By Patty Normand, MD
Many of us want to begin the new year fresh. Clean slate. Except that … it’s the same you. The calendar may have changed, but you are still you. You may have the best of intentions to get healthier, find a new job, or create more time with your kids, and yet you just can’t get off the launchpad or can’t stick with a new resolution.
So what about trying something different this year? First step. Don’t do anything. Just be. If this sounds unique, it is.
Here’s a brief exercise from Susan Gray, a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction instructor at Rush:
“Right now, tune your attention into where you are located in this moment. You might be reading this at your office, on your phone, in transit or at home. Just get a sense of your environment. Now deliberately place your awareness on your breath. Allow your attention to rest on your breath. You are not trying to make anything happen. Just notice inhaling and exhaling. If you can feel the rise and fall of your chest or expansion of your lower belly, then guess what? You are in your body. Welcome to this moment. You are practicing mindfulness. By purposely placing attention on the present moment nonjudgmentally, awareness arises. If the breath isn’t a comfortable area for your body you could place your attention on sensations in your feet — feel them on the floor.”
So what does inhabiting your body have to do with waking up in 2019? Well, it turns out — everything. So often life is lived on autopilot. You arrive at work but not aware of the route you traveled, lost in thought. Meals are quickly devoured without stopping to put a fork down, and you can’t remember tasting anything. Emails are pounded out in haste; miscommunication may be interpreted. Five minutes on Facebook turns into 20; wasted time. Distraction abounds.
Could this way of being affect your stress level? Relationships? Productivity? Memory? Focus? Absolutely. So how can you make appropriate change in behavior for the new year when autopilot is the current default mode?
Everyone is born with the ability to be mindful. It’s simply a matter of rediscovering and practicing it. Mindfulness is simply knowing what you’re experiencing while you’re experiencing it.
So that’s where we begin. We can learn to develop awareness moment by moment. No one can be aware 24/7, but just making small changes in developing our innate awareness expands who we are as a human being. Learning mindfulness skills can support you in a fresh start to being awake in 2019.
Patty Normand, MD, is director of the Rush Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program.