Written by Marie Tabela, Dana Diament, and Kaitlyn Hochart
Maybe this year your New Year’s resolution focused more on the mind and soul than on hitting the gym. Maybe your goal is to become more connected with yourself, rather than connected to your cell phone. Maybe it is to be more mindful, and experience each and every moment to the fullest.
If that sounds like you, then you probably also noticed that it’s much, much easier said than done. Being mindful and achieving self-awareness and an inner calmness can be one of the most challenging things we work on, especially with so much going on around us.
Two Yoga Medicine instructors were able to weigh in on this subject for us to help guide us down our own personal paths of enlightenment.
Yoga Medicine instructor Dana Diament says mindfulness is the practice of noticing your thoughts or sensations in any given moment. “Because it can be done anywhere and at any time of day, simple mindfulness practices can be incorporated into your everyday life in just a few minutes,” she said.
Dana’s tips: How to live more mindfully
1. Notice your posture when you’re standing in line at the grocery store. Begin from the ground up. Is your weight evenly distributed between your feet? Are you leaning into one hip, or are your hips centered? Next, move your awareness higher up and notice the sensations in your chest and shoulders. Can you lift your chest slightly or draw your shoulders down your back? Lastly, check in with the sensations in your face. Try to unfurrow your brow, relax your jaw, and perhaps even let the corners of your mouth turn up into a little smile. After you investigate and shift your posture, notice the effect it has on your mood. You may be surprised to find that standing up taller can shift your impatience. Bonus mantra: As you wait for your turn, repeat silently to yourself the words, “I am patient.”
2. Pause for a moment before you speak. Consider how your words will sound once spoken out loud before you actually say them. We can probably all remember a time when we wish we could have taken back what we just said. As we learn to be comfortable with silence rather than rambling on or flaring up, mindfulness in our communication can help us to choose our words more deliberately, which results in less conflict and repercussions. Bonus mantra: In the silent pause, say to yourself “I am kind” to remind yourself of the power your words can have.
3. Check in with your breath instead of checking social media. The next time you get the urge to pick up your smartphone, instead watch the rise and fall of your belly as you breathe. You can also close your eyes and place your hands on your belly, if you feel comfortable to do so. On your inhale, notice the belly expanding with the breath, and on your exhale notice the belly drop back down. As you continue watching the breath, try to take deeper, fuller breaths. At the end of 4 or 5 rounds, notice any changes in your body or mind. This diaphragmatic breathing helps to ease our nervous system, which can have a range of positive effects like feeling more calm or more energized. Bonus mantra: If you’re using social media as a temporary escape from the present moment, try using the mantra “I am here” as you breathe mindfully.
4. Put your fork down between bites and chew your food 20 times. Notice the textures and smells of what you’re eating. Can you hone in on all of the flavors? If you didn’t prepare the food yourself, can you guess all of the ingredients? Eating mindfully enhances the enjoyment we get from food and can help us to make healthier and more nourishing choices. Bonus mantra: Each time you put your fork down, give thanks for the plate of food in front of you by saying the words “I am grateful.”
Yoga Medicine instructor Kaitlyn Hochart says you should start small when it comes to finding your meditation practice, and make sure to head outside.
Katilyn’s tips: 4 things to add to your daily routine
1. Wake up and choose an intention for your day. Examples: Today I will be present in all my conversations, or today I will practice compassion towards myself. Write your intention down in a journal, or say it out loud.
2. Go for a walk outside. Leave the headphones at home. Take in all the sounds around you – the sounds of traffic, other conversations around you, the birds, the movement of the trees. How do you feel when your walk is finished?
3. Practice mindful eating for one meal a day. Eliminate all distractions when you sit down to eat – no phone, no email, no television. Chew slowly and be present with each bite of food.
4. Take time each day to be still through a meditation practice. Start small with 5 minutes a day. Pick the same spot in your home, and find a comfortable seat. Each time you take a natural breath in, in your mind say “inhale,” and each time you breathe out, in your mind say “exhale.” When your mind begins to drift, return to feeling your breath and this mantra.