Everyone is talking about their New Year's resolutions — and a lot of us are wondering how to live more mindfully in 2017, how we can make a resolution to do so. And resolutions can be great — committing to making a change, to improvement, to giving back. But they're not for everyone. If New Year's resolutions feel forced or unrealistic to you, that's totally fine. There are plenty of ways to make changes that don't involve resolutions. And you may be more likely to stick to them if they're something you do privately, without all the pressure.
A great place to start is by making goals to become more mindful, because it affects so many different areas of your life. And the best part? There are little changes that you can today — that you can do right now — that can help you be more mindful without completely uprooting your life. "If you want to be more mindful this year, it does't require a large commitment," Fara Tucker, a licensed clinical social worker in Portland, tells Bustle. "You don't have to take a class or meditate every day. All you need to do is be willing to pause."
So if you've never tried mindfulness before, there's no need to feel intimidated. If you can pause and take a breath, you can add some mindfulness into your life. Here are seven things you can do today.
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.
Stopping and taking a second to breathe is the best way to get into mindfulness — or at least what I find to be the easiest. Find the idea a little confusing or not sure where to begin? "Square breathing" is a great jumping off point.
"Spend a few minutes every day doing ‘Square Breathing,'" Patricia Karpas, host of Untangle, a meditation podcast, tells Bustle. "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."
I know, I know — it's basically an extension of your limb. But you need to stop phubbing the world and actually join it. “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,” Yoga Medicine instructor, Amanda Bonfiglio Cunningham, 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?” Even if you only start with 10 minutes, shut it off — not on silent, off.
Saying "thank you" is not only a great way to stay humble, it helps you acknowledge others and stay in the moment. But if saying the words is hard for you, there are plenty of ways to show your gratitude. "Do something for them that they do not like to do without asking," Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist and author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist, tells Bustle. "But do it without making lots of noise about it. For example, take the car in for an oil change, clean the toilets, or weed the garden." It's your own way of saying, "Thank you".
Even if you only have five minutes to spare, take some time to get outside. "[It] 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." I always feel better when I leave the house, no matter what the weather.
Self-care is a great way to practice mindfulness — and one that too often gets overlooked. "Just like you schedule time for happy hour, or to watch Westworld, pencil in time to just be," Naomi Hirabayashi, co-founder and co-CEO of Shine, tells Bustle. "We’re really good at jamming our schedule full, but getting intentional about free-flowing time is something we all deserve." Make it an appointment you have to keep.
Actively listening is an amazing way to stay mindful — it immediately brings you into the moment. But more than that, it helps you connect to the person you're talking to. "It shows not only that you were listening initially but that it is sustained," Dr. Ramani tells Bustle. Few of us are heard any more in such a distracted world. To hear someone listening to us is a fantastic way to show gratitude." Don't underestimate the power of asking a question and then really paying attention to the answer.
It's easy to be closed off — whether it's to new experiences or to difficult emotions we don't want to experience. "Oftentimes our stress or other forms of suffering comes not from the experience itself, but rather our resistance to what we are experiencing," Tucker says. "We resist being anxious, or sad, or cold, or being stuck in traffic, or feeling pain in our bodies. It's understandable to want to reject or resist these perceived negative experiences. However, the resistance makes us focus on the thing more and causes more tension." Committing to being open and accepting what comes your way is not only a great way to practice mindfulness, it also keeps you growing as a person.
Mindfulness can seem like a foreign concept, but it doesn't have to be. And there's no need to commit a lot of time to it — just a few small changes can have a huge affect on your well-being.
Happy 2017! Check out the "You IRL" stream in the Bustle App every day this month for tips to have your best year yet.