How to Use Mindfulness in the New Year to Change Your Life
By now, as I finally get this post done, it is not freshly the new year. BUT, it's still January, and it's never to late to start implementing healthy habits. Especially mindful ones!
What is this 'mindfulness' word we here all the time anyway? Mindfulness is the sense of awareness, essentially, within our mind about ourselves. Sounds pretty elusive, but it's actually quite simple once you put it into practice.
Mindfulness can be, and should be in my opinion, applied to any situation or moment you experience. Everything from brushing your teeth, doing the dishes, driving (hopefully you're already doing that), cooking, exercising, and working amongst literally everything else. Mindfulness basically brings meditation and awareness into working activities, so that your brain is alert, aware and functioning optimally! One main benefit of mindfulness is the mind-body connection you will cultivate. A lot of the time, more often than we think, our minds are very disjointed from our bodies. They're not in sync, and when our bodies are feeling off, we don't necessarily feel that in our heads, so we don't take care of it! When we practice mindfulness consistently, we can create that connection between our minds and bodies so that the two are better in sync.
I've found that by doing crafts, cleaning out your closet or room, or writing, we can take some time out of your busy day to think less about worrying, negative thoughts and to tune into how you feel a bit more. This is mindfulness! I decided to make a vision board to hone in on what I wanted to be mindful of in the new year, and bring those ideas to life with real images and words to remind me.
But when we can't afford to cut time out of our days to be mindful, we be mindful in everyday situations! For me, it really comes down to focusing on how my body feels and the thoughts my mind thinks in each situation.
For example, being mindful while you exercise is beneficial to your mind because you can actually tune into how hard your body is working in a way that is different from experiencing pain. It's about connecting your thoughts to your movement, without associating the way your body feels automatically with pain. When I try to be mindful while working out (whether its spinning, gym workouts or even yoga), I try to focus on how my body is moving, and then feel the sensations that result. I try to focus on my breath and how it is reacting to my movement. Again, the key is to not associate that sensation with pain. I know, hard. But once you do, your mind begins to take over your body in a negative way, and you're more likely to give up on yourself! And when were mindful of how our body is moving and how our mind reacts to it, we feel more mental rewards. We're better able to push through our negative thoughts, which in turn creates a positive memory of success that we found when overcoming negative thoughts. Simply put, the more you focus on the way your body moves, the way it feels and being present in that moment, the more you actually (physically and mentally) get out of that workout, regardless of the intensity. Sometimes I leave a workout just feeling sweaty and tired without actually recognizing the hard work my body did tuning into the movement, because I wasn't being mindful.
Basically what I'm saying here is that each and every one of us can be mindful in any given situation. Its really therapeutic when we can focus our awareness on the present moment we live in while acknowledging the feelings, thoughts and sensations we come by in each activity we do. It's the best way to truly live in the moment...which brings me to my next point: why and how we should be practicing mindfulness in the new year.
Why? Because it's about time we stop dancing around the idea of living in the moment, and actually do it. We all know we should be living in the present, but with the lives most people lead in 2016 (or 2017?) it becomes extremely difficult to maintain. Going back to sensations of movement, a really simple way to be present in any moment is to pay attention to your senses. When you're eating -- pay attention to what you're tasting & smelling. When you're sitting at work -- pay attention to your body sitting in a chair, and what that feels like. And when you're traveling a foreign city, trying to take it all in -- just focus on what you are seeing and take a moment to slow down and just look. You'll probably end up seeing a lot more than you ever thought you would when you simply slow down and pay attention.
In all honesty, it's super hard to be mindful in everything we do. And it's probably for a reason you would not expect. It's because in the era we live in, it's extremely hard, and sometimes frowned upon, to just slow down. In other words, being busy is glorified. When we're not running around doing XYZ, taking double exercise classes every single day, or working working working, we are seen as lazy. We feel we need to be doing everything and anything we can to be recognized by others and to be seen as successful. Yet in reality, our brains are becoming lazy as we lose awareness, and as a result, we lose the connection between our minds and bodies.
So basically all I want you to do is do everything with intention & find intention in everything you do. Focus on how your legs feel when you run, not what your mind says. Be present in moments and experiences by paying attention to smells, tastes, sensations. Do an activity that makes your mind less FULL and more mindful!
It can seem like a confusing, elusive idea, and honestly some times it is. But the idea behind mindnfuless is really just awareness. Awareness of our minds and bodies and the connection (or lack thereof) between them. So if you're stuck, just focus on feeling aware of the motions your body makes or the thoughts your mind thinks. Just focus on your breath! Simple as that.
I hope you can implement more mindful awareness into your new year, I promise it will calm you down and bring your body and mind that much closer to connection, because we all lose that some time or another!