Certainly I’ve made a career in awareness as a photographer — finding moments or, arguably, the beauty in things. But more important than that, I think awareness (not just of beauty but of things – but awareness in general, internal states, etc) is a powerful tool — one that gets us all out of your head, into the present moment, and more connected to the world around us.
In fact, when people are early in their career as ‘creatives’ I find that awareness is usually one of the biggest opportunities for growth. It’s the secret to developing your point of view. It’s also why we need to be good at the fundamentals of our crafts – so we can free our mind up from thinking about camera settings and frame rates and start noticing the details about crafting or capturing the right moment(s).
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Here are some 6 ways to hone your awareness and tune into this moment:
1) Notice your surroundings
When is the last time you looked around you? I mean, really looked. Have you noticed the cracks in the sidewalk, the texture on the walls, the smell right after it rains? Being aware of your surroundings can help you be more present in the moment. When you’re focused on what’s happening around you, you’re less likely to be distracted by your own thoughts and worries. This can help you enjoy your experiences more fully and appreciate the world around you. A few prompts to help you get started:
- How do the walls look?
- What patterns do you see in the clouds?
- How many windows are to your left and right?
- How many lights can you count from here?
2) Focus on one thing at a time (don’t multitask)
Let’s face it, the world is full of noise. There’s hundreds of things trying to get our attention, and we fall prey to attempting to do multiple things at once. Including scrolling social media while cooking, or watching tv while doing emails, etc.
Focusing on one thing at a time, also known as monotasking, can have several benefits. Here are a few:
- Improved productivity: When you focus on one task at a time, you can complete it more quickly and effectively. You’re less likely to make mistakes or have to redo work because you were trying to multitask and got distracted.
- Greater creativity: Focusing on one thing at a time allows you to give your full attention to the task at hand, which can lead to more creative and innovative thinking.
- Enhanced memory and learning: When you multitask, your brain has to constantly switch between different tasks, which can make it harder to remember and retain information. Focusing on one thing at a time allows you to fully absorb the information, which can improve your memory and learning. Research shows when you are fully focused, you remember details in the long term.
- Reduced stress: Multitasking can be stressful because you’re constantly trying to juggle multiple tasks at once. Focusing on one thing at a time can help reduce stress and allow you to work more calmly and efficiently.
- Increased enjoyment: When you focus on one thing at a time, you can fully engage in the activity and experience it more fully. This can increase your enjoyment of the task and help you feel more satisfied with your work.
3) Be mindful of everything you do
How often do you eat your lunch while surfing the internet, or reading emails? This is related to my point #2 above, but is slightly different. It’s more than just productivity or multitasking. When you are distracting yourself from what is happening in the moment, it’s a a way to distance yourself from what you’re doing.
Being mindful means paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, and actions in the present moment, without judgment. When you’re mindful, you’re more aware of your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, as well as the people and things around you. This can help you become more aware of your own life and the impact that you have on others.
Here are a few ways that being mindful can help increase awareness in your life:
- It helps you stay present in the moment: When you’re mindful, you’re less likely to get caught up in your thoughts and worries about the past or future. This can help you stay present in the moment and fully engage in your experiences.
- It helps you become more self-aware: Being mindful allows you to pay attention to your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, which can help you understand yourself better. This can increase your self-awareness and help you make better decisions and choices.
- It helps you become more attuned to others: When you’re mindful, you’re more likely to pick up on subtle cues and behaviors that can help you understand how others are feeling and what they might need. This can help you be a more effective communicator and build stronger relationships with others.
- It can help you manage stress and emotions: Mindfulness can help you manage stress and negative emotions by allowing you to acknowledge and accept them without getting caught up in them. This can help you cope with difficult situations more effectively and make healthier choices.
Overall, being mindful can help you become more aware of your own life and the impact that you have on others, which can lead to greater well-being and happiness.
So, let’s go back to eating lunch. Where can you direct your attention to instead of surfing the web? Here are a few ideas:
- Try focus on each meal as you eat
- How does it smell / taste?
- How is your body reacting to what you’ve eaten so far?
- What sounds are around you while you eat?
- What other things do you notice?
4) Practice Deep Breathing Exercises
I’m sure it’s no surprise that breathing exercises can help decrease stress, increase calm, relieve pain, stimulate the lymphatic system, lower blood pressure, and more. That’s powerful sh*t. But why is it helpful to finding beauty? Well, it can help in several ways:
- It can help you relax and calm your mind, which can make it easier to appreciate the beauty around you.
- It can help you become more mindful and aware of your surroundings, which can help you notice and appreciate the beauty in your environment.
- It can help you slow down and savor your experiences, which can help you find beauty in even the most ordinary moments.
A popular breathing exercise is the 4-7-8 method:
- Find a comfortable, quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed
- Place your tongue at the back of your top teeth
- inhale for a count of 4 through your nose
- Hold for 7
- Exhale through the mouth for a count of 8. Make an audible “whoosh” sound.
- Do this for 4 cycles
If you’re interested in this topic, you can start with the episode with James Nestor who shares some breathing exercises on the show
5) Take a break from screens
It’s no secret that we’re addicted to our phones, social media, and technology in general. Just lift your head up for 5 minutes and look around you. How many people are buried in their phones? The truth is, checking our phone is having a negative effect in our ability to be present. Here are some ideas to decrease screen time and increase presence:
- Set limits: You can set limits on your screen time by using built-in features on your devices or by using third-party apps. For example, you can set limits on how much time you spend on specific apps or set a daily screen time limit.
- Take Breaks: Take timed breaks where your phone is on a charger away from you.
- Find Alternative Activities: What can you do without your phone? I often walk to the local coffee shop without bringing my phone.
- No phone zones: Set a rule of no phones in the bedroom or at the dinner table. Recently Neil Pasricha shared this tactic on the podcast.
- Turn off notifications: Try to turn everything off except the most important things that truly need (and deserve) your attention.
- Use an app blocker: An app blocker can help you block distracting apps or websites during specific times or when you’re trying to focus.
6) Spend time with people make you feel happy and fulfilled
We’ve talked on this show about energy zappers. Energy zappers are things that drain your energy and leave you feeling tired and sluggish. When we are doing things that bring us joy, surround ourselves with positive and supportive people, we naturally live in the moment. In turn, that helps us to focus on what’s going well in our lives instead of dwelling on past or future events.
I’ve made a career in awareness as a photographer. Awareness gets us out of our heads and into the moment. Living in the present moment can help you be more present, creative, and focused as a creator, which can lead to better work and a more enjoyable and fulfilling experience.