After this year, you deserve to take some time for yourself: have a spa day, elevate your skincare routine into a ritual, meditate. The latter could very well be the secret to a year of magical thinking and, more importantly, doing. "Mindfulness practice isn't just meant for meditation training," Dr. Dennis Tirch, president of the Compassionate Mind Foundation, USA, tells us. "It is designed to help us bring greater courage, flexibility, and wisdom into contact with life's challenges." Basically, it helps you focus on achievement, the road to getting there, and the positive rewards of that hard work. It strives to increase our awareness of what's going on at any given moment.
Mindfulness is far and away from hippie-dippy spiritualism. "[It] isn't magic," Dr. Tirch says. It's an exercise the same as running is, only instead of training physical strength, you're training your mind and nurturing your conscious. Your mental projections, Dr. Tirch says, can influence the outcome of certain events in your life. Like exercise, results don't come immediately. After all, one day of crunches won't give you washboard abs. But with time, as best-selling author and Chief Spiritual Officer of M N D F L, an NYC-based meditation center, Lodro Rinzler tells us, "We learn to become more present and awake in the rest of our daily life." In fact, Rinzler says more and more studies show mindfulness practice can reduce stress levels, lead to better sleep, boost your immune system, and increase your overall productivity. Who doesn't want all that? Don't knock it until you try it, you know?
Ahead, five easy ways to start being more mindful in the new year. Think of it as a fresh start to a refreshing (and productive) year. Your 365 days of spectacular living starts now.
Get in touch with your body
Beathe. That's what both Dr. Tirch and Rinzler suggest you kick things off with. "My clients begin with mindful breathing and basic loving kindness meditation practices while sitting," Dr. Tirch says. From there, focus on your breath, the swelling of your core and its release, or more simply, as Rinzler says, "connect fully with the natural cycle of your breath." You want to stay present in that, feeling your body's weight and lifting gently through the spine. Eventually, Rinzler says, you'll drift off into thought. "Simply acknowledge that by gently and silently saying, 'thinking' to yourself." It's through that act that you become more aware of your body and its relation to your surroundings.
Focus on a daily activity
Once you've gotten more comfortable practicing focusing on your breath, try mindful breathing doing an everyday task. Rinzler suggests doing so while showering, brushing your teeth, or making your coffee in the morning. Really, all that's required is for you to be present in your actions and in your breath.
Take it to the kitchen
If you need help choosing what activity to practice mindful breathing during, Dr. Tirch explains how Sufi and Buddhist monasteries "historically had beginners begin to apply mindfulness in the kitchen." Focusing on your body's sensations performing specific tasks while, say, preparing a meal, can help you better understand the practice and how your body handles the variety of actions performed in the kitchen.
Give it some time
Look, you're not going to be a Zen master right off the bat. It takes hours upon hours of practice and, quite frankly, it may not be as peaceful as you want all the time. "You're not always going to feel good after sitting in meditation for 10 minutes," Rinzler tells us. But, proverbial pain is gain, right? Once you're comfortable with the practice, begin to pepper in "challenging emotional experiences." Dr. Tirch says these will teach you to learn to respond to future events with "self-kindness and behavioral flexibility," which is a fancy way of saying proactive instead of reactive. "It is vital and important that we realize this potential for ourselves," Dr. Tirch adds, "and for our societies."
When in need, stream
You don't necessarily have to go to mediation centers to practice mindfulness. Everything that came before this can be done at home. Guidance, however, and community is a nice thing to have throughout your journey, though, and M N D F L has made it easier for everyone to be a part of one. M N D F L Online live streams classes and features prerecorded ones so "people can experience the benefits of meditation on the spot, wherever [they] go," Rinzler says. It does cost $19.99 a month, but that's a steal when compared to taking individual classes.