If you look around, many of us try to distract ourselves constantly. We stare at our phones and laptops, put our headphones on, watch TV (or have it on in the background), bury ourselves in work, escape into a good (or awful) book, eat comfort foods (carbs and sugars), drink or do drugs, etc. One of the downsides to this contstant distraction is it is a coping mechanism that keeps us from growing.
Much of the wisdom we gain in life comes from being with our thoughts. This is not always easy. We all go through painful emotional experiences in life that can make us want to shut our thoughts out as much as possible. This can be healthy, but only temporarily. Eventually, to heal and grow, we must be with our thoughts.
Meditation is one of the most helpful ways to be with our thoughts. Meditation deserves its own page, but if you're new to meditation check out apps such as Headspace and Aware. They each have a free introductory series to meditation. The founder of Headspace, Andy Puddicombe, also has a good TED Talk presentation called All It Takes Is 10 Mindful Minutes.
Notice that I avoided saying to be alone with our thoughts. While being alone with our thoughts is important, we are social creatures and it is also essential to our health to talk with others personally and deeply. The decline of this is one of the main reasons why we are seeing so many mentally unhealthy people of varying degrees in our modern society. We have distracted ourselves away, with things such as TV and the Internet, from socializing with one another in person. We have distracted ourselves away to the point that we are now piss-poor at socializing with one another in a healthy manner.
If you listen to most girls these days, they no longer really talk with one another. Instead, they just stare at their phones, only occasionally making brief, shallow comments. I remember when I was going through one of the tougher times in my life following a break-up, I reached out to one of my at-the-time close friends to talk thorough what I was going through. He shied away from talking about these deep and personal things, one time saying that he didn't feel qualified. It made the whole experience much worse than it needed to be. I've also known people who have committed suicide. I often wonder if their lives could have been saved if we had just done our job as friends.
You don't have to be a trained psychologist to be a friend. People need friends to talk personally and deeply with on a regular basis. In fact, it's our duty as someone's friend to not only be there for them, but to be aware of how they are doing and proactively talk with them personally and deeply. Following a suicide, we always plead for people to reach out if they're feeling suicidal or depressed. We subconsciously do this to ease our guilt about not being there for them. It is not the responsiblity of the person suffering to reach out. It is our responsibility as a friend to regularly reach out and remain proactively aware of how our friends are doing through personal and deep conversations.
Next time you are in public, rather than stare at a screen, put on your headphones, or otherwise distract yourself, strike up a conversation with a stranger. Start with just making one small comment or asking one simple question.
Check out one of the meditation apps or the video I mentioned. Practice meditating, even if just for one minute.
Call up a friend. (Texting does not count.) Even better, meet up with them in person for a drink or bite to eat. See how they are doing. Strike up a personal, meaningful conversation with them.