Stop & Smell the Roses Already Around You

As I come out of 2012, I look back and see the achievement of a major goal: I’ve stopped to smell the roses. As we enter the New Year together, I hear people commenting on how they’d like to take more time to smell the roses. This is an admirable and achievable goal. Especially because there is a secret we’ve been keeping from ourselves: we’re surrounded by roses but forgot how to smell.
As our lives become easier and more organized with all of our technology, it should be opening up much more leisure time. However, we seem to be filling that leisure time with leisure activities that quickly become tasks and even burdensome. How do we so quickly convert these from can-do pleasure providers to must-do obligations? More importantly, how do we shift them back? It’s all in a mental shift.
You’ve already surrounded yourself with roses. It’s time to learn to smell again. Some of these roses may be our children’s laughter and learning moments. Some may be our yoga or spin classes. Some may be our neighborhood park or our underused memberships.
There are three basic steps to stopping and smelling the roses.

1.     Identify the roses you’ve already got around you.

What around you, already on your schedule, already in your space should be bringing you pleasure and joy? Name it. Is it your partner? Your toddler? Your dog? The park on your way home? For me, one was the botanic gardens; another was my balcony.

2.     Pause yourself from your multi-tasking, commuting, planning, rehashing.

Risking blasphemy, turn off your phone, ipod, car and TV. It may be uncomfortable at first to not be plugged in. Your impulse may be to check your email or texts after a minute or two. Controlling that impulse is part of stopping to smell the roses. Unplug, and stay unplugged. Start with a goal of five minutes, and build up to ten, twenty, thirty with practice.

3.     Become mindful, aware, engaged and present in your space.

Look around you. Enjoy what you see. Get in it. Invest in it. Involve yourself actively in it.
If it’s your partner, stop and watch. Remember the first time you went to dinner with her. Stop and watch him dry himself off getting out of the shower. Stop and watch him spooning that puree into your baby’s mouth, and enjoy your baby spitting it right back out. Enjoy her smile in earnest.
If it’s your child playing, sit down next to him and mirror his behavior. If your daughter has grabbed something she shouldn’t have, explore with her why it’s interesting rather than cutting off her curiosity (save any danger).
If it’s the park, get out of your car, leave your phone and ipod behind, and just walk for five minutes enjoying what you see, hear and feel.
Empty time, non-thinking time is also important. Time to unplug, to be alone, and to be in quiet. Do away with stimuli. Be present only with yourself. Meditate. (And, if you need help with that as I do, try iTunes U to find a class on meditation and mindfulness.) At the same time, we can create pockets of quiet mindfulness, absent the list-making and task-doing, in our everyday.
Here are some examples of how I’ve achieved this:

1.     A brisk walk a few times a week to the park and back. It takes 10-20.
2.     On my way home, I’ve stopped at a park to walk through a rose garden for 5 minutes.
3.     Standing on my balcony, watching the steam rise off the rooftops below.
4.     Peering out my office window at the geese on the grass.

Here are some other ideas you can incorporate to bring some quiet mindfulness back to your life:

1.     Schedule your bed time fifteen minutes earlier than usual (stick to it) and check in with your body, part by part, starting at the crown of your head and work down. Feel each tingle or itch and let it subside as you move on.
2.     Schedule your wake up ten minutes earlier than usual. Put a sticky note on your snooze button that says some version of “this is a gift you give yourself.” Hit the snooze button, fall back asleep, and give yourself gratitude the next time your alarm goes off. You’re less likely to begrudgingly hit the snooze again which can make for waking up on the wrong side of the bed.
3.     At your lunch break, take ten minutes to walk the stairs. Think about whatever you want. Just the act of walking down a few flights and back up a few flights will alter your thoughts and moods for the better.

Smelling the roses doesn’t have to mean finding more roses, in a new hobby or a new class or new tech gear. It may mean appreciating the ones already around us, approaching them with a new perspective of contentment and fulfillment. Best wishes for smelling the roses already around you in 2013.

Let me know how these ideas work for you. If you’re looking for a therapist in Denver, for individual or couples counseling, I’m happy to help you find the right fit.