For many, the new year represents a fresh start, a clean slate on which to write their bright future. But it also comes with its fair share of expectations, goals and to-dos. So, how can you stay focused on your new intentions and make 2020 your most fulfilling year yet?
The answer is simple — mindfulness. Far from being a gimmick or a hipster trend, mindfulness is gaining attention from intellectuals, researchers and society as a whole for its power to make people more self-aware, focused and content. Practicing mindfulness entails focusing on feelings, sensations and thoughts, recognizing them for what they are and letting them pass without judgment.
Traditionally, mindfulness takes the form of meditation. With closed eyes and crossed legs, the student sits in silence and focuses on quieting the mind, body and soul. Today, however, you can practice mindfulness just about anywhere, in any situation. Here are just a few ways you can incorporate this practice into your life.
Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash
1. Play a Game
Meditation is taught in a way that doesn't emphasize community. So, many think of mindfulness as a solitary activity, practiced on a pillow in a private room. But you can also practice this skill with others. In fact, it may even enhance the effects of mindfulness. The joy of being with loved ones adds to any experience, and mindfulness is no exception.
One way you can practice in a group setting is by playing mindfulness games, which are created to help players become more aware and less stressed. These games take the intimidation out of meditation and introduce the practice in a fun, engaging way. For example, the mindfulness game Vertellis Classic is a conversation starter card game perfect for families and large groups of people. Each card poses a question for each person to answer, allowing players to connect on a deeper level.
2. Embrace the Mundane
Washing the dishes or taking a shower don't require much brainpower, and many would even consider them boring. Yet, there is some bit of magic to be found in the mundane if you slow down and mindfully appreciate each sensation. Smell the soap. Watch the water splash against your skin. Notice the way each plate or utensil feels in your hands. Paying attention to these small, seemingly insignificant details can alter the entire experience and even make the most mundane tasks enjoyable.
You can even practice mindfulness while eating. Eat more slowly than you typically would and notice each flavor as it flits over your tongue. Wait until those flavors dissipate to take another bite. Mindful eating can give you a new perspective on food intake and help promote self-control and proper portioning.
3. Engage Wholeheartedly
The human brain has a tendency to wander, even in conversations with others. Often, you may find yourself thinking about what you'll say in response to the person talking instead of really listening to their words. Or maybe you're thinking about what you'll eat for dinner instead of focusing on quality communication.
Practice mindful listening to change these habits. Notice the person or people you are talking with. What color are their eyes or their hair? Listen to the way their voice falls on you as they speak. Practicing interpersonal mindfulness will allow you to engage wholeheartedly in conversation and connect with others on a much deeper level.
4. Go Back to the Breath
While this isn't necessarily a new technique, it's still an incredibly essential part of being mindful. Nearly every meditation study will advise you to focus on your breathing, the ins and outs, to center your mind and become more self-aware. You can practice noticing your breath and acknowledging any thoughts that arise by participating in an activity that brings you peace. This may include yoga, seated meditation, cycling or even petting your dog.
Some people even wake up early to spend time meditating and breathing. Practicing first thing in the morning allows you to focus on your thoughts and subtle sensations without worrying about a to-do list or deadlines. And you won't feel guilty about taking time to practice when no one has yet had the chance to compete for your time or attention.
Mindfulness for the Extraordinary Life
Becoming more mindful may uncover emotions and thoughts you haven't dealt with in a long time. For instance, those with a history of drug or alcohol abuse may struggle with feelings of shame and sadness — emotions they'd rather not focus on or acknowledge. But mindfulness makes them face their pain head-on, encouraging them to seek help and overcome these negative emotions and addictions. And, when they finally do, they'll be on the path to creating a more satisfying, sustainable lifestyle.
Mindfulness isn't something you accomplish overnight. Becoming more self-aware, engaged and connected takes time and practice. The more you consciously exercise your brain, the more natural mindfulness will become — and the more likely you are to enjoy a fulfilling, extraordinary life.