A practical New Year's resolution: being mindful

November 3, 2015

With current technology prompting us to multitask and the steadily busier lives of today's generation, it's easy to wonder before bed: "Where did the day go?" Thankfully, you can break this pattern this new year since being more present is a very attainable goal. Plus, mindfulness training has been shown to have positive emotional and physical effects.

A practical New Year's resolution: being mindful

The benefits of mindfulness

  • Reduce stress. Any time the body feels fear or other negative emotions, it has a physical response to the stress, even if the emotion is related to something that happened years ago. Learning to focus on whatever is happening right now can help reduce emotional reactivity to things from the past (or future) and keep your stress levels down.
  • Increase focus. Smartphones, tablets and even the ability to open multiple browser windows at the same time may seem convenient but it can actually make focusing on any given task more difficult. Practising mindfulness retrains your brain to focus on just one task at a time, which actually increases productivity.
  • Enhance positive coping skills. As you learn to become more mindful and increase your awareness of the present moment, it becomes easier to notice when you're getting angry or upset. Catching these negative emotions quickly before they become overwhelming also makes it easier to take corrective action, like focusing on your breathing and scanning your body for tension.

Incorporating mindfulness into your routine

  • Practice mindfulness daily. Just as exercise and dieting only work well when done consistently over time, you will notice more significant changes more quickly if you make mindfulness practice part of your daily routinee. Your practice need not be long. Ten to 15 minutes a day of quiet meditation, focusing on your breathing and any tense, tight feelings in the body is a good goal.
  • Go against the grain. Throwing your body and mind out of their normal routine will automatically promote mindfulness because you will have to pay more attention to completing tasks. This can be done very simply by brushing your teeth or using utensils with your non-dominant hand. The exercise will feel clumsy at first, and that's okay. Pay attention to the strange physical sensations and emotions like frustration or impatience. Then carry on and take that awareness with you.
  • Notice touch points. Touch points are objects that you come in contact with on a daily basis, ideally multiple times a day. Picking a touch point, like a cell phone or door handle, and making an effort to really notice every time you touch it helps connect you to the present throughout your day and keep your goal of mindfulness front and centre.

Mindfulness and other resolutions

New Year's resolutions are usually big goals that we hope will inspire us to change our lives for the better: lose weight, get out of debt, quit smoking. But it's hard to stick with them.

One way or another, though, all of our usual resolutions are linked to going through our lives on autopilot. So resolving to be more mindful and sticking with it in the simple ways outlined in this article could be the first step in actually achieving your other resolutions.

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