The New Year is an exciting time to recommit to a mindfulness, meditation, or yoga practice. Whether it's buying a membership at your local yoga studio, spending more time with loved ones, or walking or biking to work instead of driving, there are lots of small ways to inhabit your mindfulness practice without retiring to the nearest Zen monastery.
One of our favorite definitions of mindfulness is “knowing what you are doing while you are doing it.” Mindfulness practice has all sorts of physiological and psychological benefits. It's relaxing, uplifting, enjoyable, and fun! If you're just getting started on your mindfulness practice, check out this short, cute animated video, and this inspirational article by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh.
Remember, being more mindful isn't a race. It's about letting go of stressful thoughts and expectations, not creating more of them. Yet setting the simple intention to be more mindful can have profound effects on your well-being that will only grow exponentially over time.
Here are 3 of our favorite mindfulness practices to help you ring in the New Year!
1. Mindfully set your intentions
Carve out about ten minutes of time for reflection in the next few days. What would you like to bring into your life? Are there any negative influences you'd like to let go of in the coming year? Is there somewhere you've always wanted to travel? Is there something you'd like to create space for? Sit quietly and let the answer arise. Then, on a small index card, summarize your intention in just a few words. You can fold up the index card and place it under a favorite plant, stone, or candle. Every time you visit this object, remind yourself of your intention as you watch it blossom and grow throughout the year.
New Year's Day is a great time to practice yoga at your local studio, or gather friends and family together for some mindful movement outdoors. Set aside at least an hour on New Year's Day to move your body. (It's important to plan this time in advance, so the day doesn't get away from you.) Invite others to join you - they'll probably be excited to have an excuse to move around too! As you move, mindfully pay attention to how it feels to use your physical vessel and do something that's good for your health. Breathe deeply and mindfully as you move. Remind yourself that helping others starts with taking care of yourself. Ask yourself, how would you like to move into and through the new year?
3. Mindful Gratitude
One of the most profound mindfulness practices we know of is gratitude - even and especially when it feels like there's nothing to be grateful for. Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us: "Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child -- our own two eyes. All is a miracle."
As the New Year begins, set aside some time to count your blessings. You can write them down (we like this method), meditate on them, or talk about them with a friend. Perhaps in this moment it's easy to come up with a long list of things to be grateful for, in which case, go you! But of course, life has peaks and valleys. If you happen to be in one of the valleys, we feel you. Start by writing down the smallest things you can think of to be grateful for - a cup of coffee. A friend's smile. The birds in the sky. The trees on your street. The wonderful effects of a gratitude practice are so profound and far-reaching, that even Forbes Magazine acknowledges how beneficial a a gratitude mindfulness practice can be. :)
We really can't say enough positive things about gratitude, and hey by the way - it's free! We wholeheartedly encourage you to start your gratitude mindfulness practice early in the new year, and continue it often throughout 2016.
Happy New Year! Wishing you all the best with your mindfulness practice in 2016.