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Ask Izzy: Nourishing the white space — Cultivating mindfulness in a world of distractions

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Angela Roma / Pexels
Angela Roma / Pexels

Ask Izzy is an advice column about relationships, mental health, and sexuality. Written by Isabel Mata — a Seattle-based lifestyle writer, podcast host, and mental health advocate — Ask Izzy offers tangible expert advice so all readers can have stronger relationships, better sex, and healthier mindsets. Submit your question today by filling out this survey

A few months ago, I found myself caught in a perpetual cycle of distraction, skimming the surface of my existence without truly diving deep into the richness of the present moment. It wasn't until I stumbled upon the insights of neuroscientist Dr. Amishi Jha that I began to realize just how much of life I was missing out on due to scattered attention and constant multitasking.

In her book Peak Mind, Dr. Jha shares that we miss more than 50% of our lives because of distractions. Putting my ADHD aside, this statistic was both shocking and eye-opening, prompting me to reevaluate how I engaged with the world around me. After reading her book, I became keenly aware of the need to cultivate what Dr. Jha calls the "white space" of the mind — that elusive realm where true presence and creativity reside.

The realization dawned on me: in my relentless pursuit of productivity and efficiency, I had neglected the very essence of what it means to live fully: to be present in each moment, to savor the beauty of life's simple pleasures, and to connect deeply with myself and others.

Inspired by Dr. Jha's insights, I embarked on a journey of mindfulness, determined to reclaim my attention from the clutches of distraction. I began incorporating mindfulness practices into my daily routine, carving out moments of stillness amid the chaos of everyday life. Whether through meditation, deep breathing, or mindful walking, I made a conscious effort to anchor myself in the present moment, tuning in to the sensations of my breath, the rhythm of my footsteps, and the gentle whispers of my innermost thoughts.

One of the most profound shifts occurred in how I chose to unwind after a long day. Instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media in a futile attempt to decompress, I turned to activities that nourished my soul and sparked my creativity. Painting, drawing, solving simple math problems — these seemingly simple pursuits became my sanctuary, offering a respite from the incessant noise of the digital world and allowing me to tap into the white space of my mind.

In embracing these childlike forms of expression, I rediscovered the joy of uninhibited creativity: the sheer delight of putting a brush to canvas, of allowing my imagination to run wild, free from judgment or expectation. Each stroke of color, each line drawn with purpose became a testament to the beauty of being fully present in the act of creation.

Through mindfulness, I learned to cultivate a deeper sense of awareness and compassion — toward not only myself but also others. I found myself more attuned to the subtle nuances of human emotion, more empathetic in my interactions, and more resilient in the face of life's inevitable challenges.

As many of us navigate the uncertainties of life, the demands of work, and the excitement of summer's imminent arrival, I am reminded, time and again, of the importance of nurturing the white space of my mind. It is in these moments of stillness and introspection that we can find solace and strength, allowing us to tap into the creativity and resilience that lie within us.

In the white space of the mind, we can discover not only clarity and inspiration but also the profound beauty of simply being alive — of embracing each moment with an open heart and a curious mind. And in that space, we find the true essence of what it means to live fully, authentically, and unapologetically.