If you made a new year’s resolution, this should be the week where you’re kicking it into high gear and feeling the joy of a week of accomplishing your goals. If this is you congratulations!
However, if you set a resolution and are still waiting to get underway because “the kids aren’t back in school,” “it’s been raining all week,” or “the planets aren’t aligned properly,” this may be a sign that you set the wrong resolution!
So, for those needing some inspiration for the New Year, I offer you a challenge: take this very rainy weekend and delve into radical mindfulness.
Mindfulness is defined by Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary as “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis; also : such a state of awareness.”
There are piles and piles of research showing that mindfulness can change your health, quality of life and improve relationships. Stress, anxiety, high blood pressure, depression, and weight loss are just a few of the conditions that are well-managed, and sometimes eliminated, by mindfulness. For those of you who have no physical complaints, kudos! You can still benefit from taking the time to incorporate mindfulness into your life.
Think about the last time you stood in line at the grocery store, perhaps annoyed at the pace of the cashier, or sat in traffic as the frustration rose, or tried to have two conversations at once while cooking dinner for the family. These situations are excellent examples of when mindfulness comes into play to change your experience from maddening to meaningful.
The point of mindfulness and why it seems to address so many areas of our well-being is that it connects us to the here and now. Fear and anxiety are typically based on things that have happened or will happen. Mindfulness plants your feet firmly in the present and trains the mind and body to respond only to what is present now. The trick is to not let your mind go spinning off into the “what –ifs,” which takes practice but is very doable.
An example of mindfulness would be this: right now, stop reading and, attaching no judgment or explanation, sit for a moment with your eyes closed. What do you hear? What do you smell? What does the chair you are sitting in feel like?
Open your eyes. What do you see? What colors? Look out the window for a full minute, what do you see that you have not seen before?
The key when practicing mindfulness is to be able to “see” what is before you without thinking about the action items attached to what comes into your vision. For example, when you look out the window, did you see all the yard work that needs to be done?
That “needs to be done” is future-based and takes you completely out of the moment. Can you enjoy the beauty of the view out your window for a moment or two without the, “I should…”, “I wish…”?
It may take time to learn to stay in the present, but the way it changes your thoughts and feelings about the world around you is amazing. Practice mindfulness throughout the day every day and chances are, your blood pressure will drop, your anxiety will lessen and you’ll find yourself smiling more.
Here are some ways to add mindfulness to your day:
- When someone is speaking to you, give them your full attention (turn off or mute the TV, put the cell phone in a drawer, etc.)
- When you are doing something, only do that one thing. Give it your full attention regardless of how rushed you are (don’t have a social media conversation while you’re making food. Instead, try to appreciate every moment of the meal you are making.)
- Have periods of time when you are unavailable to text, social media or phone calls.
- Stand in the rain and feel the water on your skin (you won’t melt, I promise).
- When you feel an emotion, take a moment to identify it. For example, what are you feeling right now? Happy, bored, tired? Whatever it is, identify it, celebrate it or decide to change it. How can you possibly know how you’re feeling if you distract yourself with your phone, or work, or multiple, simultaneous conversations?
- A friend of mine has said, “if eventually you’ll find the situation that you’re in funny, why wait? Find it funny now.” Don’t take you’re self so seriously; laughing changes your body’s chemistry for the better.
I challenge everyone, even those who have pinned down their New Year’s resolutions, to make mindfulness a part of today. Ff you are up for surprising your doctor at your next physical with how much your blood pressure has improved, take on the 2017 mindfulness challenge! Your body will thank you.
I know there are many folks out there who practice mindfulness everyday, please comment or share the ways that you have trained your mind to stay in the present moment.
Virginia Eaton is a Health and Fitness Coach specializing in helping people reorganize their health priorities.