How To Practice Mindfulness Into The New Year, Because It All Starts With Reflection

You can see it there, nagging at you in the very tail end of your calendar, reminding you that yep, another year has come and gone. So much happens in the 12 months or the 365 days or the 525,600 minutes that pass with time, and it can be overwhelming to think about how fast it flies. Most people use the New Year as a time to push an imaginary reset button, preparing them for a transformation, an opportunity, the drive to change something in their lives. But what experts are saying might be the better approach? Not having goals or a resolution, but instead, adopting a mindful approach to the New Year. 

“The New Year is a good time to reflect back because it marks both the end of one chapter and the start of a new one. Moments like these offer a chance for ritual and ceremony, something lacking in the chaos of the stressful modern life. Marking the end of the year with reflection helps us be more intentional with our choices, and ensure that life doesn’t just pass us by,” psychology and life coach, Rebecca West tells Bustle.

If you’ve been meaning to check ‘Be more mindful’ off your mental to-do list for, like, ever and haven’t made time to make it a priority, let the New Year be your opportunity. Here, experts share the most mindful ways to enter the next span of your life with a sense of contentment, happiness and that ever-lusted after, zen.

1. Accept That It’s Going To Be Hard

When you take a long hard look at those last six weeks of the year — full of travel, holiday parties and shopping — you might feel dizzy with a stress attack. West says it’s not only OK, but totally normal to feel uneasy during this season. “While the gift-giving and gratitude season is meant to be a time of celebration, it often just piles stress on top of already chaotic lives. This makes it harder to feel mindful as we approach the New Year,” West explains. “The pressure to set New Year’s resolutions and make the most of your life as you start the new year can both cast a spotlight on the things you haven’t achieved this year, and make you feel like the goals are prescribed and shallow since you are just setting them because you ‘should.’ The pressure, combined with the artifice, can also make it harder to feel mindful as we approach the coming year.”

2. Pre-Address and Stamp Cards

One of the easiest ways to adopt a mindful attitude is to stop focusing inward and put your attention outwards. While you might get caught up in what you hope to achieve, think more about what you can to help others live their best lives. One fun idea that West shared with Bustle is pre-addressing and stamping a dozen cards (one for each month!) to friends and family. Then, you can write out something kind, encouraging or loving to those people and pop them in the mail at the first of the month. “Include something specific about what they bring to the world — specificity requires mindfulness, and considered compliments are cherished more than generic ones,” she adds.

3. Ask a Friend To Be Your Partner In Mindfulness

Most everything is easier with help, and the same goes with practicing a living-in-the-now mindset. That’s why asking a friend to come along on your journey with you next year is key. “Together, identify 12 things that are of value to you to remember this year (for example, to breathe, or that you are strong enough to face what the world throws at you), and write them on 12 notecards to yourself. Pre-address them and pre-stamp them, and then trade piles. Promise to mail one to each other each month,” West suggests. “Each month, before you mail one of the notecards, add a little note of encouragement to your friend. By using the mail you embrace a slower pace of living, and you make checking the mail a moment of joy and anticipation in the day, helping you remember that the little moments in life are the ones that make up the meaning in life. By partnering with a friend you create both accountability and a shared story that will continue to be meaningful long after you receive the last postcard.”

4. Put Your Phone On Airplane Mode

"One day, keep a count of how many times you check your phone. The number might astonish you. Being uber-connected every single day, all the days of your live-long life sounds exhausting and it definitely impacts your mood! Yoga Medicine instructor, Amanda Bonfiglio Cunningham says that’s why taking a big ‘ole break from your phone will improve your mindfulness almost instantly. “Pick a realistic time that suits your schedule and start with just once a week. In our house, we choose Sundays. From when we wake up until after we’ve had breakfast, we have a no phone rule,” she tells Bustle. “Some weeks that means 30 minutes, some longer. I find the more I practice this, the less I crave my digital buddy by my side. Life is happening, are you experiencing it?”

5. Make A Point To Get Outside

Regardless of the place you call home or what season it is, there’s no question that fresh air can do wonders to raise your spirit, give you energy and help you see the world through a new lens. Cunningham tells Bustle that spending time outside can have an immediate impact on your overall health and wellbeing — especially when we aren’t busy snapping a dozen photos to post on Instagram. 

“Nature has a way of bring us back to our roots," she says. "This is a great lunch break practice. Get outside and sincerely experience it. Try to listen for birds chirping or car horns. Feel the breeze on your skin and the sun in your eyes. Make a list in your head of all the sounds and sensations that occur. If you decide to take a walk around the block, notice your surroundings. Is there a person you haven’t met or a sound you’ve never heard? Allow the great outdoors to get inside,” 

6. Schedule Relaxing Time Like You Do A Business Meeting

When you and your pal make plans to go for dinner, you plop it in your calendar. Or when you book a dentist appointment. Or a 1:1 with your boss. But what about adding a reminder to ‘read a book and do nothing?’ Whatever your ‘me’ time is that helps you zone out and take it easy, Cunningham says to make it happen by scheduling it.

 “This is one of my favorites and probably the hardest to do. Whether it’s 20 minutes for a power nap or an hour for reading a novel, our bodies and minds need downtime. It is how we refuel,” she says. “Try it once a week. Schedule in time to do nothing and feel good about it. Self-care is vital to living healthy, balanced lives.  This is your chance to explore a hobby you’ve been thinking about or a new coffee spot down the street. Let it be time for you. You deserve it.”

Want to have an awesome 2017? Then check out the "You IRL" stream in the Bustle App for tips on how to have the most empowering year yet.

Images: Hannah Burton/Bustle

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