Two years ago I decided to stop making grand, and usually impossible, resolutions for the new year, instead broke it out into twelve mini 30 day challenges. While I learned a lot about self control and that I can’t live without cheese I didn’t really grow as a human being. This year I am bringing back the 30 day resolutions with the intent of improving myself one month at a time. I’m kicking off January with the goal of becoming more mindful in my daily life.
Recently I was at my parent’s house before the holidays and caught a segment on 60 Minutes about the power of mindfulness. Full disclosure: I initially committed to watching the segment because of Anderson Cooper’s dreamy blue eyes, but I am so glad that I stuck around for the whole report. In the feature he interviews a man named Jon Kabat-Zinn who received his Ph.D. in molecular biology from MIT, is the author of two best selling books on mindfulness, and provides some simple (but insightful) advice on incorporating mindfulness into every day life.
Mindfulness is described as “being aware of your thoughts, physical sensations, and surroundings.” Sounds pretty easy, right? For example I am aware that I am sitting at my desk in front of a laptop writing, keys clicking away underneath my fingertips, face illuminated by the glow of the screen, and Miike Snow providing the soundtrack to this post. I feel like I am present in this moment but then somewhere across my desk a vibration from under a pile of papers steals my attention, I have a new twitter follower.
It seems that all of the screens in our lives compromise our ability to be mindful. Emails, status updates, snap chats, texts, etc all of these infiltrate our lives with a vibration, noise, or illuminated screen and most of us jump to check them immediately. In a way we are all constantly waiting for that next notification instead of being tuned in to the situation we are currently experiencing. I am certainly not advocating for tossing all of our electronics off a cliff, but merely suggesting that we loosen the grip of control they have over our daily lives.
Being mindful in your daily life has proven benefits to both mental and physical health and is relatively easy to incorporate into your schedule. Kabat-Zinn suggests small changes like taking a few moments in the morning before getting out of bed, or even open your eyes, to focus on breathing and be grateful to have another day on the planet. To me this sounded like a much better way to start my days than hitting snooze on my alarm clock and checking email before I ever set a foot out of bed. So here is my plan for becoming more mindful in January:
Like I mentioned earlier, usually the first thing I do in the morning is grab my phone and start scrolling through notifications – I’m going to stop. Instead I am going to lie in bed take a few deep breaths and take my time preparing for the day, finding joy in the routine – making the bed, washing my face, preparing coffee. Before I open my laptop and get flooded with the real world I am going to take 5-10 minutes to sit quietly, breathe, repeat some daily affirmations, and just be.
Detaching From Technology
I understand that my phone and laptop are a necessary evil in today’s society, but I am seeking to take back control of how I let the outside world digitally interrupt my life. In order to be fully present in life experiences I will be stashing my phone away during meetings, dates, and important gatherings. The internet world is not gong to self implode for the few hours I’m gone and I would much rather spend that time forming a connection with people in my immediate presence.
Breathing Through Frustrations
The moments when I can feel my heart speed up, my shoulders tighten, and my body temperature tick up slightly – this is when I will choose to breathe. A cleansing breath clears the mind, releases stress, and helps refocus on what is important. Let’s solve our problems one deep breath at a time.
When I first started making this list of how I wanted to be more mindful I thought it seemd like a lot of behaviors to remember and do every day, but as Kabat-Zinn says “It is not a doing, it’s a being and being doesn’t take any time.” Here is to more being in 2015.
For the full report from 60 Minutes click here