Every year I make New Year’s resolutions. Each year they are refined, changed and adjusted. Each year they grow and evolve with me. And each year some succeed while others fail. This year I made New Year’s resolutions again. And then I made one more. And this is the resolution that precedes all the others. This is the one that can make the other resolutions succeed. And if some still fail, this is the one that helps me accept the failures, notice my emotions, and remain grounded in the present moment nonetheless. This resolution is to live mindfully. And it is a resolution for all of us. So today I am giving you some tips for how to make 2018 a more mindful year.
This is not a blog post about meditation tips or techniques, although meditation is definitely a great way to start your day mindfully. Rather, this blog post is about bringing mindfulness into your daily life when you are off the meditation cushion. Neither is this a blog post about doing each and every daily activity in a mindful way. That list would be endless. Rather, this blog post is about five specific actions that can help you live a more mindful year, one day at a time.
Noticing is not simply about paying attention, but rather about intentional attention. Try to notice things on purpose and with purpose. When you shower, notice the water run down your back. When you do the dishes, notice the soapy water in your hands. When you eat, notice the texture of the food on your tongue. When you brush your teeth, notice the smell and feel of the toothpaste. When you are standing in line, notice the sense of impatience and frustration bubbling up inside you. When you feel stressed, notice the physical sensations that accompany this feeling. Bringing your attention and awareness to each activity that you do, is the first step in bringing mindfulness into your everyday life.
As novice mindfulness practitioners, however, it may not always be easy to maintain our awareness in every activity that we do. In this case, it helps to pause for a few seconds or minutes throughout the day to bring our attention back to the present moment. You can do this when you notice that your mind has wandered from your current task, or when you are starting to feel overwhelmed. This pause is like an informal meditation, which allows you to simply be for a while, rather than do. Once your mind has come back to the present moment, you can return to your task with more mindfulness and awareness than before.
When you are doing something, try focusing on only one thing at a time. If this is not feasible in your profession or activity, try to remove all external and unnecessary distractions instead. Silence your phone. Turn off email notifications. Switch of the television. Create a quiet mental and physical space. Focusing on just one thing at a time makes it easier to remain mindful and grounded throughout the day.
This concept is slightly more abstract than the ones above. How do we relax? What is relaxation? When can we relax? In our hectic everyday lives, the concept of relaxation is absolutely vital. And relaxing in a mindful way means relaxing your body and mind, while still remaining aware and alert. This is opposed to the relaxation you get from for example switching off in front of the television or falling asleep. To relax your mind and body in a mindful way, try practicing yoga, doing some gentle exercise, talking a walk in nature, tensing and relaxing your muscles, taking a few deep breaths, doing some gentle stretching, or, indeed, doing a short formal or informal meditation.
Finally, take a moment to enjoy your life. Do it as often as you can throughout the day. And then do it some more. Smile because you feel happy, or smile just for the sake of smiling. Smile especially when things are not going great, or when you feel tired, stressed or anxious. Smiling will trick your brain into feeling happier and you may be able to remain mindful of your emotions in response to what is happening, and even accept your situation for what it is. And remember, smiling is contagious! 🙂
So here’s to a mindful 2018, filled with love, happiness and kindness! Thank you for reading and feel free to share your own experiences in the comments below. ❤