New Year’s Resolutions

The new year is around the corner. So, We dedicate this blog for anyone who has made it a New Year’s resolution to bring more mindfulness into their daily life in 2020. 
As we all know, New Years resolutions have a low probability of sticking throughout the year. We often aim a little too high, or life just gets in the way of us solidifying the habit.  Certainly, the same can happen with mindfulness practices.  We might tell ourselves, “I’m going to meditate for 20 minutes every morning,” but the habit gets lost to the daily grind.
The following are a few suggestions for how to make a habit of mindfulness stick.

  1. Set the target a little closer in range. Instead of 20 minutes when you first wake up, set the intention for 3 mindful minutes. It often helps to make it part of your routine. For instance, you could brush your teeth and then immediately sit, focusing on your breath or body sensations for 3 minutes.  Eventually, that 3 minutes may naturally creep up to 20 as you get curious over time about what adding one more minute occasionally feels like. 
  2. Another alternative to the formal longer sit is to pepper mindful moments throughout your day. For example, eating the first 5 bites of any meal while bringing awareness to every flavor and texture can go a long way to “reset” our mind in the present.  Likewise, directing our attention to each footstep and being aware of the sensations in our feet as we walk to our car after work can be a helpful habit to raise awareness of where our mind is as we transition from work to home.
  3. Another way to pepper the day with mindfulness is to set a chime on our phones to sound a few times per day. Every time the chime goes off we can bring awareness to the sights, sounds, and bodily sensations in that moment, in whatever act we may find ourselves. For example, if the chime rings and I find myself emptying the dishwasher, I can take a pause from whatever habitual thoughts happen to be looping in my head at that moment, bring awareness to the way the light reflects off the surfaces of the dishes, or the sounds of glasses being placed in the cupboard, or the feel of my body in motion while I perform he task. 
  4. Make resolutions about the process, not the outcome.  If I make myself the resolution to be more relaxed in daily life through mindfulness meditation, I am likely to fail several times and get discouraged.  There will be days that I am uptight or anxious, even though I’ve meditated. However, if I focus on the process of a consistent simple mindful practice, that act is more in my control. My attention being on the process and not the outcome puts the ball more in my court. I will “fail” less.
  5. Don’t make a resolution at all, make it an intention. I (Josh) might be playing with semantics here, but resolutions feel rigid and when they are broken, frequently feel a little too broken to be fixed. An intention feels more flexible. It bends and then can simply return to the original form. For example, I might not meditate for several days, but be aware of having had the intention.  With that awareness, I can always come back to the practice of meditation without judging myself. Despite what I wrote in tip #4, sometimes the process is not in our control due to an over packed schedule or unexpected events of the day, but the internal intention is there and will guide us back home to the practice over time. 
  6. Maybe we want 2020 to be filled with more kindness, but we don’t have (or make) the time to cultivate it through a formal loving kindness meditation for 20 minutes on a regular basis.  Just as with the other mindfulness practices, we can pepper some loving kindness throughout the day in small doses. You might try silently wishing a couple strangers in traffic or acquaintances at the office some warm wishes.  You can use some of the common phrases to loving kindness meditations, such as, “May you be happy. May you be safe. May you live with ease,” or make up your own. Sending warm wishes to others throughout the day may feel contrived at first, but like any of the other practices, the impact comes from being consistent, and doing it in small doses makes being consistent easier.
  7. If you want to a massive jump start to mindfulness in 2020, joining a an 8 week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course at the start of the year will go a long way to forming mindful habits.  Many people find quite helpful to learn from a qualified teacher and a supportive group of other participants all on a similar path. Of course, I highly recommend taking the MBSR class with my good friend and wise, highly qualified colleague, Dr. Erin Mendoza (I couldn’t help myself Erin).  The course starts on January 7th. For more information, click here.

If you have any other tips for how to turn mindfulness practice into habit in 2020, please feel free to reply to this blog with your ideas.  Enjoy the holidays!

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