In just a few days 2017 will be history. For some this is a welcomed relief, as 2017 has been less than stellar and for others it will mark the end to a great year.
Regardless of where you find yourself on this continuum one thing remains the same for all of us, we all have an opportunity at a fresh start.
While the change from December 31st to January 1st is really no different from the passing of any other day into the next, for most it marks the opportunity to have a fresh start and an opportunity to make some positive changes they have been putting off.
With this opportunity to start fresh before us, let me ask you a question:
What are you willing to invest to make 2018 the best you can?
Realizing there will be things that happen during 2018 that are beyond your control (likely both good and bad), what are you willing to exchange in order to see improved health, personal growth and better relationships, as much as it depends on you?
Before you click away or scroll on to something else, let me assure you I’m not selling anything here.
Hear me out.
What if I told you a small investment of your time (like 20-30 minutes per day) and maybe a few dollars of your money (say $5-20 per month) could help you improve your overall health, promote personal growth and help influence your relationship toward a better end? Are you interested? You’re still waiting for “gotcha,” aren’t you?
I’ll let you in on something I have been trying for a while in my own life (some days more successfully than others) and something I feel is making a difference. It’s the practice of mindfulness or living in mindful awareness.
Dr. Dan Siegel, a medical doctor and leading mindfulness researcher defines mindfulness in this way, “an integrative practice that promotes integration in mind, in relationships, and in body.” Dr. Siegel’s research suggests that as we begin to live into a mindful awareness we are able to better attune to those we are in relationship with, are more aware of what is happening in our own mind and bodies and are able to promote better physical health and well-being within the body.
Let’s be honest, we live in a world that seems to be traveling at “light speed” even when compared to the pace of the world just 10 years ago. We have more information at our finger tips than we could ever possibly access if we had a hundred lifetimes.
This world outside ourselves (our body and minds) clamors for our attention 24/7.
There is always noise, always something else for us to see or something else for us to do. Even when we are intentional about slowing down, our brain is always telling our mind what the body is sensing. We all acknowledge that this frantic pace is exhausting at best.
We know we are missing something, but we cannot put our fingers on it. We feel the constant pull of our attention to the outside world and even if we know there is an internal world we are neglecting, we have very little clue as to how to get in touch with.
Let me ask a few questions to illustrate my point.
How many of us are good at being in tune with what is going on inside of us?
When is the last time you checked in with your body to see if you were thirsty or need to stretch?
When is the last time you blocked everything out and noticed in your own body where you are feeling tension or pain?
When is the last time you took time to notice the sensations of a simple breath?
Those sensations of the interior world are important, but if we are being intentionally attentive we will miss them. Have you felt the twinge of a headache only to ignore it until it is so bad you can’t stand it? Or if you did do something about the pain when your first felt it, your first choice was to reach for a bottle of Tylenol or Advil?
Could there have been a simple solution that if you had been in tune with your body you could have noticed and made a simple change without having to induce one more foreign chemical into your system? When we do not pay attention to what is going on in our internal world (especially in the long term) we will face devastating consequences to our health, mental well-being and relationships.
So what do we do about this?
What changes must we make to be more in tune with our internal world in the new year? Enter, mindful awareness.
The goal would ultimately be for us all to live in such a way that we are constantly aware of not only the loud clamoring outside world, but also the significantly quieter internal world. Yet this shift or increase of awareness does not happen overnight. It takes practice and intentional choices over a period of time to begin to see the results we are looking for. (Already feeling like it may never happen or fear you will not have the drive to stay with it to see the results? A word of encouragement may be in order. A recent Italian study suggest that even in as little as 8 weeks of intentional mindfulness work, a person can begin to make big changes in the brain and begin to lead to changes in health, mental well-being and relationships.)
Experts tell us that living with acute awareness of the internal world begins with a simple practice of mindfulness.
Mindfulness when practiced 20-30 minutes a day can help us become more acutely aware of our internal world. The more aware we become of our inner world, during our daily mindfulness practice, the more it spills over into day to day awareness. The longer we practice this mindful awareness the more the inner world will intersect the exterior world we so often live in.
Imagine a day where you are able to leave your office feeling relaxed and energized after a day’s work, because not only have you accomplished much by responding to the needs of the external world, but you have also attended to the needs of the inner world.
20-30 minutes a day (the time investment mentioned above) is ideal for most people. However, some (especially those very out of touch with their inner world) may need to start more slowly with 5-10 minutes of mindfulness and build their way up to 20-30 minutes per day. The practice of mindfulness can take on many forms from the simple practice of breath work, yoga or meditation to more religious or cultural type practices such as Christian centering prayer, Chinese Tai Chi or Buddhist Qigong.
Regardless which form of mindfulness you choose it is important to be as consistent as possible.
Remember this is about long-term change, not a quick fix. So take a deep breath and begin; sign up for a yoga class, read up on the power of deep breathing and start practicing, find some articles about different forms of mindful awareness and give it a try, explore the your favorite app store to see if there is a meditation or prayer app you can put to use. Practice something for a period of time to see what works and doesn’t work for you.
Whatever you do begin, don’t put it off until you have figured it all out because you will never start and your body, your mental well-being and your relationships are at stake. Start today listening to your inner world and live more mindfully aware.
Here are a few good resources to get you started:
- Book – The Mindful Brain by Dr. Daniel Siegel https://www.amazon.com/Mindful-Brain-Cultivation-Interpersonal-Neurobiology-ebook/dp/B001P7GGSC/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&qid=1513306481&sr=8-11&keywords=daniel+siegel
- App – Stop, Breathe & Think (for adults) https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/stop-breathe-think/id778848692?mt=8 *Also available in the Google Play Store
- App – Stop, Breathe & Think (for kids) https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/stop-breathe-think-kids/id1215758068?mt=8
- Website – Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction – https://palousemindfulness.com/
- Website – Centering Prayer – www.contemplativeoutreach.org
 http://www.drdansiegel.com/blog/2014/08/01/mindfulness-as-integration/ accessed on 12/14/17.
 http://www.nicabm.com/mindfulness-brain-change-and-increased-self-awareness-in-8-weeks/ Accessed 12/14/17.