Updated: Sep 19, 2022
Written by: Natalie Faella, MS, RDN, LDN | January 4, 2022
The start of a new year can bring about all sorts of feelings. Maybe it's hope, worry, excitement, dread, or pressure from a laundry list of resolutions.
It might also be a time where you're slowing down after the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. This might be something you welcome (and certainly deserve!). It might also leave you feeling let down or questioning "what do I do now?" or "what's next to look forward to?"
All of these things are normal and it's OK if you're not feeling super psyched, energized, or motivated for 2022 — like so many people may seem on social media. Sometimes after a lot of excitement, we can rebound with feelings of low energy, boredom, or even sadness. Plus, the expectations we may have for ourselves and what’s to come in the New Year can feel overwhelming or leave us uneasy with thoughts like: “what if it doesn’t pan out?”
For these reasons, I think the start of a new year is an especially great time to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present in the moment — being aware of what we're doing and how we're feeling right now. Our brains often default to future-thinking and past-thinking, but rarely stay long in the present moment. This makes it easy for us to plan, set expectations, worry about the future, and also relive and question the past.
Our brains default to future- and past-thinking, but rarely stay long in the present moment.
New Year's definitely brings about a lot of those future-thinking and expectation-setting thoughts, which can set us up to be more anxious and feel disappointed if things don't go the way we planned. This also keeps us from being present, which can prevent us from effectively processing and working through anything difficult we’re currently going through, and likewise, prevent us from enjoying and appreciating the current moment.
There is so much to be grateful for and happy about in this moment. We can often think: I'll be happy when ___ (I lose weight, I go on vacation, I pay off my credit card, I make more money, I'm not worrying about or after I get through X, Y and Z, etc.), instead of realizing that happiness isn't a destination we will reach later on, but something we can feel and create right here and now. We just have to be present in the here and now in order to embrace it.
This is your reminder to stop, breathe, and take in the moment more in 2022. While planning ahead is great, and we can learn lessons from the past, we will not get to truly experience the present moment if we spend all our time thinking about what was and what might be.
Here are some ways you can practice mindfulness throughout the day:
List 3-5 things your grateful for (on your phone, in your planner, in a gratitude journal). This has been shown to not only improve your mental well-being but physical well-being, self-esteem, and mental strength as well.
Take time to meditate
The benefits of a regular meditation practice are endless. But it can feel a little intimidating to start meditation and make you question: "am I doing this right?" Something that helped me take the plunge was listening to guided meditations. If you're interested, find a moment to be still and tune into a 10-minute guided meditation. The Smiling Mind app is a free app that can help get you started with meditation and other mindfulness practices.
Check in with your body
What are you feeling right now? What sensations, aches, etc. do you notice? What do you need? Here is a 3-minute body scan meditation you can try at work, home, before bed — whenever you need to check in.
Focus on your breath
Take a moment to stop, notice, and feel the inhales and exhales. Check out this 6-minute breathing meditation. (Also great for helping kids calm down when they are worked up.) Practicing a mindfulness meditation before bed can also help to improve the quality of sleep.
Check in with your 5 senses
What do you see around you right now? Hear? Smell? Feel? Taste? This 5-4-3-2-1 technique is a great way to mindfully practice this exercise and bring you back to the present.
Observe your thoughts
Are you rehashing something from the past? Is there a lesson to be learned or is it unhelpful to think about this? Does this thought contribute to the betterment of your life?
The key to this one is observing without judgement (i.e., not “I was so stupid to have believed…” but: “I thought the information I was presented with was true…”). By noticing and labeling our thoughts (i.e., helpful, unhelpful, in my control, outside of my control) we bring awareness to how we're feeling and bring ourselves back to the present moment.
Practice mindful eating
Stay present and tuned in while eating. This means it’s just mealtime, not check-email-time or scroll-through-Instagram-time. Notice how the food tastes and makes you feel — without judgement. This is also part of intuitive eating.
The great thing about practicing mindfulness is that you can do it anywhere, anytime. When you feel yourself spiraling into future- or past-thinking, try one of these exercises to bring yourself back to the current moment. The more you practice mindfulness, the more you’ll notice when you’re revisiting the past or thinking about the future. And the more your thoughts will be able to default to the present moment, so you can notice all the good that is around you now.
Wishing you a happy, healthy, and more mindful New Year :)
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