Finding Hidden Pleasures in ‘Wasted Moments’

By eM Life Instructor Andrea Lieberstein, MPH, RDN, RYT

Stop and Enjoy the Pleasures of Life.

Every moment is precious, an opportunity to wholly inhabit and embody our lives. But how many moments of each day do we fully live this way? Our attention is so often straining toward the future or replaying something from the past. If we are not presently and fully engaged in a task, feeling like we’re accomplishing something we may become impatient and look for other ways to disengage and distract our minds.

What are the costs to the quality of our experience and sense of well-being when we follow the whims of our impatience in these moments? Do we feel frustrated when we’re waiting in line, driving, or in a meeting where nothing seems to get done? Activity for its own sake is not always meaningful, productive, or even ultimately satisfying.

There is such internal and external pressure these days to be as productive as possible. Studies have found the average adult checks their smartphone at least 47 times per day. The act of being busy becomes our overriding habit making pauses feel uncomfortable as we seek to attribute our time directly to accomplishment or entertainment – anything that keeps us from doing nothing. The impatience that can arise may not even be from a pressing deadline, self-imposed or otherwise, but from the discomfort of being bored and feeling as if we have nothing to do.

Life forced a learning opportunity upon me recently. I was planning for a work trip and tackling my ever-growing to-do list. It felt as if there was not enough time in the day for me to manage it all. I found myself struggling with maintaining a healthy balance of rest, leisure, and work, so I increased my personal mindfulness practice to help. Toward the latter part of this period, I happened to misplace my smartphone. Upon sharing the news of my misplaced phone with a friend, I was told, “Maybe that is exactly what you need right now.”

After getting used to going phone-free for a few days, I found I enjoyed the extra time it gave me, to pause, just be, and “enjoy the scenery.” Going without a phone allowed me to connect to myself and others when I might have instead checked for messages, responded to emails or surfed the web. Being phone-free meant I was able to complete my work more efficiently as there was no palm-sized device vying for my attention and prompting me to multitask. During this time, I found I could be more focused and relaxed. I also needed to relearn a few things the old fashioned way—like writing out or printing driving directions beforehand! Now, with my phone back, I find I am approaching the use of it in my life much more mindfully.

STOP practice button

The STOP practice uses the principles of mindfulness —the ability to pause with kind, open, non-judging attention; inquire into our experience, thoughts, feelings, and beliefs; then ask ourselves meaningful questions in the pause created; and finally make intentional, meaningful choices for ourselves. At any point you notice yourself feeling impatient, thinking you are wasting time or engaging in wheel spinning, you can employ this process.

STOP

S — Stop what you’re doing.
T — Take a few breaths to bring yourself into the present moment.
O — Observe your thoughts, emotions, and sensations that accompany the urge to be busy. Notice impatience, anxiety, boredom, or any other feelings that arise. Ask yourself if engaging in another form of activity is what you really need right now. Will this truly serve you? Is there an action you could take right now that would be more meaningful than your automatic response or habit? This might include simply practicing being and moments of rest.
P — Proceed with greater clarity and awareness.

Through the experience of misplacing my phone, I’m reminded of the opportunities found in what one might assume were “wasted” moments. Remembering hidden pleasures can lead us to more meaningful actions, more fulfilling rest, and improved well-being.

Learn how you can implement the STOP practice anytime you need a pause. Train your mind to take a moment and enjoy the hidden pleasures found in each moment of your day. Sign up for a two-week free trial to eM Life and gain access to expert instructors, a community of support, and practical life skills. Already have an account? Sign in here.

About the author

Along with serving as a mindfulness instructor for eM Life Andrea Lieberstein leads mindful eating retreats, professional trainings and offers coaching international. She’s also the Bestselling Author of ‘Well Nourished’. You can learn more about Andrea by visiting her site, mindfuleatingtraining.com

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Also published on Medium.