From our Facebook news feed, constant barrage of emails, iMessages (…text messages?), Snapchat stories, Netflix, Insta likes, and technology in general – we are constantly faced with distraction. We often catch ourselves gliding from one task to the next – often mindlessly and without direction.
Your addiction to social media is no accident. In fact, social media companies specifically hire ‘attention engineers‘ to hijack our time, which ultimately creates profit for them. The more time we spend on apps, the more money they make from us.
Every year, my close friends and I decide on a ‘theme’ for the year. Themed years are wonderful, because rather than setting an overly ambitious goal (which we would likely quit by February 1st), themed years give us the opportunity to influence our daily actions and general disposition over the course of the entire year.
Previous years include:
- 2014 – Year of Perspective
- 2015 – Year of Opportunity
- 2016 – Year of Challenges (horrible, horrible theme btw)
- 2017 – Year of Romance (better choice <3)
- 2018 – Year of Achievements
Learning from our trials and tribulations from past years, and considering our current levels of distraction, we have decided that 2019 will be the Year of Mindfulness.
2019 – The Year of Mindfulness
Now at upon first hearing this year’s theme, mindfulness may sound like a dated or tacky term one might find scripted on an inspirational bathroom poster at our grandma’s house (frankly, this is still a possibility).
However, in the scientific community, mindfulness is quite a profound and well-defined concept. From iconic thought leaders to globally-renowned academic or medical institutions – mindfulness is a concept with scientific merit.
Mindfulness has proven to have positive impacts on stress, sleep, improving concentration, relieving depression, and even fighting addiction (see references at end for more info).
Below are my favorite interpretations of mindfulness:
Mindfulness is letting go of taking things for granted
Mindfulness is the self-regulation of attention with an attitude of curiosity, openness, and acceptance.
“Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.”– UC Berkley
“Mindfulness shows us what is happening in our bodies, our emotions, our minds, and in the world. Through mindfulness, we avoid harming ourselves and others.”– Thich Nhat Hanh
“Mindfulness is the act of being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling at every moment – without interpretation or judgment.”– The Mayo Clinic
9 easy ways to become more mindful in 2019:
- Daily Stretching
- A quick stretching sesh in the morning or evening – even just 5 minutes – can make a world of a difference. Turn off the radio, stash your phone, and simply be in the moment for a few minutes.
- Mindful eating
- Given that a registered dietitian is crafting this list, eating well is surely to be at the top. What we put in our bodies fuels us for the day/month/year.
- How many times do we eat while simultaneously checking our insta likes or snap stories? Most of us are guilty of distracted eating, which can cause us to mindlessly overeat and not enjoy our meals to the fullest.
- For a fantastic blog on how to intuitively and mindfully eat – check out registered dietitian Taylor Wolfram’s blog – Whole Green Wellness.
- Meditation is becoming more and more popular in the Western world, drawing on inspiration from the East. The cool thing about meditation? It’s actually heavily based in science. Brain scans show us how beneficial it can be. In fact, many of the most successful people in the world commit to meditating daily – read more via Tim Ferris.
- Want to become better at meditating? Start with a free trial of Headspace (though you eventually have to pay quite a lot to continue), or the entirely free Insight Timer app. Youtube is also a lovely place for guided meditations – here’s one of my favorites, and it’s only 7 minutes long. .
- Reduce time on social media
- It’s no surprise that we are spending more time than ever on social media, which has been proven to make most of us less happy. Tuning out of our phones and into the present moment can help strengthen our relationship with ourselves and others.
- When you do use social media, try using it mindfully. Acknowledge your purpose for being on it, and quit when you are finished with that purpose.
- Journaling can take many forms. It can range from a daily bedside diary to simply writing one sentence each day. The purpose of journaling is to reflect on the happenings of the day, which builds awareness and appreciation. This is especially helpful when we focus on what we are grateful for. Gratitude encourages happiness. My favorite brand is Moleskine.
- Exercising – no matter which type – is a form of mindfulness. If you watch any experienced athlete, do you think they are on the field/court/pool pondering how many likes their latest Instagram photo got? My guess is likely not. They are 100% focused on the task at hand.
- When we exercise in the gym or in the yoga studio, focusing heavily on the exercise is actually a form of meditation. Meditative exercising is how Arnold Schwarzenegger credits his ability to get so buff.
- Airplane mode!
- Our phone’s ability to enter airplane mode mustn’t only be reserved only for the mile high club. This ability to temperately cut off connections to the digital world can provide a distraction-free relief while we concentrate on important work.
- Another alternative (and my personal favorite app) is one called “Forest“, where you are not allowed to use your phone for 25 minutes at a time or the tree you planted dies. It really works!
- Learn to listen
- Listening is an art form. We all have those friends who truly make us feel heard when we talk with them. You’ll notice they are not checking their phones or breaking eye contact to scan the surroundings. They are artfully digesting and appropriately responding to every thought we have. This is a true talent many of us can work to improve. How to listen better (TED TALK).
- Reconnecting with nature
- Biophilia (n) is defined as ‘the innate affinity of human beings with the natural world’. Connecting with nature via a walk or a visit to our local park is heavily supported by science. Doctors are now prescribing outdoor nature walks to fight depression. It works. Just be sure to stow your phone while enjoying the outdoors.
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- When science meets mindfulness: How Harvard researchers are studying mindfulness and the impact of the brain. Link
- STUDY: Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation
- STUDY: Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density
- STUDY: Cognitive and affective mechanisms linking trait mindfulness to craving among individuals in addiction recover