A brand new year is upon us, and whether or not you’ve actually written down a list of resolutions, you’re probably hoping that this year will be better than the one behind you.
We all want to feel like we’re moving forward in a good direction, growing instead of remaining stagnant, experiencing new things, and learning new skills that will make our lives more simple and more meaningful. Doesn’t sound too hard, right? The only problem is that we humans are pretty good at getting into ruts, and not so good at overcoming the inertia created by them.
No matter your background, your physical health, or your spiritual beliefs, mindfulness can change your life for the better. And one of the best parts about it is that it will support and encourage all the other healthy changes you’re trying to make. Pair anything with mindfulness, from a new nutrition plan to a new work project, and you’ll see better results.
But what exactly is mindfulness, anyway? You’ve no doubt heard it mentioned a lot over the last few years, as it has enjoyed quite the social renaissance as of late.
The dictionary defines mindfulness as:
“The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.”
“A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
Either way you look at it, to be mindful requires you to be HERE. To be grounded in your body. To be aware of your position in space. To observe the happenings around you. To be fully engaged with your senses, your words, your thoughts, and the people or things around you.
Mindfulness, as a practice, has been shown to have many great benefits:
- Lowered stress hormones
- Greater resilience to stress or conflict
- Better sleep quality
- More fulfilling relationships
- Improved cognitive functioning
- Deeper understanding of self
- Lower rates of depression and anxiety
Sounds pretty nifty, right? Now, I’m sure some of you reading this already have a solid meditation routine, spiritual practice, or other habit that helps you be more present in the moment.
Some of you may have tried these things and couldn’t make them stick. I’m sure some of you are new at this whole thing! No matter what your experience is, you’ll be able to implement and benefit from at least a couple of the things on this list.
How to Make This Year More Mindful
Want some small, actionable steps that you can use to be more present, aware, and grateful this year? Here are 7 to get you started.
1. Make some kind of daily practice.
And no, it doesn’t have to be meditating, or praying, or saying affirmations. Think of your ritual as a little thing that acts as a touchstone for each day (psychologists call this your “anchor habit”). This is something that you practice at roughly the same time every day, and ideally doesn’t take a huge investment of time, money, or energy. You can do something like mindfully make your bed, do 3 sun salutations, doodle a little something in your sketchbook, complete a round of breathing exercises, or whatever else strikes your fancy.
2. Put your phone away while socializing.
I admit, I struggle with this one. I think most of us do. But there’s something that happens during that split second when you’re out to coffee with a friend and you instinctively look at, or pick up, your phone when it buzzes. It creates a separation, and you can’t get that moment back. Whoever you are with deserves your full presence, and you cannot be mindfully engaged with someone when your phone is sitting on the table.
3. Try monotasking.
As more and more studies are coming out about the actual impossibilities of multitasking, there is a movement to reclaim the idea of “monotasking,” or focusing on one thing at a time. Your brain can actually concentrate better, you’ll end up being more productive, and likely, less stressed when you single-task. Try closing out those dozen browser tabs, put your tablet away during breakfast, or turn off the radio/put the phone down while washing dishes.
4. Join a mindful community.
It’s so much more fun to live a mindful life surrounded with people who strive to do the same thing. Look around your neighborhood, community, and city for meetup groups, spiritual organizations, meditation centers, and other places where you can go to meet like-minded peeps. One of the greatest benefits, in my opinion, of mindfulness is the ability to connect more authentically with others, so make the most of it!
If you are looking for a fun community around minimalism, simple living, and finding happiness, I invite you to join the No Sidebar group on Facebook.
5. Really experience your food.
So many of us eat meals and snacks in a state of extreme distraction, and that prevents us from actually tasting it, or registering when we’re satisfied. Mindless eating has been linked with weight gain, favoring lower quality foods, and general poor health. Give mindful dining a try this year—put away the distractions, utilize all five of your senses to enjoy your food, and pay attention to when your body says, “I’m done!”
6. Take regular “mindful moments.”
I admit, I am guilty of hyperfocusing and powering through a huge task without taking a break, and my body/mind always tell me it’s not a good idea! Taking regular breathers can do wonders for your energy levels, concentration/memory, and preventing burnout. Set a reminder on your phone, watch, or computer to put your task aside for a few minutes. Use that time to stretch, do some deep breathing, refill your water glass, or do a body scan.
7. Focus on gratitude.
It sounds cheesy, I know. But it really does work to shift your mindset, and help you be more aware of the events of the day. I’ve found that the easiest way to focus on the joy and abundance around me is to keep a gratitude journal—every night I write down 3 things that I was grateful for that day, or 3 good things that happened. There are many variations of this, so go with what feels right! And hey, your gratitude journal counts for #1 too!
Mindfulness doesn’t need to be something that is esoteric or difficult, and it certainly doesn’t require sitting on a meditation cushion for an hour every day! There are lots of little changes that you can make to create a year of intention, presence, and meaning.