Whether or not you believe in making New Year’s resolutions, I think a lot of us can agree that resolutions are about making positive changes in our lives. People resolve to be healthier, kinder, have more patience and, if you’re me, to stop carrying around a Sharpie and contributing to graffiti on the bathroom walls of dive bars all over the Lower East Side of New York City. In all cases, it’s about bettering yourself, and what’s better than being a more mindful person?
In the last couple years, the idea of being mindful has become more mainstream. It’s no longer something that hippies in Colorado, like my sister, practice, but an awareness that others have adopted, too. The definition of mindfulness, according to Merriam-Webster, extends past awareness and into something much deeper: “[It's] the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.”
"A mindful approach to life generally means doing one thing at a time and doing only that," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW tells Bustle. If you're the type of person who makes New Year’s resolutions, consider making a few that will make you a more mindful person. No one says you have to be mindful all the time, but in the simple act of being aware and in touch with one’s emotions, especially in such a chaotic world, will definitely make life a bit easier to bear in 2017.
Psst! Check out the "You IRL" stream in the Bustle App for daily tips on how to have an empowering 2017 starting Jan. 1. Right now, tweet @bustle about how you plan to make 2017 the best year yet. Use the hashtag #2017IRL, and your tweet could be featured on our app.
In our busy lives, sometimes we forget to stop and be
grateful for what we have. Not just the big things, like friends and
family, but the little things, too, like the way the barista at the corner coffee shop
always has our order ready when we walk in the door. There’s so much to be
grateful for in life and it’s important to show that appreciation every chance we get.
"Count the many things you are grateful for, even when things are not going your way,” Patricia Karpas, host of Untangle, a meditation podcast, tells Bustle. “You’ll find that this practice helps you to be more mindful of all the positive things that are in your life, even when you’re at your all time low."
By it’s very definition, being mindful means being
completely aware. It’s about being aware of your emotions, thoughts, and experience.
When you resolve to be more aware in 2017, you resolve to have a deeper
understanding of yourself, why you respond the way you do in certain
situations and, in doing so, you have a greater connection to those around you.
In being completely aware, you’ll find that you’re present, too. Your awareness gives you a heightened
perspective of where you are on a “moment-to-moment basis,” as the definition
explains. Life is about living in the present. The past was yesterday and the future is tomorrow; don't waste your time on worrying about that.
Although we may be used to our offices, homes, cars, and all the other man-made parts of our life, we need time to get outside and soak in every aspect of nature. It is, after all, where we came from. "Doesn’t matter where you are, in city or suburb," mindfulness coach Kathy Walsh, tells Bustle. "Take a moment to connect with nature. Appreciate the change in seasons."
Also, when you get out there, don’t take the damn phone. Or, at the very least, turn it off.
As someone who has tried, again and again, to meditate, I know it can be really hard. But, once you get the hang of it, your body and mind will be better for it. "Meditation practice helps us to simply sit and be with what ever arises in our busy minds," says Karpas.
One way to start? Focusing on your breath. If you’ve ever taken a yoga class, then you already know that one of the most important parts about yoga is focusing on your breath. It’s about really breathing in deeply and breathing out deeply. When you do, you’re drawing your attention to the very thing that keeps you alive, therefore making you mindful of it and grateful for each inhale and exhale.
"Spend a few minutes everyday doing ‘Square Breathing,'" says Karpas. "This is a simple breath practice that you can do anytime, anywhere. Inhale for four counts. Hold for four counts. Exhale for four counts. Hold for four counts. This helps to regulate the nervous system, which is always good for stress and impulsive reactions."
One of the many habits of mindful people, is being creative
as much as possible. Studies have found that when we allow ourselves to
get lost in our creativity, our stress and anxiety is reduced. When this
happens, we’re able to be more aware of ourselves and our surroundings, making
us more mindful and more creative — starting a positive cycle. Basically, you can’t lose with
Roshawnna Novellus, also known as The Wealthy Yogi, tells Bustle, “Mindfulness includes listening to your body and taking breaks when necessary." What
this means is sleeping when you’re tired, eating when you’re hungry, taking a
break from work when you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, and pretty much
keeping your mind and body in check. Don’t push yourself when you have nothing
else to give; it will get you nowhere.
Mindful people enjoy things in a way that others, the people
who go about their lives quickly and without pause, do not. Mindful
people enjoy their meals, creating clean workspaces, uplifting colors, and
overall appreciation for things that those aforementioned people tend to
overlook. If you resolve to enjoy the simple pleasures in life more, you’ll
probably be surprised by how often you come across those pleasures once you’re
open to them.
Although this one is hard to do, it’s something that will
keep your stress and anxiety levels at an even keel. "When you are feeling a strong emotion, just notice it," says Karpas. "Most of us ‘become’
the emotion and get attached to it and even ruminate in it. If you can notice
the feeling and be curious about it instead of becoming it, you’ll see the
situation differently." In other words, step out of the scenario and see it for the two separate entities it entails.
Although resolutions to make you a more mindful person are likely to be a bit trickier to master than, say, resolving to actually make it to work on time at least twice a week for a change, in the end, they'll be better for you. The physical and mental aspects of being more mindful, as well as the impact it will have on your relationships with everyone in your life is something worth exploring. And, if by February, you realize that mindful resolutions weren’t a good fit for you, then you can switch to something else, like to stop carrying around Sharpies… I know I can’t be the only one.
Check out the "You IRL" stream in the Bustle App starting on January 1 for tips on how to have your most empowering year yet in 2017.
Images: Hannah Buton/Bustle; Alyssa Foote/Bustle