, otherwise?

  116. Mary says...

    Reminds me so much of David Foster Wallace’s Kenyon commencement speech, This is Water. Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed or dragged down by all the mundane silliness of everyday life, I watch it. It’s a reminder to look around, have empathy for those around me, and to maintain awareness of the life I’m living.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CrOL-ydFMI

    • Cara says...

      I love that speech!

    • katie says...

      Me, too. That’s one to keep printed out by your nightstand. Love love love.

  117. Aghh, this has been a frequent topic of arguments (?) recently between my husband and I. We talk about how often and reflex action-ish has it become to just pick the phone and browse Instagram or keep refreshing email or check a tweet. At that point it’s hard to limit screen time for kids when you (aka me) are constantly checking something on your phone. So I’m trying to plug in my phone into the charger as soon as I get home. Some days are definitely better than the others. But, it’s a step in the right direction I guess.

  118. Beth says...

    I just downloaded the Moment app this week, which tracks how much time you were on your phone in a day, what apps you were using and how many times you picked it up. As someone who actively tries to not be on the phone in social settings, I learned I am still using my phone three hours a day. 20% of my waking time!! Even if you exclude how productive those three hours could be, think of all the wasted time not deliciously wasted! Calling a pal to gab or sitting on a bench people watching so outranks insta-stories and refreshing email.

    • Oooh, I am so getting that app right now. Thank you!

    • Michelle says...

      Wow, what a great app. Thanks for the tip!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh yes, joy from the blog 3 chairs mentioned this app this week — i want to try it!

  119. Escondista says...

    I got off Facebook over a year ago and then instagram 6 months ago. Being social media-free has been good for my mental health and my interactions with my child. I could see myself thinking of or setting up the perfect social media photo before and now she gets her deserved privacy and I am just focused on our time together.

  120. Marie says...

    I studied painting in college, and I received some criticism for making an “impractical” choice as a result. However, I truly feel that my art training was a gift that I’ll have for the rest of my life, because it taught me to look, really look, at the world around me. I have no regrets.

    • katie says...

      well I for one think you made an outstanding choice. Art makes life!

  121. Akitar says...

    I once attended a talk on being present. One of the things the speaker said I wrote out on a piece of paper and put directly above my work bench in grad school. It said “Be Exactly Where You Are”. That really helped me get through the slog of grad school because it was a nice reminder to just focus on the task at hand to get things done. But now I take it with me mentally wherever I go and remind myself to be exactly where I am every so often to enjoy things around me :)

    • Holly says...

      Love this. Thank you. Writing on a piece of paper right now :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Love that.

  122. I have the same goal and strive to reach it daily. It’s sadly not always easy for me, even though I’m a full time stay home mom and don’t have a career that needs me to check my phone. I started to blog regularly as a way to self care (and hobby!) and while it may sound contradicting, i do try to use technology less around the kids. My kids help me with this too, definitely, with their incessant requests for mama, mama, mama!

  123. Aet says...

    I love this so much

  124. alison says...

    I feel like I just joined a cult, but I’ve been really excited about this podcast (http://hurryslowly.co/) and Jocelyn’s whole brand in general and I’m now spreading the gospel!

    • j says...

      me too

  125. Whitney says...

    This is my goal daily. I remind myself to look around and notice how the sunlight hits the trees or the big fluffy clouds while I’m driving. I like to comment on these things aloud so my kids can see them too. Sometimes if I’m stuck in my head while driving down the road my kids will exclaim “mommy, look at that cool shadow!” or “that tree has pretty leaves” and it reminds me to observe the beauty.

  126. I am totally in my head! About everything, all the time. I get so caught up in the should haves and should dos that I forget about where I am at the present moment. I wear a bracelet that says “pause” to try to remind myself to take a moment to look around, take a breath, and just be.

  127. I’ve been thinking a lot about being engaged in everything I do. I also feel like it is so easy to just check out when what you really want to do is experience the moment.