You are worth paying attention to

Where are you?

Being present and mindful of one's surroundings seems to be an increasingly uncommon practice. For years, I've heard that people are staring at their phone screens too much. I've seen videos of people running into things because they were texting while walking. Worse, everyone seems to text and drive. If you look around at all in traffic, you'll see exactly how many people are looking at their phones instead of the road.

People's inattention to even the most important and dangerous tasks has become extreme!

With that in mind, the "little" things in life must be suffering too. Right? If someone won't even watch the road while they are driving, how much attention do they give when you hang out?

I've often caught myself distracted by a pointless notification on my phone. I'm sure you have too: you think it's something important, you look at it, and then you get sucked into reading or watching something else. It happens.

I think that getting sucked into our devices around other people is something we all need to work on.

Interacting with actual people is more important than what is trending online. Even communicating with friends online can be a problem when it keeps us from interacting with the people physically present around us.

If we are at lunch with work friends, out to dinner with family, or hanging out on a friend's couch we should be committed to being present. Why are you with these people? Think about that, and then think about what we are doing to the people we care about when we slip away into our devices.

Mindfulness is worth practicing. 

Even if you aren't spending time with friends or family or doing anything important,  paying attention  can become a powerful skill. Paying attention to yourself can be an especially rewarding practice.

Acknowledge what is going on around you and how you feel about it right now. With practice, you can notice a satisfying level of detail about the world around you and develop a greater understanding of your own feelings. If you are having trouble breaking through the distractions to your own thoughts and feelings, try taking a long walk or sitting outside. 

I know "it's cold outside" and "I don't have time", but you are going to spend that thirty minutes staring at social media anyway if we are being honest. Put on a good jacket and go. You'll warm up if you keep moving. Being on trail, just walking through the woods for months at a time, forced me into practicing mindfulness. Being mindful at home is much harder, and I'm learning that it is a skill that degrades without practice.

You may think, "I'm just sitting here doing nothing. There's nothing to be mindful about." There is a lot more going on around us and in our feelings than we normally pay attention to. Just turning everything off and sitting still could work, but it is really hard to do. If you are able bodied, start walking with absolutely nothing to distract you. Don't listen to music or make a phone call, you are going to spend some time with yourself. Otherwise ignored feelings and and surroundings will stand out to you. 

It's amazing how much we blind ourselves to by being distracted, and how strongly our devices magnify our ability to be distracted. I can't read a book if there's anything going on in the room to distract me, but with my smartphone in my hand I can miss every bit of what my fiancee is saying to me.

We are stronger than this. The physical world around us is important. We are important. Our feelings are important. We are worth paying attention to. We are more interesting than the screens of our smartphones. 

What if you are being ignored?

If a friend or loved one is ignoring you, looking at a phone or computer screen instead of being present with you it is okay to feel uncomfortable with that. Say something! You don't have to call them out. Try saying "hey, let's do something".

Others might just need a gentle little nudge to get them back into the room with you when you are supposed to be spending time together.

If you feel like a friend or family member is truly lost to you because of their devices, you should try to talk to them about it. If they aren't willing to hear you out or they don't make an effort to be present when they are around you, maybe it's time to spend more time on your other relationships.

You are worth paying attention to.