A mindful May for motivation

It has been more than a year since my COVID19 isolation began. In that time, I have slowly lost more and more of my motivation and my overall ways of being. And although some of the Scottish COVID19 restrictions are starting to lift, I am keenly aware that I will be living a mostly isolated life for some time to come. Only I am not sure that I can maintain this level of lost motivation if I want to do more than merely survive.

During this year+ of isolation, my self-discipline has waned and I have fallen into dangerous (or at least unhealthy) habits of sloth and idleness. And try as I may, I cannot overcome these things. I wake up in the morning with great plans for productivity and mantras for motivation. But by lunchtime, I am no further along in my day’s task than I was in the morning. By the end of the day, I find myself giving up and promising that “tomorrow will be my day”. And then, the process repeats itself the next day.

I am, for lack of a better word, stuck. Stuck in a pattern of idleness. Stuck in a pattern of frustration.

To un-stick myself, I feel like I need to re-harness my motivation, which requires addressing the range of actions (and non-actions) preventing me from feeling motivated. And that means I must be more mindful about how I allocate my time each day.

As things stand, I have been distracting myself for the last year+. Not intentionally, but as the world changed, my ways of being changed, leading to bad habits that I hadn’t even realised I’d created. Things just… happened. Because I let those things happen. But now, it’s time to take back control.

That said, I can’t just flip a switch and return to my pre-pandemic habits – in part because the ongoing home-working edicts and other social restrictions prevent me from going back to a pre-pandemic life. That means I need to take baby steps to address what I can control and hope that those steps morph into long strides so that I can control more and more as the world re-opens.

And that means I need to make some mindful and intentional changes to my ways of being.

I have already begun to identify some areas that need an overhaul. My eating habits, television (news!) habits, and sitting habits are the big ones that I will be tackling in May.

By the end of May, I hope to have developed new habits as follows:

Mindful eating: No more eating in front of a screen. This is a habit that started as a coping strategy for widowhood, but pre-pandemic I enjoyed a greater number of non-screen meals: lunches with colleagues, occasional dinners out with friends (or on my own), and even coffees in little cafes. Indeed, pre-pandemic my morning coffee routine was screen-free and mindful but now, I sip my coffee whilst watching YouTube news clips (not exactly a mindful activity).

Goal: By the end of May, I will eat most of my meals at the dining table. (Most, because “pizza and a movie” nights or meals when away from the cottage are exempt.) Meals will not include screens, but music is allowed. I will eat with intention, thinking about the flavours and textures that I am eating, rather than mindlessly devouring food. I will also return to my pre-pandemic coffee routine where I am contemplating my day as I sip my coffee. No more drinking my lovely black liquid whilst lost in YouTube!

Mindful entertainment: Confession: I am a multi-screener! It started right after Paul died when I needed constant distraction from even the things that were meant to distract me. Things were much better in recent years, but then The Pandemic hit and now I will have some form of TV entertainment (news, TV show, movie) happening on one screen whilst typing away on a laptop, and possibly looking at my mobile phone from time-to-time. It means that most things are done without full attention and I often have to rewind something I’ve been “watching” because my focus shifted completely to another screen.

Goal: By the end of May, I will wean myself off of the “need” to use more than one screen. If I am on Facebook, or doing work on a laptop, or watching a show, I will do that thing and that thing only. If a TV show or movie isn’t entertaining enough to attract my full attention, it isn’t worth my time!

Mindful standing: Because of the lockdowns and spending so much time at home, I am spending so much more time sitting. I am not walking to/from meetings, as they are all at my desk. I am not commuting; I am not standing in the corridor chatting with a colleague or standing in a queue for groceries or a bus. I am sitting, with the exception of my intentional exercise (walking or running) and making food that I then consume, mindlessly, in front of a screen. I don’t know how many hours I spend sitting, but I know it is far too many and that is not good for my physical, mental, or emotional healthy.

Goal: By the end of May, I will develop new routines that include more standing. I will stand for some of my online meetings, I will stand when watching some of my news shows, and I will stand just to stand. This will be coupled with a greater effort to walk more each day and to do more strength exercises.

So, basically, I will spend May being more mindful of my eating, screen time, and non-sitting time. The hope is that doing these things mindfully will help me to feel more motivated throughout the day. I also hope that these things will help me to better identify any other changes that I need to make to be more motivated. Ultimately, this will help to get me closer to my 2021 goals of being more accountable, creating balance, and finding calm.

As for today, I managed mostly well with these three things. Except for my dinner (left-over chicken and rice), I ate my meals without a screen. Indeed, lunch was enjoyed at a picnic table with a friend after we walked 8+ miles into the Pentland hills (as shown in the photo with this post). That walk meant that I was standing and moving for more than 3.5 hours, and I also spent time standing whilst watching a couple of old TV shows. Although I did eat my dinner whilst watching a TV show, too. No one is perfect, but I’ve got the whole of May to be better.

One day of Mindful May down… 30 to go!

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