5 mindful ways to start the new year

At this time of year, we’re inundated with suggestions of what New Year’s resolutions to make. It can sometimes feel a little overwhelming. So what if, this year, we made a resolution to be kind to ourselves – with a more 'mindful' approach?

What is mindfulness?

The NHS website says that mindfulness can help us ‘enjoy life more and understand ourselves better’. It is often used as a technique for managing stress and anxiety.

Mindfulness has its roots in religious or spiritual meditation. Meditation involves sitting still and focusing on, for example, your breathing. Mindfulness meditation usually involves paying more attention to the present moment. According to mindfulness coach Diane Sieg, this awareness of your behaviour in each moment ‘can help you change habits that are no longer serving you.’

Find out our five top tips for a mindful new year...

1. Allow you to be you

According to website pocketmindfulness.com, ‘the moment you stop piling pressure on yourself to undertake resolutions that you aren't wholly committed to, or don't even really want, is the moment you give yourself a chance to breathe – to be present enough to see the wood for the trees.’

What that means is trying to understand ourselves and who we are – and accepting what we find. So, this year, why not accept you as you? Accept where you are in life and this could, conversely, help you to see the path ahead more clearly.

You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection – Buddha

2. Think of a ‘word of the year’

Instead of writing a list of New Year’s resolutions, Melinda Gates – co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – chooses a word of the year. She says she thinks of a word 'that encapsulates her aspirations for the twelve months ahead’. The idea being that the word inspires you, and who or what you want to be.

In 2016, Melinda chose the word 'gentle' because she said it ‘functioned as a reminder to go easy on myself, to fight the pull of perfectionism, and to encourage others around me to do the same’. Other words she has chosen include 'grace' and 'spacious'.

3. Be mindful of your screen time

We already know that with access to so much content, many of us are suffering from ‘information overload’. It's hard to practise mindfulness if you are constantly distracted by messages popping up on your phone. So this New Year, get into the habit of setting boundaries for your screen time.

Writing on mindful.org, clinical psychologist Mitch Abblett recommends a mindfulness exercise that includes closing your eyes and hovering your thumb over your phone, so that you begin to understand your relationship with it – and perhaps regain some control over it. The aim is to become more aware of how much time you spend on your devices, and how that makes you feel.

4. Take time out

We all want to pass that exam, progress in our career, have the best friends, find the perfect partner… but it’s also important to take time out and just be. Take time to eat, time to relax, time to focus on one thing at a time.

If you’re chatting with a friend, really listen to what they’re saying. If you're eating your dinner, focus on the task in hand! That means taking time to really smell and taste the food. And avoid doing other things like watching TV or looking at your phone whilst you’re eating.

5. Spend more time in nature

It can be hard to get outdoors at this time of year, but going out for a walk can be mindful in itself, because it keeps you in the present. Being in nature also helps to reduce stress and improve your mood.

In a recent interview with BBC Worklife, Lisa Nisbet, associate professor in the psychology department at Canada’s Trent University, said: 'When people are immersed in natural places, even in urban nature, people tend to have more positive emotions and vitality than when they are indoors.' In other words, it can make you feel happier.

Learning to love the skin you're in
How managing your money can help you live your best life
Who am I? Celebrating my identity