“That’s life: starting over, one breath at a time.”
The start of the New Year is a natural time to set resolutions. It’s a “fresh start”, the beginning of a “new you.” I’m pro-resolution, and encourage people to set attainable goals, but there is an important step to take before you can make a change. I am suggesting as we wind down another year and anticipate a “fresh start,” that we take a moment to be mindful of the moment.
Too often we set out to make changes to ourselves or our situations without being present in the moment. Missing this crucial step can set us up for repeated failure. Being mindful before making change is like taking a deep breath before diving underwater. Mindfulness is the ‘ready’ in READY, SET, GO!
Mindfulness can impact our physical, mental and emotional health. Being mindful helps with our attitudes and connections to self and others. It can relieve stress, reduce blood pressure and even ease gut issues. Mindfulness can also help us cope with worry, grief and regret. As we become better at being present, we can then work towards change or acceptance.
Here’s a quick exercise to tune into being present. Take a look around you and see if you can notice all the orange items in the room. This simple exercise helps you be what counselor’s call ‘here and now’ or present. It kicks us out of auto-pilot and forces us to be mindful of our surroundings.
A more challenging exercise is to check in with ourselves physically, emotionally and mentally. Ask yourself, how do I feel physically? What’s going on from head to toe, inside and out of my body? What emotions am I experiencing right now? Mentally, is my mind in a 100 different places?
One example is the morning shower. As a mom, the shower is a rare opportunity to relax with minimal interruption. Except, relax is the last thing I do. While I condition my hair and attempt to shave my legs, I make a mental ‘to-do’ list for myself, a list for my husband, and plan out a crucial conversation I intend to have with a co-worker later that day. I also take time to look at my body and think of all the ways I intend to diet and exercise to lose my baby weight. Oh, and if time allows I usually end up cleaning the shower while I’m in it. My peaceful time has suddenly become a jumble of thoughts, intentions, and interruptions.
In contrast, a mindful shower is one of focus and singular intention. Focus on the water hitting your skin and running past your feet down the drain. Let the thoughts, anxieties, and self-criticisms of the day rinse away with the soap suds. Feel the massage of your fingers on your scalp as you wash your hair. Take deep breaths in and out. Without judgement, or multi-tasking, just be mindful of the present physical, mental and emotional state of your being.
As we start a new year, I challenge you to be present. Be mindful of your thoughts, feelings and actions. Check-in with yourself and take a deep breath. Now you are READY to SET and GO!
Jessica Nickels, Level 2 Counseling Intern