Mindful living


Are we living life consciously present or framing our next Insta shot?



I was on an interstate flight recently taking a much-needed trip and read an article in the airline magazine by a travel blogger who had recently decided to do a two-day social media detox.  

Interestingly, she had challenged herself by going to a stunning, luxury resort in Bali and described the difficulty in the way she ‘viewed’ her experiences. How she went from looking at the over-ocean pool, divine plates of food, and stunning sunsets for their ‘Insta-potential’ and salivating over how many ‘likes’ the shiny caviar balls on the smoked salmon blinis would generate (‘#sorrynotsorry’) to actually just enjoying the beauty of the experience. Being in the moment rather than constantly framing the perfect photo.

Like the people who watch a rock concert through their iPhone screen rather than simply being in the moment without a device to focus on or come between them and the performer. Do you see something photo-worthy, frame the shot, click, and move on without really seeing the subject and taking in the surrounds? Do we all now just ‘snap, upload, and go’?  

I first experienced this 20-something years ago when my now-husband and I were watching fireworks over Melbourne’s Albert Park Lake — I was looking up in wonder and oohing and aahhing along with the rest of the crowd while hubby was videoing it on the old Panasonic camcorder. He missed the entire ‘experience’, and I remember being quite aware of this and annoyed thinking, ‘can’t we just enjoy this together?’

We certainly never watched the video and there wasn’t social media then to post it to, so the tape got relegated to the bottom drawer with all the others we never watched again. But is everything we do now simply about sharing a photo or a video of our experience on Facebook or Instagram? To have the memory of an image rather than the memory of the experience?

I’ve heard of cafe owners getting annoyed when people spend so much time arranging their plates to get that ‘look at this amaaaazing food’ shot that they complain to the cafe staff when they finally get to eat it and it’s gone cold. Why not, every now and then, just enjoy the food and be present with the people you are with — or are our lives becoming a series of photo-posts?  

Living in this technical age is busy. We have instant information available to us at any time of day. If you’re on Facebook, you not only have your own life to deal with, but you also see everyone else’s via their posts. Whether these engender envy, laughter, or sympathy depends on the post, but we tend to often be ‘somewhere else’ — on the newest app, reading a messenger notification or emails, planning social activities, or just doing ‘busy’. What are we missing out on by not being in each moment — just sitting, breathing, watching, and enjoying? How do we even achieve that?  

In my previous article I wrote about mindful eating. This is similar: let’s call it mindful living. Another similar thing is active listening — when we truly listen to what our child or spouse is telling us about their day or a story a friend is relating without letting our mind wander to what we’re cooking for dinner or what we’re going to wear to that party on Saturday.  

Active listening is really hearing what the person is telling us rather than formulating our rebuttal or contribution to the conversation as we wonder where they bought that pretty blouse! Like when someone’s eyes wander around the room when you are talking to them, you know they’re not really listening. People know when you are not fully focussed on them and what they are saying. Be in the moment; live mindfully.

Being ‘in the moment’ allows us to be grateful rather than constantly complaining we’re too busy or don’t have enough or wondering ‘why are they taking another holiday when we never go anywhere?’ It allows us to think, evaluate, and identify wants and needs, and then devise an action plan rather than constantly bouncing from one shiny thing to the next while trying to photograph it for our friends to see how busy and successful we are. Being present allows us to enjoy what we are doing and what we have rather than chasing after what we don’t.

So how did the travel blogger get on? She successfully completed her ‘Insta-detox’ — although she admits it took a full day to overcome the itch to pull out her phone to capture that ‘money shot’. She described how free she felt just being and enjoying the beauty and culture around her rather than unconsciously framing every sight while anticipating how many ‘likes’ she’d get.

I kept this article in mind as I spent the next seven days driving around country Victoria and staying with longtime friends. While I did take some photos of an arty coffee and menu arrangement and a fabulous charcuterie board at a vineyard, I couldn’t resist posting a picture of a classic curried pasta salad served with salt and pepper squid at the Reefton pub! Likewise, I just had to capture the atmosphere and stunning visual of diffused sunlight in the soaring Redwood Forest near Warburton, but I didn’t feel the need to look at my phone to see who ‘liked’ them. Of the 30 or so photos I took during the week, most were spur-of-the-moment shots of friends reuniting and having fun or pics I could post knowing their families and friends would appreciate them. I simply relished each and every experience.

I enjoyed the quiet of no traffic noise and the sound of summer insects buzzing in the evening. Seeing huge deer and hearing their odd honking cry in the middle of the night or watching storm-filtered light as it changed the colours on the side of a rusty tin barn. I breathed in that damp leafy soil scent of the ranges and the dry grass, the farm smell of the lowlands. I listened to my friends as they recounted recent adventures or family trials — enjoying good food, wine, and conversation, then taking in the beauty of the countryside and quaint towns as I drove to my next destination. While I didn’t feel the need for a digital detox, I practiced being present — taking in every moment — and I’m sure it seemed like time slowed down that week.

So, I challenge you, next time you see a beautiful sunset — just stop and watch it. Marvel at its changing beauty for that brief time it is there. Take in the sounds and colours around you. Why photograph it? Will you ever look at that photo again?

The next time you are at a restaurant, enjoy the taste of every mouthful, then really listen to what your partner or friends are talking about. The saying ‘stop and smell the roses’ is very apt. It means catch yourself in those fleeting moments and acknowledge a particular vision or experience without feeling the need to photograph it or report it on social media. Actively commit it to memory. I guarantee you will feel happier, less stressed, and more grateful.

Have your own #inthemoment ‘like’ be the most important and see what magic happens!




Carla Hanlon is a qualified naturopath in general practice on the Gold Coast, with a focus on viral conditions, breast implant illness, and life optimisation. Carla is also co-founder of a conference management company specialising in running educational events in the natural health space. Find her at or @CarlaNaturopath or contact her on 0422 966 807.