At the beginning of a new year, many of us start thinking about or have already planned several new year resolutions. These resolutions can be anything from exercising more, eating healthier, working less, more social time, or more time with loved ones. How have these resolutions worked out for you? What resolutions did you make at the beginning of 2018? Were you able to follow through with them? What did you learn about yourself while working toward accomplishing these resolutions?
When we decide to make a change, it’s important to be mindful of the intention behind these changes — why are these things important for you? Mindfulness can help you to become more attuned to your needs and aware of your surroundings as you implement these changes.
It’s easy to become distracted, even when focused on your goals, and the distractions may make us disconnect from our ability to be in the moment. This may lead to anxiety and unhelpful thoughts such as “others are doing things much better than I can, I’m not good enough to do this,” or “I can’t do this, I don’t know why I’m even trying.” Before you know it, these intrusive thoughts affect our emotions and our drive to succeed.
Mindfulness is a practice that can be developed and cultivated to meet your needs. The word practice implies that mindfulness is a skill that you must consistently engage in to maximize the benefits.
Mindfulness is not a religion or difficult to do. You already have what it takes to be present and aware and it doesn’t require a drastic change in your lifestyle. Instead, mindfulness is an adaptive, evidence supported, way of being that involves paying attention to where you are, what is going on around you, and awareness of your body. When we apply mindfulness to our goals, we are able to be more intentional about what we want and how we go about getting or accomplishing those goals.
As we move into the new year, I encourage you to consider RAD for a few mindful strategies as you plan ways to enhance your quality of life:
What can you Regulate?
Take a moment to think about your current quality of life and identify at least two areas in your life that you want to focus on this year. Next, write down what you have already done (or currently doing) to make changes in those areas. As you review what you’re already doing, can you think of at least one way that you can adjust what you are already doing or have done that will make a small improvement in this area of your life?
Pay attention to how you feel in your body as you work on this — your breath, your heart rate, your thoughts about yourself, how you feel, and your ability to concentrate.
What can you Add?
Making an addition is a little different to regulating. Take those same two areas of your life and the list of what you can regulate and think if there is anything that you haven’t done yet that you may want to add so you can accomplish your goals. For example, you may decide that you wanted to regulate the number of hours you sleep at night from six hours to eight. If you want to add something to that, you may decide to add a nighttime routine such as drinking decaf tea before bed to help you relax or taking a warm bath. Avoid adding too many things at once to reduce the likelihood of you becoming overwhelmed.
What can you Drop?
For some of us, this is the fun part because it may seem easier to get rid of something than to add or improve! We usually get excited about removing things from our lives — no more drinking, no more junk food, no more working late, no more toxic relationships. These are all important, and we still need to apply mindfulness to what we decide to remove from our lives or routine. Let’s continue with the example of sleep to explain a helpful way to drop behaviors or things.
So, you’ve decided to regulate your sleep by increasing to eight hours and you’ve decided to add a nighttime routine. This is the stage where you think about what you’ve done in the past, or currently doing, that is not helpful for your sleep. Maybe you watch TV in bed or you watch TV right up until the time to turn it off and crawl into bed. This may disrupt your sleep behavior and cause you to be in restless or ruminate before sleeping. In this case, you may decide to drop watching TV an hour before bedtime.
I hope you are able to infuse mindfulness into your planning for the new year and to be kind to yourself as you make these adjustments for a better quality of life.