The new year is fast approaching, and with it comes the promise of a “new year, new me.” Personal intentions such as working out consistently, eating healthier, or saving money come to mind, but there’s one resolution we could all make that will help us achieve all of those goals and more: be more mindful.
Mindfulness is the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and sensations. When you’re present in the moment, you can give all of your energy to whatever deserves your attention. Practicing mindfulness sounds a bit intimidating and is rather vague, but is very fulfilling and relatively easy. You don’t need anything except an honest effort to try these simple habits to help you focus your energy so that you feel happier and healthier in the year to come.
Reduce your Social Media Usage
Research published by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine shows that people who constantly check their email, text messages, and social media accounts report being more stressed and isolated than those who don’t, according to a survey published by the American Psychological Association. Try reducing your usage down to ten minutes per platform per day, which can help lessen feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety, and it helps keep you present in the real world.
Put your Phone Away
I am super guilty of this one, and my goal is to be better about it in the new year. When you’re tapping and messaging in front of someone else, you’re telling them that they, and the moment you are sharing, aren’t important to you. A study from the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that even having the phone in sight during face-to-face interaction can negatively influence closeness, trust, and empathy. Give them the undivided attention they deserve, whether you’re out to dinner or grabbing coffee, and keep your phone stashed away (and on silent) so you can both stay in the moment.
Make Meditation a Habit
It took me a very long time to give meditation a try, and I’m honestly not sure why I waited so long. The idea of it seemed silly to me at first. In a bustling, rushing world, who has the time to sit quietly for a while and do nothing? Turns out, a lot of people do. In my quest to become more self-aware and mindful, I came across the Simple Habit app and never looked back. The app is free, though there is the option to upgrade to the monthly premium version. In this day and age, everyone is aware of the benefits of mindful meditation; it can help ease stresses such as anxiety or pain, guides you through breathing exercises, and a host of other benefits. Many of the meditations only take 3 to 5 minutes, but there are longer versions available as well as meditation series. I encourage you to be open-minded and give meditation and honest try. If it doesn’t work for you, that’s ok! Mindfulness is not a one-size-fits-all mindset.
Start a Gratitude Journal
Practicing gratitude has a huge impact on your wellbeing, and people who journal about what they’re grateful for report being happier than those who vent about negative or neutral events. Make it a habit to write down three things you’re grateful for at the beginning or end of every day. In a society of overconsumption, a gratitude journal can help you feel truly thankful for all that you do have, instead of wishing for what you don’t.
Enjoy the Moment
In her memoir Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert writes about a dear friend who, whenever she sees a beautiful place, exclaims in a near panic “It’s so beautiful here! I want to come back here someday!” “It takes all of my persuasive powers,” writes Gilbert, “to try to convincer her that she is already here.” Oftentimes, we are so trapped in thoughts of the future or past that we forget to experience or enjoy what’s happening right now. Savor the present moment- whether you’re enjoying a pastry, taking a shower, or laying in the sun, be fully aware and relish it. When you take the few minutes out of your day to savor something you usually rush through, you’ll began to experience more joy and happiness than those who don’t. Why does living in the moment make people happier longterm? Because most negative or troubled thoughts concern the past or future. Savoring forces you into the present moment, so you cannot stress about things that aren’t there.
There are many different ways to practice mindfulness. Take the time to discover what works best for you, but I highly encourage you to give the above ideas a shot. You’d be surprised at the difference they can make.
“Life is available only in the present moment. If you abandon the present moment you cannot live the moments of your daily life deeply.” – Thich That Hath
Mindfulness Exercise: Coffee
Next time you drink a warm cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, try this guided exercise.
Hold the cup in both of your hands.
Focus your attention on the warmth emanating from the mug.
Now bring your face close to the cup and take a deep breath. Notice any steam or aroma. Notice the sensation of what is happening inside your nose.
Place your lips on the edge of the cup but do not take a sip. Stay there for five seconds. Notice the feel of the cup against your mouth. Feel the warmth, breathe in the scent.
Take a small sip, but do not swallow. Hold the liquid in your mouth for thirty seconds. Focus on the taste. Notice the bitterness, the sweetness, and individual flavors, the creaminess, the temperature. Notice the temperature changing from warm to cool and the sensations that come with it. Notice how the liquid moves about your mouth, and swallow. Feel it move.
Feel free to finish the mug in a more mindful way. When you are finished, think about the experience and how much more you were able to gain from living in the moment. Did it make the drink more enjoyable? What did you notice? Bring your attention to the moment and allow distracted thoughts to disappear. Use this guide if you feel worried or sad, or simply need to feel more present.