// 12 June 2019
By Dr Darria Long Gillespie
Being Present #88
Mom Hacks are like self-care nuggets of wisdom for any mom to eat right, move more, stress less and get a good night’s sleep, by a doctor who is also a mom. Why is it generally accepted that motherhood comes at the expense of our health–with all that weight gain, fatigue, and exhaustion? It doesn’t have to be that way. What if your baby AND you could thrive together?
Widely renowned as an expert in making life and health better for women, Dr. Darria Long is a regular national TV health expert on HLN, CNN, The Dr. Oz Show, mum of two, author of the book Mom Hacks, board-certified Emergency Department physician and a digital health executive. She wrote the nationally bestselling book because she wanted EVERY woman to feel more in control of her health - and to feel more “I’ve GOT this!”.
Given her experience, she holds a unique, multifaceted perspective of the healthcare system AND, she has come onboard to share with Evolve.
Be Present Now
A co-worker and I have a weekly Sunday check-in—and some weeks, that Sunday text leaves me wondering, “Where did another week go?” If you feel the same, you know that this is a life stage where family, work, and caring for older parents seem to all intersect. When every day feels like a rat race, we run through life rarely fully present in anything.
The solution is to intentionally bring your focus to the present to quiet the 24/7 distractions, the comparisons, the concerns and allow the good to register. A Hebrew prayer reminds us, “Days pass, and the years vanish, and we walk sightless among the miracles.” Mindfulness is linked to improved attention and working memory, less depression, better relationship and life satisfaction, vitality, and fulfilment. Sign me up.
Your Brain Is Wired to Always Be Looking Around
Our brain is wired for distraction: it’s constantly scanning our environment, looking for threats, questioning the past, looking to the future. But that protective tendency can keep us so caught up in these internal dialogues that we miss the present moment (especially with the many distractions available to us today, thanks to our smartphones).
I used to think that if I wasn’t constantly focusing on the next goal, I’d fail. I confused appreciation of the current moment with complacency, when, in fact, it’s the fire that fuels creativity and success. It’s okay to work to change a situation. But, in the meantime, find happiness where you are today. Embracing the joy, you can have in the present is the only way to create a tomorrow that you love.
See the Forest - and the Beauty
When people rehash the trite phrase “enjoy this time,” I’d like to offer to let them stay up with the baby at night. But I now believe that what they mean (whether they realize it or not) is not so much “enjoyment” as presence. Remember that unless we intentionally override it, our brain is wired to focus on the negative and threats. I noticed this the other day when I was hiking with my family—I was focused on watching for snakes, swatting away spiders, and making sure my daughter didn’t step in poison ivy, and I never looked up and just took a breath. In fact, it wasn’t until I could see the clearing at the end of our hike that I realized I had missed out on enjoying the whole thing. I had literally missed the forest for the trees. “Enjoy this time” doesn’t mean that you enjoy the snakes, ticks, and poison ivy (or dirty diapers, exhaustion, and tantrums), but that you can still have moments to notice the beauty all around you as well.
Do a mindfulness kick start to shut down the distractions.
Identify an object (ideally something natural, such as a flower or tree). Set your phone timer for one minute. Look at the object as if it’s the first time you’re seeing it. If it’s a flower, what colour is it? Are all the petals the same colour? Do any look discolored or uneven? Can you smell it? Is it moving in the wind? See how many things you can observe in that time. After you’ve done this a few times, you can expand the exercise to two to five minutes.
Do an online mindfulness meditation (UCLA Mindfulness Awareness Research Center9 and Jeremy Hunter10 both have free sessions of three to five minutes), or download an app such as Headspace or Simple Habit.
Start with short intervals of presence
We won’t break our distraction habit overnight. So, after doing one of the mindfulness kick-start exercises, aim for five minutes of being singularly present with a family member, without distraction from your phone or other to-dos. Slowly increase the time and feel the difference in your interactions. You may even notice that your memory of these interactions improves because you’re fully present.
Darria Long, MD MBA
Grab a copy of my bestselling book, Mom Hacks!