Tips for a Mindful 2019
This post was written by Shanleigh Bechard, MS, NCC, LPC-IT, of the Beloit Area Community Health Center.
The new year is a busy time, and if you’re feeling stressed, you’re not alone. We spend much of our time reviewing our mental to-do lists, ruminating over past events, or worrying and planning about the future. Living in our heads is causing us to miss out on the present!
To live mindfully means to be fully engaged and grounded in the present moment, free from judgement. We can think of mindfulness as “waking up,” shifting from a state of autopilot or distraction to intentional and conscious awareness. But the very thought of practicing mindfulness may leave us feeling stressed and distracted.
Consider adopting a few habits below for a mindful 2019:
Our society values and encourages a fast-paced and busy schedule, full of multitasking, social media, and distractions. But our brains are not capable of giving our full attention to more than one thing at a time. Instead, when we attempt to “multitask,” we are actually dividing our attention. This often results in fragmented thoughts, wasted time, and worse results (not to mention lots of stress!). A mindful approach is to focus on one thing at a time with our complete attention. This allows us to fully experience what we are doing, which can result in better performance and more enjoyment.
Engage our senses
Focusing on our physical experience can quickly shift our attention from inside our heads to the present moment. What do you see, hear, feel, smell, and taste in this current moment? What didn’t you notice before? Awakening our senses pulls us out of our thoughts and challenges us to experience the here and now.
When was the last time you took a deep, cleansing breathe? Our breath is a tool we always have with us, yet it is our tendency to hold or shorten our breath during times of physical or emotional distress. “Tuning in” to the experience of our breath, focusing on what breathing feels like and what it sounds like, offers us a natural and powerful tool to help us breathe through those stressful moments, connecting our minds to our body in the present moment.
Our digital world breeds disconnect from the present moment. Taking a break can be liberating. Without our devices, we are challenged to “wake up” to the present moment. Leaving devices in another room, turning off notifications, or even turning off devices altogether can create mental space for full awareness of this moment.
Let go of the judgement
The high expectations we have for ourselves are nearly impossible to meet considering our frequent negative criticisms of ourselves and others. One trick for letting go of these judgements is to imagine putting them on a cloud or lily pad to float away (or any other visual you prefer). We can then gently bring attention back to the present moment, the here and now. When these judgements float back into our awareness, we have the opportunity to practice letting go of judgements about the judgements!
Be mindful while practicing mindfulness
Adding mindfulness to our to-do list is counterintuitive and misses the point. A shift to mindful living requires a shift in how we think about our to-do lists at all. After all, if we accomplish everything on our to-do lists, but are stressed and miserable while doing it, what’s the point?
Our busy world has trained us to be distracted. While challenging ourselves to practice mindfulness, we must remember that it is just that: a practice! We can all expect our minds to wander. To be mindful is to gently bring ourselves back to the present moment, again and again. After all, we will never have a moment quite like this one, and if we don’t pay attention, we will miss it.