The holiday season has come and gone in what always seems like a whirlwind. Among the parties and family along with hosting and shopping, it’s so easy to forget to take a deep breath and be present in the moment. While resolutions have become the New Year’s norm, many people find them to be daunting and - let’s be honest - kind of cliché. Instead of choosing an unrealistic resolution, consider an aspirational alternative this year. Consider living more mindfully.
The idea of mindful living has recently gained mainstream acceptance, but it’s a practice that has existed for thousands of years. The dictionary defines mindfulness as both “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something” and “a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” Mindfulness is actually more attainable than you might expect. In fact, you’re probably already incorporating small acts of mindfulness into your daily routine without even realizing it.
As you prepare to start the year off right, take care to be more mindful in your actions and thoughtful in your approaches to everyday situations. To get started, here are five simple ways to be more mindful in 2017.
Set a Daily Intention
Many yoga instructors begin the class by asking students to set an intention for their practice. Whether it’s to forget about a stressful meeting or to calm the mind before closing out the day; this intention can be absolutely anything that your heart or mind desires. Like intentions set for yoga practice, daily intentions can be any thought, idea, or goal - and you don’t need to be a yogi to set one for yourself.
The objective here is to actually stop and take a moment to think about a small, meaningful goal for the day. Ideally, you begin the day with this intention and then reflect upon it at the end. You can ask yourself questions like, “Did I accomplish today’s intention?” or “How did today’s intention make me feel?” Setting a daily intention puts you one step closer to living a more mindful life.
Put Your Phone Down
Make 2017 the year of disconnection. As we grow more and more dependent on our smartphones and other connected devices, the less likely we are to fully engage in conversations, activities, and work. Because of this, we’re easily distracted and our attention spans are shorter than ever before. Even worse, we just can’t seem to stop checking our messages and posting to our social feeds.
With this in mind, make a personal pact to put your phone away in a desk drawer or purse so it’s not within immediate reach. Give yourself dedicated phone breaks throughout the day but limit them to 10 minutes each - unless it’s an emergency, of course. At the end of each day, acknowledge how it makes you feel to stash your phone away. Also take notice to how much more productive your day was compared to one where your phone was more accessible. A mindful person will keep track of the differences and impact.
Here are a few other ideas for consideration:
1. Choose not to start and end each day by looking at your email or social feeds. Read a book, write in a journal, or exercise instead.
2. Turn off your phone during concerts or other social events.
3. Refrain from taking vacation selfies in favor of enjoying the view.
4. Wait to have face-to-face conversations rather than sending text messages, especially if it's important.
5. Hand write someone a note instead of writing an email.
Find Some Headspace
Now, more than ever, we’re expected to always be switched on, multitask, and have the next big idea in our back pockets. These expectations are starting to become a little unrealistic. In order to truly innovate and inspire creativity, you need to get into the right headspace.
Finding headspace can be challenging, especially when you’re operating at a mile a minute, but it’s a necessity for focus. Those who are mindful realize when it’s time to work on one thing at a time. Sometimes it requires stepping away from your desk and taking a walk. And other times it means blocking your calendar off so no one can book a meeting during your brainstorming. Headspace is different for different people, but ultimately, it’s a concentrated mindset that leads to more output and better work.
Take a Deep Breath
Your breath is an incredible force. Without it…well, you know what would happen. When was the last time that you stopped to really think about it? Unless you do yoga regularly, the thought may not even cross your mind because it’s such an unconscious act fundamental to our existence - until now.
Today, and every day hereafter, we encourage you to take deep belly breaths on purpose. Listen to your breath. Be aware of how it feels to inhale and exhale. Breathing deeply will not only help to improve blood flow but will also aid in overcoming stressful situations.
We think between 50,000-70,000 thoughts each day. A common misconception - and for good reason - is the belief that it’s just not possible to turn them off. However, when it comes to meditation, you simply acknowledge that the thoughts exist and watch them float by like passing clouds. Meditation is known to have lasting effects on one’s overall mental health and wellbeing. And let’s face it, we could all use a little boost in that department.
The idea of “meditation” oftentimes gives people an uneasy feeling. Even the word evokes an unwanted anxiety. The truth is, nearly everyone is capable of meditating. And it’s easier than ever to incorporate it into your life. Apps like Simply Being and Headspace have changed the way people meditate in the 21st Century by offering step-by-step programs designed for meditation of all levels and lifestyles. Even better? It can be done in as little as 5 minutes, but the results will last a lifetime.