It’s pretty easy to get caught in an unconscious routine, and to lose track of the fact that those little everyday details end up combining to form and shape your life as a whole.
As one famous quote put it, “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
Our lives can be thrilling and deeply moving adventures, but if we are too complacent they can also just end up becoming cycles of half-conscious habits that we don’t really pay enough attention or respect to. Then, years or decades down the line, we may wake up and wonder where all the time has gone.
Here are a few tips and suggestions on how to make the little details in your life more meaningful, so that every day contains just a little bit more magic.
- Go for a low-tech approach
As technology becomes more and more advanced, it also enters into every corner of our lives in a more comprehensive and all-encompassing way. These days, you are almost more likely to hear someone asking their Google AI helper to put on a kitchen timer when cooking, as to see them using an old-fashioned egg timer.
At some point, though, it becomes pretty clear that a high-tech approach isn’t always the best option, and that being too dependent on fancy technology can actually significantly diminish our ability to meaningfully engage with each moment.
Consider the example of a wedding, and wedding invitations. Now, of course, a wedding is a big deal rather than a “small everyday thing,” but still – would you feel like it would be more meaningful to send someone a digital wedding invitation, or a traditional one printed on high-quality card, and delivered through the post?
For that matter, would you feel more positive and engaged with the moment if a friend or relative sent you a scenic postcard from their travels with an interesting stamp on it, or if they just emailed you or hit you up on social media with a description of how things were going?
A lot of the time, a low-tech approach to things is just more visceral, and meaningful. It gives us something to hold, think about, feel, and cherish, and it gets us out of our heads and away from the constant need to stare at a screen.
A physical book is there for you to page through, feel the weight of, and look at, even when the electricity has gone out in your home. But an e-book can easily just end up feeling like another ephemeral thing that exists in your computer.
- Stop trying to do too many things at once
Some people make a big point about being “really good at multitasking,” but according to what various psychological researchers have found, they are all mistaken at best.
It seems to be the case that, actually, everyone becomes more stressed, less effective, less accurate, and less engaged with a task, when they are trying to do multiple things at the same time. Not only that, but – as writers like Nicholas Carr have outlined – there’s also good evidence that people learn and remember things better when they are focusing on reading through information in the old-fashioned way (i.e. a book), versus when there are trying to learn via a multimedia format.
The trick is that your ability to really engage with what’s right in front of you, in a focused and deliberate way, has a big impact on how meaningful you find the thing, how much you can appreciate all its subtleties, and how good you feel about both yourself and life in general.
Next time you are trying to read a book, stop constantly picking up your phone to check things in Wikipedia at the same time. And for that matter, stop trying to get other things done while talking to your friends or relatives. And if there’s a podcast that you really want to listen to, try to give it a decent amount of your attention, instead of just using it as background noise while you rush to get a bunch of different chores done around the house.
Of course, sometimes we all feel a bit worn out and want a bit of distraction while we are doing other things – especially if those things aren’t necessarily very engaging or meaningful in and of themselves. As a rule, though, you are just going to find far more meaning in everyday life if you stop dividing your attention a dozen different ways during every waking moment.
- Get more things done, and spend less time in your own head
It’s easy to get a bit negative and fatalistic, and to lose sight of the magic of life and the wonders of each moment, when you are constantly stuck in your own head, in a cycle of overthinking and rumination.
As hinted at earlier in this article, the fact that more and more of us live in more or less hermetically sealed digital bubbles on an everyday basis means that it’s easy to spend the majority of any given day in some form of introspection.
Of course, it’s difficult to really appreciate the moment and find it deeply meaningful, if a major part of your everyday focus is taken up by questions like “what did that comment on my profile mean?” Or “I can’t believe that actress said that.”
If you are naturally prone to overthinking, and to getting caught up in your own unproductive – and even destructive – mental spirals, it’s important that you begin to develop the habit of getting out of your own head, and becoming more active in the everyday world at large.
Not only will you likely begin to feel better about yourself and everything that’s going on around you, but you will also be in a better position to spot the meaning and value in those everyday moments and experiences.
Develop some hobbies, force yourself to go out and interact in different social contexts, and get yourself out of bed or off the sofa. Start finally tackling those chores, whether you feel like it or not.
Very soon, you might find the world becomes more “real” to you, and that you’re able to actually get more of a sense of perspective and appreciation for what’s around you.
- Do things with your loved ones that differ from your normal routine
In the book, “The Power of Moments,” by Chip and Dan Heath, there are some really compelling arguments made that powerful singular moments can have the capacity to totally transform people’s lives in ways both good and bad.
No one is likely to find that idea too strange or controversial when considered in terms of things like a wedding, or an accident. An interesting point, though, is that it seems like many of those memorable “moments” can be created without too much dramatic work or effort, whatsoever.
One thing about everyday life that can often keep us from truly appreciating the value of what’s right in front of us, is that we often end up existing in highly-focused routines and structures that become so automatic we rarely pay them any mind whatsoever.
As a matter of fact, it’s even been suggested that our dependence on everyday habits and routines is a big factor in why time seems to fly by so much faster as we get older. There are just less memorable moments for us to pay attention to, and so we end up drifting from day-to-day without really processing much of what’s actually happening, consciously.
The trick is to regularly do things – especially with your loved ones – that differ from your normal routine, even just slightly. Something as simple as playing a board game with your family, instead of watching TV, can bring you back to the moment and give you something to think about and remember.
We all need certain structures and routines in our lives, but if you don’t ever mix things up at all, you can end up becoming unconscious to a lot of the blessings that may already exist in your own life.
- Keep a journal
Keeping a journal may seem, at first, to contradict the advice to be more outgoing and less introspective as a rule – but, assuming that you don’t just spend all of your free time writing in your journal and reading through it – a journal can actually help you to digest and analyse each day in a meaningful and productive way, instead of letting it thoughtlessly pass you by.
When you write a small entry each day about your experience, your thoughts, and your ideas and lessons learned, you are essentially scouring the day for the fragments of meaning that make everything seem that much more significant and magical.
There are many different journalling formats you could use, ranging from Ryder Carroll’s original (and highly-minimalistic) Bullet Journal Method, to the old-fashioned, unconventional “dear diary” format made famous by teenage girls in Hollywood movies.
Not only will a journal help you to put each day into perspective as it happens, but when you come around to looking back on your journal entries, the narrative of your whole life can seem to emerge more clearly.