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!