Winter always feels like a chaotic time of year, but by approaching the season—and the whole year—mindfully, you’ll be able to manage your goals, actually enjoy quality time with loved ones and find the simple pleasures in life.
It doesn't take much for all the errands, baking, work parties, family outings and obligations to pile up, threatening to smother those fleeting feelings of festive joy and give you a new year’s hangover. The irony is that slowing down is the way to approach all the busyness—or at least the stuff that matters—and mindfulness might be the way to make that shift happen. Cognizance lets you give the conversation with your great-aunt Annie your full attention, enjoy every sip of New Year’s Eve champagne and create lasting memories of making snowmen with your kids. How, you ask? Studies have shown that mindfulness can do wonders for your health (easing chronic pain, anxiety and even depression), and it can ground you in the moment, which is what we all so desperately need at the start of the new year. Here are seven easy ways to work the practice into your everyday.
1. Take a Deep Breath
Whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed, overloaded— or just over it!—take 10 deep breaths to zen out. Here’s how: Gently bring your attention to your breath. Inhale through your nose for a count of four, then exhale through your nose for a count of four and repeat. It works in traffic jams, busy department store lineups and even at tense family dinners.
2. Give Mindfully
Instead of swapping trinkets (that, let’s be honest, friends and relatives may not need or want), consider just sharing time together after the big day is over. “It might be a date for pedicures with a close friend, rather than gifting them another knick-knack,” says Sarah Webb, co-owner of Modern + Mindful, a mobile meditation company in Calgary. Invite rela- tives to dinner at a favourite restaurant or meet friends- like-family for a sledding party. “Volunteering together to serve a meal at a local shelter followed by a coffee date to catch up is another way to feel gratitude, build relationships and give the gift of your help and time to others in need, while connecting with a family member or friend,” says Webb.
3. Start a Gratitude Journal
It’s the perfect time to go big on gratitude. Actively cultivating feelings of appreciation will help to balance the stress and, yes, even loneliness that can creep up on us at the start of a new year— and help us appreciate all of life’s most important gifts. Just five minutes every morn ing will set your intentions and the tone for the day.
4. Take a Walk
A stroll around your neighbourhood, where you purposefully engage your senses while you walk, is a great way to disconnect from external stressors and reconnect with yourself. Listen to the ice or snow crunch under your boots, be aware of how the cold air smells and how it feels in your lungs, and observe what you can see, hear and feel. “Notice the snowflakes, the sun, the birds or the movement of people,” says Janet Nicol, founder of Metta Movement and Meditation Studio in Ottawa. “The object of your focus isn’t as important as bringing all your awareness to whatever it is you have chosen as your anchor,” she says.
You can purposefully build mindful walks into your day, or use them as the perfect escape from a stressful situation. “Politely excuse yourself for fresh air and stretch your legs,” says Nicol. “Moving your body in nature and taking time away can bring a fresh perspective!”
5. Put Down Your Phone
Digital downtime is important year-round, but perhaps even more so during this time of setting new goals and objectives. Sure, you may want to document your decorated dot journal for Instagram and snap loads of pics of the family at the skating rink, but there’s a danger in the way we all escape, and sometimes get lost, in our phones. In an effort to capture every precious moment, you might actually be missing out on them. Try taking turns being on camera duty with your partner—that way you get all the enjoyment and all the snaps (some even with you in them!), and resolve in 2020 to choose days when you simply power down and enjoy real life.
6. Practice Self-Love
Treating yourself with some extra kindness is likely the greatest resolution you can make. By honouring yourself and allowing yourself to feel worthy of love, you’re opening your heart up to give and receive. Imagine how much cheer you’ll be able to spread all year long!