Make Mindfulness Your New Year's Resolution
The New Year is a perfect time for reflecting on the past and looking ahead to the future. So many of us make resolutions for self-improvement and happiness: exercise more, drink less, sleep more, stress less. Most of these goals fade into the background once the holiday enthusiasm wears off. We slip back into automatic routines and habits we swore to change and rarely notice we’re doing it. What if this year was different? What if this year you resolved to be more mindful?
Science has shown the many benefits of mindfulness – improved well-being, better mental and physical health, less stress and increased happiness. Over the past few years, the ancient practice of mindfulness has enjoyed a renaissance; you can find stories and articles in the news, magazine, and television extolling the virtues of mindfulness. But what exactly is mindfulness?
Jon Kabat-Zinn, who founded the Center for Mindfulness at UMass Medical school, defines mindfulness as “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.” The American Psychological Association defines mindfulness as “a moment to moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment. In this sense, mindfulness is a state and not a trait.”
Sounds simple enough, right? But how would you start developing this mindful state?
§ Start with the basics: Practice simply paying attention to everyday tasks you can typically do without thinking about it – brushing your teeth, washing dishes, driving to work – while your engaged in these common activities of life, simply notice how the toothpaste smells looks as you squeeze some on your toothbrush; notice the temperature of the water and the sound of squeaky clean dishes; the scenario around you on your commute to work.
§ One thing at a time: Focus on one activity at a time. Our tendency is to multi-task through the day. What if instead you focused only on the person talking to you without also looking at your phone? What if you finished the task you were working on before letting yourself open the email that just dinged in your inbox? What if you ate your lunch noticing each bite instead of scrolling through the smartphone or working at your desk?
§ Breathe: Practice noticing your breathing – breath in and notice how the body expands with the in-breathe; breath out and notice the body contract with the out-breath.
§ Be aware physically: Notice you body sitting in your chair; notice your feet on the floor as you walk down the hallway. Put your hand on a counter and notice how the surface feels.
All of these tasks will bring your awareness into the present moment. The more you practice this, the easier you will find it becomes. When you practice being mindfully aware during everyday innocuous times, you’ll soon find your self using these skills during times of stress and upheaval. You’ll start to find yourself coping with stress more successfully, be less worried about the future, and more content with the present.
Here’s to a mindful New Year!