The new mantra is to be in the moment. For many of us, this will remain on our bucket list.

  It’s not that you don’t want to enjoy being in the moment for rejuvenation and relaxation.  You have given your best shot multiple times – yet, you’ve failed as it’s challenging to find the time and energy after a hectic day.

  You can’t find the time to meditate when you’re at home, as you’re on the phone almost every evening. You’re trying to help your friend who is having a hard time and needs you, even though talking on the phone prevents you from exercising or practising meditation. 

   You continue to maintain your current lifestyle, even though it’s dysfunctional, as it gives you a sense of purpose. It is a double whammy as your intervention does resolve other people’s problems. There is also immediate gratification as these rewards are instantaneous. A downfall of taking out unplanned time means that you deprive yourself of building your repertoire of positive emotions. By the time the phone calls have ended, it’s too late to do anything new, like sitting down for a meditation session.

  To resolve this dilemma of meeting your personal needs without creating guilt of abandoning your vulnerable friends, you can integrate new learning into your existing repertoire of activities.

  Here, the principle of ‘ successive approximation’ or taking incremental steps towards your desired goal can work. It means breaking down the task into progressive difficulty levels. 

   ‘Activity scheduling’ will enable you to find this time, doing easy-to-do exercises while you’re sitting on the couch watching television.  It may not be what you want, as you would prefer to go to the gym for your workout. You still get some exercise only because you’re catching the moment. Gradually, with more practice, you’ll be rapidly surpassing your chosen goal.

   You may not get any “I did it” feeling, as you still believe you should do it “correctly.” Here, the cognitive distortion or thinking error of ‘discounting the positives’ is working in full force, as you think that your small positive actions do not count.

  You continue since these efforts are not taking you away from watching the game or talking to your friend. When you see some progress in your functioning, you realize that you’ve made a step in the right direction.

  Why is it difficult to let go of old habits even though you know that they are not beneficial to your overall well being?  Your habits are ‘conditioned’ or learned behaviour – you begin with one phone call, which leads to another phone call, and so on, as your actions make you feel good about yourself. You may feel less lonely while chatting as your  ‘need for affiliation’ is met. By helping your near and dear ones, your ‘need for altruism’ is also met.  So, your behaviour gets rewarded and, therefore, more challenging to get rid of or to ‘extinguish.’ 

  Once you know how to catch the moments in your busy schedule and make them part of your lifestyle, you will be better at taking care of yourself and your loved ones. 

This article was published in the Telegraph Journal.

Picture is courtesy Unsplash /J.D.Mason

Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes and should not replace consultations with a qualified professional.