• Carly Kelly-Fairweather

The challenge of paying attention

As an experienced Counsellor, I often use mindfulness as a way for people to pay more attention to their thoughts, emotions and behaviour. However, recently the topic of paying attention really connected with me on a different level. I started to question whether I was using the strategies I often discuss in therapy in my own life. Was I really paying attention? And if not, why was this simple idea often so hard to implement into my daily life?

I decided to challenge myself to start actively paying attention in my own life. What I found was that many aspects of my life were lacking, simply by being too busy to take the time to notice what I really needed.

And so, the art of paying attention began. First, I looked at the physical side of my life, my body. Was my body getting enough nutrients to keep me strong? Was I exercising enough? Was the form of exercise I choose to do still the right type of exercise for my life today? I realised that through listening to what my body needed I could recognise that my needs had changed. So I introduced new types of exercise that suited by current life. This allowed me to pay closer attention to what my body needed in the present moment to be healthy and strong.

Next step in this challenge was to focus on my mind. Working in the area of counselling has allowed me to recognise the importance of positive mental health. However, we all get busy and often our own mental health needs come after those that we are supporting. I realised through doing this challenge that I too had fallen into the trap of caring for others mental health more than my own. By acknowledging this fact, I was able to seek the support I needed to get back on track and pay closer attention to my own support needs.

Our relationships also deserve attention and so it was time to stop and notice how mine were going. Was I really paying attention to what my child needed? I was confident in my ability to provide love, care and even play as a parent. However, at times I questioned if I was really present in my child’s life. Was I too consumed with social media, work, TV, the housework to really be a mindful parent? By taking the time to actively stop and engage with my child I realised that a number of challenges with my parenting lay in the times I wasn’t present. When the connection wasn’t strong. By allowing myself the time to notice and accept that we both needed more, I moved towards more mindful parenting.

I also reassessed through this challenge, how much attention I was really paying to my relationship with my partner. As parents it is all too familiar to simply exist in a relationship rather than engage. I noticed that even in the limited times we were alone together we were not present, too busy with technology to really engage. And so, the challenge was to reengage, to reconnect and take the time out of our days to simply be present in each other’s company.

This challenge, though difficult, was an important lesson to learn. To really take notice of how much of your life you are present for. And though it is hard work to pay attention every day, it is a goal I will continue to strive for in both my personal and professional life.

Is it time for you to take this challenge?

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