Welcome to 31 Days of Resolutions! Turning the calendar to a new year has NEVER felt better. Oola is here to celebrate with inspiration and motivation for each day of January. Check out the rest of our resolutions here.
Perseverating on the past or always planning for the future can be annoying, exhausting, or even debilitating for some. Incessantly thinking about past conversations and perfecting your comeback while showering may make you feel a bit better, but it doesn’t really do anyone any good. In contrast, always planning the next activity for your kids, obsessing about the next scary thing in the news, or even contemplating the next week’s lunches (grilled cheese, anyone?) may cause anxiety and overall discontent. Women in particular are more likely to be diagnosed with depression and similar disorders like anxiety, which likely surprises no one.
There are treatment options for depression, anxiety, and other related mental health issues. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can be beneficial to those suffering from anxiety and depression. Sometimes, medication in addition to therapy is beneficial. There are also other steps we can take to relieve stress, bring ourselves into the present moment, and become more mindful in 2021. Mindfulness is growing in popularity due in part to the growing field of research. Preliminary research is showing mindfulness may help with attention, reduce bias, and improve overall mental health.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness, while it takes practice and patience, can help you stop inhabiting the past or future. It involves bringing attention to the present moment and experiencing life as it happens. According to Positive Psychology, the “aim of traditional mindfulness techniques is to achieve a state of alert, focused relaxation by paying deliberate attention to thoughts and sensations.”
Imagine being able to enjoy your day without feeling overly-anxious about the next thing on your to-do list. Imagine enjoying your children as they are now, without constantly thinking ahead to an uncertain future. Read ahead to find ways to incorporate mindfulness into your everyday life, and become more mindful this year.
Draw, Paint, or Color
Take a cue from the kiddos—borrow their crayons and buy a grown-up mandala coloring book. As an intervention for women with cancer, one study found that mindfulness-based art therapy displayed a decrease in symptoms of distress. Similar to meditation, mindfulness is all about bringing your awareness to what you are doing. To be more mindful while coloring, let go of thoughts beyond the task at hand, like choosing colors that calm you, and when your mind wanders bring it back to the present moment.
Turn off Your Phone
There’s nothing like opening an app, only to look up 20 minutes later and realize that you’ve lost that time. Mindlessly scrolling—the antithesis of mindfulness—can cause relationship issues, OCD patterns, and accidents. We’ve all likely seen videos of pedestrians falling into fountains while walking, but phone use while driving is still trending upwards. Your phone is of course not just a phone, but a tool. Learning how to use tools efficiently and mindfully can help you prioritize your time.
To help you in reducing your phone usage, set up time limit reminders on your phone, delete apps, grayscale your phone, or just leave it in another room. Notifications give us a dopamine burst, but over time, checking and re-checking your phone may have long term detrimental effects.
Disconnect from (Most) News
These days we are inundated with news by way of social media, TV news programs, and subscribing to online newspapers. Some people even still get a newspaper delivered to their homes. Weird, right?
While staying informed of current events is important, wading through critical information, heartbreaking stories, and “alternative facts” can become overwhelming. Eventually, it could start affecting your mental health. Subscribing to news sites like 1440 can help you be more mindful of the news you consume. You can opt to receive emails with news briefs, minus all the extra opinion pieces and fluff that may come with other news platforms. Setting up time parameters for when you check the news can help you in being more mindful too.
While the US has been under lockdown, there have been days when some of us don’t step foot outside. Eventually, this can be detrimental to your mental health. Nature, however, can boost your mental wellbeing. Taking it a step further and focusing on mindfulness while in nature can have a plethora of benefits.
Taking a walk around the block, biking or hiking a trail, and even gardening can keep your mind on the present moment. Breathe deeply, focus on the here and now, and check-in with all of your senses. Talk or think about what you can hear, smell, feel, taste, and see. Engaging with loved ones while in nature can spark a love of the outdoors.
We likely all know what it feels like when someone isn’t really listening to us speak. They may be distractedly checking their phones, looking for someone else to talk to (the worst), or just chomping at the bit to say their piece. It doesn’t feel good, and we probably are all guilty of doing all of those things, too.
Observe mindfully, in a non-judging manner, and take time to respond to questions. Communicating non-reactively takes time and is a skill that may be difficult for some. Be patient, try not to finish someone else’s sentence, and be aware of your body language. These skills are ways in which to increase your empathy and active listening.
Focus on Your Breathing
Your heartbeats without you having to tell it to. Likewise, your lungs circulate air without thought, thanks to the brainstem, which controls autonomic functioning such as breathing, heartbeat, and eye movement. While you don’t have to think about breathing in order to breathe, shifting your focus to your breath can have positive effects.
Breathing slowly can increase comfort, relaxation, and alertness while reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression, anger, and confusion. A 2018 study found that mindful breathing positively affected undergraduate students’ reading comprehension. Mindful breathing can help you be a more mindful, compassionate, and empathetic person in the year to come.