I have never, ever been good at sitting still. From tossing and turning in my sleep to setting my meditation app to three minutes tops, moving is part of who I am (much to the chagrin of everyone I’ve shared a bed with, I’m sure).
As I got older, my constant need to be doing something went from not being able to stay in one place during story time to needing a distraction from my distractions. I can’t journal without listening to music, writing without tuning into a podcast, or watching a movie without my art supplies on hand. I think it’s because I’m afraid of what will happen when I finally tune out all the noise: the thoughts I might have, the feelings I’ll feel, etc., etc., etc. That makes sense, right?
In all honesty, I’m the last person who should give advice on peace of mind. Between my full-time job and many beloved freelance jobs, I myself work way too regularly. I’m terrible at unwinding and often find myself spending the miniscule downtime I’ve allotted myself, sucked deep into the TikTok vortex until I realize, wow, it’s bedtime. I pass out without thinking much about anything, and then I wake up and do it all over again.
I can’t journal without listening to music, writing without tuning into a podcast, or watching a movie without my art supplies on hand. I think it’s because I’m afraid of what will happen when I finally tune out all the noise.
However, I know what I should be doing. The problem, as always, is acting on it. That’s why we’re going to start small.
Stillness, in the sense I mean, at least, does not necessarily mean lack of movement. If you feel uncomfortable in a certain position, you can move around until everything is fine. Also, it’s not even about finding comfort or acceptance in listening to your own thoughts or living in your own body. Sometimes that doesn’t feel right, and that’s okay. That is a conversation for another time.
For now, the goal is to track some of the micro-moments of stillness that can (hopefully!) help us live in the exact space we are in right now. Or, more succinctly, some moments in which we can just be. Sometimes that means feeling hard things and thinking hard thoughts, and other times it means closing your eyes and enjoying the fresh air. Regardless, we are here now. (I thought that phrase occurred to me for a second, but it’s definitely the Ram Dass/Mason Jennings lyrics running through my head. Go figure.)
Get a partner.
Also known as your pet, who will happily lie in the sun while you pet them.
Use (yes!) technology.
Set a timer and forbid yourself from doing anything until the alarm goes off. Try one of those hard-nosed social media blocking software, or one of those “here’s a reminder to relax your jaw” push notifications apps. And really follow the instructions.
Establish some rituals.
Every time you start your car, lean back and count to ten. Or make it a rule that you can’t drive until the current song ends.
Give yourself reminders.
A note in the cupboard encouraging a quick breathing exercise before opening it, perhaps?
Let the to-do list be done.
Instead of moving on to the next task after finishing something, take a few minutes to enjoy a sense of accomplishment. Are you done with your clothes? Lie down with a clean sheet. Did you just send an email? Close the laptop for a second. On a similar note, once the daily “I love you” text message is sent to your mom or best friend, put your phone away and bask for a second knowing that they are so happy to hear from you.
Have your morning coffee and tea straight, before you start (and can’t stop) scrolling through your emails. Just hold the hot mug in your hands and savor. Similarly, enjoy your lunch outside, no screens allowed. Chew slowly and when you’re done, take a few minutes to enjoy the feeling of fullness before jumping on to what’s next.
Try a treatment.
Reiki is a great idea. And massage, always.
Keep the commercials.
Instead of skipping a commercial as soon as it comes on, mute the volume and give yourself thirty seconds to breathe.
Sit in a massage chair at the mall.
Specific! But if you pass by, stop.
Or on a park bench.
Even if you’re there all the time, you’ll notice things you’ve never noticed before, guaranteed.
Spend time near the water.
You can’t bring your phone into the pool! If you don’t have access to a lake, river, pool, etc., take a long bath or shower.
Secure the appointment.
Reserve a quiet moment on your calendar. No matter what time of day or how much time you have, just treat your stillness as the most important event of your day.
Before it’s time for bed, put away your electronics, close your book, and just be. Reflect on your day, do your gratitude practice, listen to the sounds of the night, whatever. Just give yourself a little time to unpack before starting over.
Sophie Vilensky (@sophiavilensky on Instagram and Twitter or if you met her in second grade) is a Real Housewives scholar and the daughter of a naturopath. Right now these things are very important to her.