As we finally say goodbye to 2020 and begin 2021, we hear so much about New Year’s resolutions. It seems like in our current society, many resolutions are simply fads that stick for a week or two then fade away. (I do want to say that if you do make New Year’s resolutions and they work for you, that’s great – keep doing it.) I am just here to encourage all reading this to consider living mindfully in 2021 and beyond.
Mindfulness has become a buzz word in recent years, but it does hold a lot of value. So, what is it? Mindfulness involves awareness and living and thinking intentionally. It calls us to live with purpose and meaning for each moment we are given. When we are mindless, we are on autopilot, our thoughts are going anywhere, and we are not fully present with our actions. This can steer us off track and we can end up wasting time.
Have you ever sat on your phone scrolling and scrolling… and scrolling… only to realize that a half hour has passed by? If so, you’re not alone. We’ve probably all done it and maybe sometimes we need to just check out and be mindless. But if we find ourselves being mindless more often than being mindful, this is where we can feel out of control of our lives and our time.
So, how then can we incorporate mindfulness into our daily lives? One simple way is to just to bring ourselves back to the present moment – bring ourselves back from wherever our thoughts are at the time. Take a look at your surroundings, listen to the sounds you hear, pay attention to your breathing, and pause just for a moment. Just pause. Just breathe.
In our fast paced society, this may seem odd and out of place. But taking a moment to notice our thoughts and observe our environment gives us time to respond in a mindful and intentional way. We can respond and/or act in a way that we choose. When we don’t take a moment, we may be reactive or we may say something too quickly or based solely off emotion. In fact, taking a moment to take a deep breath begins to relax our bodies and minds and allows any emotion we are feeling to begin to shift. When we do take a moment and take a deep breath, it provides us with the space to decide the most effective way to proceed in that moment.
Simply put, when we are mindful, we are being intentional. While we can’t control every thought that pops into our minds or every emotion that shows up, we can control our response and our actions. We can control what we are directing our minds to focus on. Mindfulness is not about getting rid of our emotions or erasing our thoughts – it’s actually impossible to do that. Mindfulness is about directing our thoughts and actions toward what will be meaningful to our lives.
If living mindfully seems like a great idea, but you are having difficulty getting started, please consider reaching out to a therapist who can help. There are also tons of different mindfulness practices that you can do. Mindfulness is like building a muscle and practicing will help. Happy 2021, everyone!
“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
Samantha Maciaga, MA, LCPC
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc.