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So we are nearing the end of 2016, and about to welcome a brand new year ahead. Have you set your New Year Resolutions yet?
As an advocate of mindfulness as a way of life, I invite you to incorporate mindfulness as a part of your New Year Resolutions. You might want to commit to doing one thing mindfully per day, or establish a more routine mindfulness practice. You might even want to get yourself formally trained in mindfulness, if you have been toying with the idea for some time. Perhaps you already have a New Year Resolution in mind, and you could be more mindful about achieving or sticking with it.
Here are some simple suggestions on how you can have a more mindful year ahead:
Doing one thing mindfully everyday: this could be any activity within your daily routine, such as brushing your teeth, locking your apartment door (we know how absent-minded we can be about this!), drinking your first glass of water or first cup of coffee in the morning, waiting for the bus, a household chore like washing the dishes - the possibilities are endless!
When mindfully doing that one thing you've chosen, you are essentially paying attention to what you're doing as you're doing it; multi-tasking is a big no-no in mindfulness practice, so don't for example drink your coffee and read the news at the same time. As you pay attention, notice the details using your five senses - see the colors and shapes with your eyes, hear the sounds with your ears, smell the scents with your nose, taste with your tongue, and feel textures and sensations with your hands and skin. When we open up our senses to what we're doing, we stay focused and the mind settles more easily into the present moment by moment.
Establishing a more routine practice: Those of us who have had training or experience in mindfulness would probably know that one of the most challenging aspects of mindfulness is keeping up with our practice. Whether it's because of our busy lives or a lack of commitment or some other circumstances, we have probably tried really hard to practice regularly, but there is just no denying that the real research-proven benefits of mindfulness come from a sustained, routine daily practice.
When it comes to establishing a routine mindfulness practice, I encourage you to 'start small' and slowly build up your practice. This could mean a simple awareness of breath for just 5 minutes every morning when you wake up or every night before you sleep. When you have gotten used to this 5-minute routine, extend it to 10 minutes a day, then 15 minutes, 20 minutes...
If you're commiting to longer mindfulness practices (such as 30 or 40 minute durations), you might want to break it up into several parts practiced over different times of the day. For example, split a 30 minute practice into 10 minutes when you wake up, 10 minutes during lunch time at work, and 10 minutes in the evening or before bedtime.
If you have been exposed to or trained in a variety of mindfulness practices (awareness of breath, body scan, movements, choiceless awareness etc.), you might want to start with a practice that you feel most comfortable with and can ease into more effortlessly. If you've established a routine of one particular practice, you might want to switch to another one that is more challenging to you.
Look for an App that helps you stick to your routine mindfulness practice - I highly recommend Insight Timer, a meditation App that not only allows you to track your practice hours (and achieve miletones!), you also get to connect with fellow mindfulness practitioners from around the world. Best of all, it's free!
Getting formally trained in mindfulness: Many people have probably thought about attending a mindfulness class, but have yet to act on it. If you've been thinking about getting mindfulness training, pick a class or program that allows you enough time to learn the skills and that scaffolds you through the learning process in a more structured way. We recommend the classic 8-Week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program, which is research-proven and usually taught by an approved facilitator in a group setting. There are important benefits to learning mindfulness in a group setting and over an extended period of time.
Being mindful about your New Year Resolutions: Maybe you already have a New Year resolution in mind for 2017 - such as learning a new language or mastering the guitar, and you're wondering if you might actually stick with it or achieve it successfully this time. The practice of mindfulness teaches us to focus our attention and minimize judgments or criticisms towards ourselves. With mindfulness, you can actually cultivate more patience in the process of learning the guitar, and offer yourself the compassion you need when things don't turn out as you had expected.
Can you think about how else you might be able to have a more mindful 2017? Share it with Mindful Moments!
In The Mindful People Series, we interview people from different walks of life and get them to share their mindfulness experience, as well as how learning and practicing mindfulness have made a difference to their personal and professional lives.
MiMo: How did you get into learning and practicing mindfulness?
May: I got to know a bit about mindfulness when I was taking a positive psychology course from The School of Positive Psychology in 2015. I started reading books like ‘The How of Happiness’ by Sonja Lyubomirsky and ‘Positivity’ by Barbara Fredrickson which links mindfulness with happiness and positivity. It sparked my interest in wanting to know more and how I could practice it. I found a book online and it caught my attention so I ordered it. It is called ‘Sitting Still Like a Frog – Mindfulness Exercises for Kids’. I wanted to try it out myself by starting with something simple. I then started searching for a more formal course which could guide me better so that one day, I can instil mindfulness into the younger generations.
MiMo: Tell us about your experience in the MBSR program.
May: The whole experience has been very enriching. The home practices motivated me to keep to a regular schedule of practicing mindfulness. I also learnt about how I can incorporate mindfulness into my daily life. I realized that when we practice mindfulness, it is not about relaxing or emptying the mind but is a way of noticing our thoughts and emotions without engaging or judging them. I enjoyed the small group discussions and the one-day retreat. The one phrase that I will always remember from Erin’s class is ‘The Time is Now’.
MiMo: How has mindfulness contributed to your personal well-being?
May: I used to be preoccupied with a lot of thoughts and worries. Now I am more aware of my thoughts and know how to let go of them. My mind is free to enjoy more present moments.
MiMo: How has mindfulness supported you in your professional work?
May: As my work deals with young children and special needs children, mindfulness has helped me to stay focused and better manage my emotions and stress especially in difficult situations. I will take a mindful pause. Breathing and trying to stay non-judgmental are useful skills to have.
Mindfulness gels very well with the Son-Rise program that I volunteered in, that is, being non-judgmental and being fully present in the playroom with the special needs child. When I am playing with an autistic child in his/her playroom, my mind can be easily occupied with past and future wandering thoughts especially when it comes to joining in with their repetitive behaviours for a long period. Now, I am in a better state of not engaging in any of these thoughts and to bring my attention back to the child (to be fully present in the playroom) for 2 to 4 hours.
MiMo: How have you incorporated mindfulness into your daily life?
May: I try to make it a regular practice with the body scan before I sleep at night, alternating with mindful movements and sitting practice. I also incorporate mindfulness in my daily auto-pilot routines such as eating my meals, walking and taking the bus rides.
MiMo: Any words of advice for people who are thinking about learning mindfulness?
May: Though it requires some commitment to practice mindfulness, do not be afraid to attempt and take the steps to make this change in your life. Be consistent in the practice and it will eventually be a part of your life. It will help build better relationships in your family, workplace and community. I especially recommend it for educators and parents as you play a big role in nurturing the young generations. We need to be mindful of our words and actions and not be "mind-FULL" of thoughts and judgements.
About Chin Tan May
May obtained her Bachelor in Early Childhood Studies from Monash University in 2006 and switched her career from the IT industry to the Education industry. She has worked with voluntary welfare organisations, special needs kindergarten, enrichment centres and childcare centres. She now works part-time as a learning support teacher in a childcare centre where she helps mild special needs children integrate into their preschool life. She also provides private learning support service to children with learning difficulties in particular dyslexic children. She is an active Son-Rise volunteer, contributing her time to 2 families who are using the Son-Rise home-based program to help their autistic children. In her quest for more knowledge to help young children and their families, she is currently working towards being a certified Goulding SleepTalk consultant.
Are you a mindfulness practitioner or do you know one who would like to share their mindfulness experience on the MiMo blog? Do drop us a message!
About The Author
MiMo founder Erin Lee is a Mindfulness Coach and MBSR Teacher at Mindful Moments, and advocate of mindfulness as the way of life. She conducts the classic 8-Week MBSR Program, as well as the 8-Week MBSR Workplace Program.
Are you a mindfulness practitioner and have meaningful experiences or thoughts about mindfulness that you'd like to share? You can contribute an article on the MiMo blog! Please contact Erin to find out more.