Plugging Out to Be Present

How mindfulness and meditation can make you more focused, productive, and present.

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I have always found it hard to stop moving. Throughout the day, I’ll catch myself watching a T.V. show on Netflix while surfing TikTok or responding to text messages, totally oblivious to the plot and any character development that might have taken place in those small but very important five minutes. Especially now, I find it so hard to be present when I am inundated with news notifications, mental reminders of work assignments I need to complete, and missed calls from my friends while simultaneously deflecting my attention away from whatever my brother is yelling to my mom at the other end of my house. Ironically, it’s really hard to find comfort in solitude despite the immense amount of time we now have to ourselves in quarantine.

We are all feeling immensely isolated and alone. Without any knowledge of when we will be able to resume that paramount face-to-face interaction and the dogmatic six feet will dissolve into hugs and “dap me ups,” it’s hard to feel secure amid all this uncertainty. So, we opt to incessantly check our feeds despite any real closure coming from this toxic and ceaseless act. Or we sit on FaceTime with someone on pause, substituting what could have been a meaningful conversation with our endless need to be up-to-date all the time. 

However, recently I’ve been able to put away my worries and focus on being present. This past week, I’ve made a conscious effort to spend time in my backyard without any distractions: no phone, music, book, or anything (yes, I’m serious). I’m known by my close friends for being a super quick responder, so this was huge for me. Through doing this, I’ve been able to let my mind wander around from thought to thought. I’ve found myself being at peace with the questions that never seem to resolve themself until 3 am when I can’t keep my eyes open for any longer. At first, it was really hard for me to stay present. I would randomly get the urge to go inside and check my phone for any notifications but after a couple of days of doing this consistently, I learned to let go of this digital infiltration. In those moments, I would do anything to continue distracting myself: not wanting to face the ugly parts of myself. 

After my favorite activity at college Monday Mindfulness ended abruptly, my close friend and I decided to do a 30-day meditation challenge at home. And I’m happy to say that yesterday we both completed it. In using the free meditation app InsightTimer to check out of reality and check in to deep breathing and soothing voices, I’ve been able to become way more self-aware. It was amazing to see that spending time on such a simple activity could have such a profound influence on my productivity. Activities I wanted to do but unconsciously pushed aside were finally coming to fruition: working on a song remotely with a friend (recording vocals over GarageBand and sending them back), writing a story about a travel experience I had over the summer, exercising, and making time to talk with my friends frequently. Now when I don’t want to get distracted, I make sure to move my phone out of eyesight, so temptation can stop dictating my output. Even though one day I didn’t feel like doing anything particularly productive and wanted to binge Netflix in my bed, I was able to stay focused on the screen in front of me: finally processing the important plot changes and character arcs I had been neglecting for so long.

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More Thrive Global on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.


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