Mindfulness: a New, New Year’s Resolution
The new year is here, and for many people, that means: New Year’s resolutions.
We are familiar with the old resolutions –eating healthier, exercising regularly, reducing screen time, etc. And we know the let down when these resolutions fail to stick with us. How might mindfulness bring us greater success in making positive, sustainable changes in our habits?
Mindfulness is Bigger than the Mind
It’s goes beyond the brain. Mindfulness includes cultivating a friendly, non-judgmental attitude to ourselves and our lives. Heartfulness is crucial in practicing mindfulness. This friendliness allows us to set doable intentions and to not expect perfection as we carry them out. You might still choose to work on exercise, healthy eating, drinking habits, or screentime while bringing mindfulness to the planning and execution of these changes.
In fact, many languages have a single word that encompasses these two elements (heart and mind) that English separates.
Mindfulness is the state of being actively present in the moment. It’s a state where you’re receptive to your body, thoughts, and surroundings without judgment.
It’s been suggested to be an effective non-pharmacological treatment in pain management and other aspects of wellbeing.
A Mindful Start to Your New Intentions
The holiday season is intended to be joyful. Sharing food and drink is integral to this. And yet, the delight is often marred by excessive intake. How might there be mindfulness, joyfulness and heartfulness in your celebrations?
Try introducing a pause, prior to actually putting something on your plate or in your glass. You might ask yourself: What do I want out of this food or drink? Am I hungry? Am I seeking a pleasant taste or feeling? Am I wanting to be a part of the celebration? How will eating or drinking this help me achieve my desire? What happens if I wait five or fifteen minutes before I partake? Noticing if you still want it after waiting. Being kind and non-judgmental if you decide, yes I want it. Having the food or drink is not a failure. It is an experiment. Having decided to consume, bringing curiosity to the appearance, smell, taste, texture, sounds, and effects of the food or drink. And then noticing if having it actually achieves your desires or not.
It may sound like a tall order to remember to pause and then pay attention in the midst of a gathering. Just as an athlete trains before an event, practicing mindful consumption prior to a holiday event will increase your likelihood of success. Here’s a link to a four-minute guided mindful eating practice. It calls for two raisins but it could be done with other small food items.
Reducing screen time is similar to changing eating and drinking habits. They’re all about paying attention to “what we take in” and the effects that what we take in have on our mind/body. See if you can notice the impulse to pick up your phone and pause then. Were you about to check email? Scroll a social media site? Play a game? Send a text or make a call? Can you identify what triggered the urge to use your phone? What were you hoping to get from that activity? Is that activity really called for right now? What happens if you wait? If and when you proceed, do you get what you wanted? How do you feel in your body and your mind?
How can mindfulness help you establish a regular exercise program? The support of other people is essential in mindfulness practice and in sustaining an exercise regimen. Setting up your plan with a buddy or a coach is a mindful approach to this healthy intention. The friendly, heartful attitude means setting a goal that is doable. For instance, if you haven’t been exercising at all, planning a rigorous, daily one-hour workout, may be too harsh. Also, research indicates that starting with five minutes a day can result in measurable improvements. If you plan to do it “daily-ish”, you won’t feel like a failure when you miss a day. Is there an activity that actually sounds like fun to you? Calling your program “joyful movement” rather than “exercise” may bring the friendliness required to establish and sustain a habit change.
Perhaps you’ve heard the research about mindfulness alleviating anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and providing improvement in well-being, focus, and relationships. Maybe achieving one of these sounds like a worthwhile goal for 2023 and beyond. The good news is that this is not too much to hope for. The reality check is that these outcomes require time and effort. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is the gold-standard program used in mindfulness research around the world. It requires about 30 hours of group instruction over eight weeks. All of the components listed above are incorporated: the pause, the friendly attitude, the learning to pay attention, the daily-ish practice, and the support of classmates and a teacher/coach. MBSR is offered all around the world and in your own backyard through the Corewell/Beaumont Center for Mindfulness. Sign up for MBSR classes starting in January 2023.
Kudos to you! Having read this far it’s clear that you have some interest and intention in personal growth. Maybe take a pause right here to ask yourself, “What’s called for now? What is my intention? What’s my next step in bringing it to life?”
Wishing you all the best for a joyful holiday season and a fulfilling, healthy, peaceful 2023.