The One New Year’s Resolution You Should Make (and Keep): More Mindfulness
on January 25th, 2018
In the days leading up to New Year’s Eve and nearly every day since, my Facebook feed has carried a familiar tenor. Whether they say it overtly or not, I see countless posts like this:
This is a habit/behavior/attitude about me that I don’t like. I resolve to stop it/do the opposite in 2018. #resolved
Can you relate?
The posts do seem to be less self-deprecating this year, which I celebrate. For so many of us, 2017 felt like crossing a bed of hot coals, so I was happy to note the dearth of self-flagellating New Year’s Resolution posts among those I care most about.
And yet, there it remains: the low-grade din of discontent on most social media platforms—not just Facebook and Instagram. People are antsy to get out of their present circumstances, and I don’t blame them; not a person I know escaped last year without life throwing a painful curveball in their direction . . . myself included. Who wouldn’t want relief from that?
For me, 2017 was both the best and the worst year of my entire life. I stretched myself to new professional heights, and I grew more deeply in my relationships and capacity for intimacy. I took risks, I loved big, and my heart became full again.
And yet . . . I cried more deeply in 2017 than any other year, including several years before, when I divorced my husband of ten years and lost my dad suddenly within a few short months. In a way, the depths of heartache, sorrow, and despondence were my initiation into life. Almost as if the universe had pushed me out into the sunlight from the shadows, and there I stood, squinting as my eyes adjusted, while I cupped my own cheeks to catch the tears.
I knew that in the end, I was going to be okay.
Even during my darkest moments, when I wondered if my heart would give up and just stop beating in the middle of the night, I woke up the next day. When I would have bet money that my body would have quit overnight, I marveled at my capacity for strength and joy at the same time. This depth and breadth I can only attribute to one thing: my meditation practice.
I’ll say it more clearly for anyone who missed it the first time: meditation saved my life last year, and it also saved my sanity and my relationships.
Now, I’m not trying to convince you to start meditating (even though you totally should). Instead, I’d like to offer you what I affectionately refer to as “meditation-lite.”
Whether you don’t have the time to meditate or you’re just not into it, you can still receive tons of the same benefits by adopting a different kind of New Year’s resolution: a resolve to be more mindful. (This one will have longer-lasting results than that chewy kale salad you planned for lunch later. Trust me.)
Here are some ideas for bringing more mindfulness to your day: to help you slow down, connect with the present moment, and detach from the temptation to slip back into your pain:
- Put the phone away. This is an easy one. We spend so much time online that we don’t realize how easily that electronic leash can trigger us into unhappy or unwelcome thoughts or feelings. Giving yourself a timed phone break every day—even for only thirty minutes—can impact how we feel when we return to our tech-dependent lives.
- Put your camera away, too. Have you ever been in the middle of something amazing, reached for your camera so you could capture the moment, and by the time you got reset, the moment had passed? Yeah, me, too. So, instead of trying to get a snapshot of every single giggle of your new nephew, or how your neighbor’s snow angel turned out, try using your memory to capture the image in your head. You know: like they did in antiquity.
- Connect with the rhythm of your breath while you do chores. This isn’t the most obvious one, but it’s the most often overlooked. If we can remember to focus on our breath while folding laundry, doing dishes, or grocery shopping, it will slow our heart rates down and we will be more engaged in the present. And if you haven’t noticed yet, the present moment is the only moment you’ll ever experience. Might as well notice you’re in it while you are, right?
While not all of us want to be better people, most of us want to feel better when we’re bummed, down-and-out, or hurting. I’m convinced that’s what my friends who made those pesky resolutions this year had in mind. But you can’t fix a building’s internal issues by painting the outside with a rainbow. (I’ve tried.) Sure, losing those stubborn twenty pounds you gained last year will make you feel lighter, but the real question is not How do I lose this weight?
The real question is: How do I pay more attention to what truly fills me up, so I don’t have this gnawing, false hunger?
The answer is simple: Be more mindful in more of your now moments.
Find a way to stay present in whatever you’re doing, whether or not it’s emotionally charged.
When we offer those we’re with the gift of our presence, our mindfulness becomes a surprise even to ourselves. Being more mindful increases our capacity for connection with others and deepens our ability to be with ourselves. It’s the pot of gold at the end of our rainbow that we’ve been searching for all along.
Be more mindful in each moment. And when your presence is in the present moment, your mindfulness becomes the most treasured gift you give to yourself, and, unsurprisingly, it becomes a gift to others as well.