As we roll deeper into the 21st century and face the beginning of yet another new year, I wonder sometimes what this rampant ADD we all seem to be fully engaged in will add up to in terms of life satisfaction.
We seem to relentlessly pursue endeavors in anticipation of the next endeavor, or the one after that, instead of enjoying the one we’re doing, or we doing things that are enjoyable three at a time, instead of letting ourselves relax and just participate in a moment without multiple distractions.
This behavior is not new. It all started back when I was young, with TV dinners. Suddenly you couldn’t just sit and eat a meal. You had to be watching a show at the same time. So don’t blame the cell phone. It happened way before that. But now, if you try to have dinner with your family without anyone checking Snapchat or Twitch forty times during the meal, then the irritation/anxiety/bad attitude index goes through the roof.
And if I see one more dad sitting looking at his cell phone while his son or daughter sits next to them playing by themselves, I’m going to scream. “This kid will be in college before you know it,” I want to shout. Never mind that, in fact. Within three years the kid will have his own smart phone and you will cease to exist.
And I’m not saying all this technology is bad. I love it. It’s made it possible for me to be in contact with people I love much more easily, and answer any question without having to use my memory, and be reminded of the thousand things I’ve scheduled in my life. But texts interrupt us, notifications distract us, email inundates us, and the idea of watching a TV show while playing a game on your iPad and checking Facebook every ten minutes seems as antiquated as riding a horse to work.
And let’s also dispel the myth of multi-tasking. It’s been absolutely demonstrated with brainwave studies that we are simply switching back and forth between the tasks, not multi-tasking. Which means we are losing our ability to focus for more than a few seconds. In a single generation we’ve gone from reading War and Peace to not being able to finish reading a Tweet because it takes too long.
And I’m just as bad. I drive in a hurry even when I’m not going anywhere. I panic if halfway through my workout the podcast seems to be a load of nonsense. I look at my Apple Watch the second it buzzes with a message. (Although half the time it’s just telling me to stand up.) Is all this bringing me joy? Honestly, no.
So where am I going with this rant? I have no hope or even intention of rolling back the atomic clock on technology. What I am suggesting is that we re-learn how to savor. This mad pursuit of multiple activities has suppressed our ability to savor what can be delicious single moments in life.
When I was in college we all used to sit and listen to an entire album (that’s a vinyl LP, for you young ‘uns) and then have to flip it over to hear the other side. And that was all we did. And those songs still play in my head now. It was wonderful.
We skied without listening to headphones, and we read books from cover to cover, sometimes in one sitting. We sat and had a few drinks without six televisions in our eyeline. We played Trivial Pursuit and actually had to use our brains instead of our phones.
So all I’m suggesting is that for 2019, maybe take some part of your day and just do one single thing sometime during the course of your day, and savor it.
Sit and just drink your half-caff almond latte. Enjoy it, the flavor, the warmth. Without checking your email.
- Listen to an entire song, maybe even an entire album, without doing anything else.
- Chat with a dear friend, phones on silent, tucked away.
- Take a walk without listening to a playlist or a podcast. Just enjoy the air, the sky and nature, or the bustling world around you.
- Cook a meal from scratch together, and eat it, enjoying every bite, devoid of electronic distraction.
- Listen to an old person tell you about their life. Ask them questions. (I have a thousand questions I wish I could ask my dad. Sadly, he’s long gone.)
- Meditate. For ten minutes even. (If you have no idea how, go to calm.com. It’s easy. And good for just about everything.)
- Or just take fifteen seconds and look up at the clouds. Or the stars. Or down at a flower. Or watch your kids play.
Just a little bit, for a few moments in the day.
And maybe we’ll discover that happiness isn’t so hard to find after all.