Mindfulness is the practice of purposely paying attention to the present moment in an open, nonjudgmental way. If you think about it for a second, it's pretty clear that this moment is where life is really happening. Yeah, this moment. So when you practice mindfulness and tune into the present, you experience a greater sense of aliveness. And as you begin to let go (at least sometimes) of obsessively worrying about the future or questioning the past, you feel more at ease. You're just not carrying as much around with you. When you're more present for your life, you're also more likely to appreciate what's going well. The struggles of life come into better focus too, making it easier to feel compassion and to respond by doing what you can to help yourself and others.
If your resolution for the new year is anything like being more present, kind, or relaxed, here are some user-friendly ways to start.
- Start each day by smiling and bringing to mind three things for which you're grateful.
- Choose a short route to walk with awareness of your steps, remembering how awesome it is to be alive. Pick a place you'd be walking anyway like the hallway from your bedroom to the kitchen, or the street where you walk to lunch.
- Do something kind. Smile to the person behind the counter when you're buying a coffee, pick up a piece of trash, text a hug to your sister, listen deeply to your stressed out co-worker without trying to fix their problem.
- From time to time, stop and ask yourself what's lovely right now. What's going right in your life?
- Practice eating mindfully for five or ten minutes. Remember all the conditions and all the hands that helped bring the food to your plate. Notice the textures and flavors of the food. Chew more than usual. Notice how the mind, feelings, and body react to food.
- Just before you make a phone call or send an email, especially to someone you find difficult, take a moment to breathe, check in with how your body feels, and wish well-being for yourself and the other person. Where will you both be in 100 years?
- When you're working at the computer, pause every once in a while to stand up and stretch, following your breath and caring for your body for a few minutes. If you can, throw a three-minute mindful dance party as a break for your office.
- When you're irritated or anxious, stop, breathe, and stay aware of the sensations in your body for a few minutes. Take a break from thinking about the situation and just be there for yourself. Invite your body to relax. Gently tell yourself, “I'm here. It'll be ok.” Hold your own hand. Breathe into the gap between stimulus and response so you have a chance to act with some awareness and compassion.
- Journal: What's alive in your body right now? What are you feeling? What kind of thoughts do you notice? What do you need? How can you truly be kind to yourself in this moment?
- End each day by bringing to mind three things you're happy about having done that day. As you fall asleep, pay attention to your natural breathing and the sensations in your body.
BONUS: Sit for five or ten minutes following your breath, staying present, checking in with your body, and inviting your body to be at ease.
Keep in touch about how it's going. We're an email away at firstname.lastname@example.org!