This year presents itself with its share of changes and challenges: Donald Trump taking the presidency of United States of America; Barack and Michelle Obama waving goodbye to the White House; Iran continues its nuclear program; terrorist threats; further progress in driver-less cars; just to mention a few.
Typically, we set goals for ourselves for the year and often times we tend to overestimate what we can do, or simply lose track along the way. However, the one thing that, if improved, can have an immense positive impact on your quality of life, overall health and capacity to reach your goals, is…(drum-roll please)… mindfulness!
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, mindfulness means:
1 : the quality or state of being mindful.
2 : the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis; also : such a state of awareness.
What does that mean for you? It could be interpreted as the act of paying attention to how you behave, and being fully aware of your present emotion. But why should we care? Well, in short, it allows us to control the one thing we can control: our outlook on things,which, in turn, affects our actions, and over time, with a lot of practice, our behavior.
What are the immediate consequences of being mindful? First, you will be able to be at peace with what is, and not what you want it to be. In other words, you will be aware of the gap between reality and your expectations without getting frustrated. Such a level of awareness would allow you to control your actions and plan better.
Another short term consequence is that people will notice positive changes in you. Maybe the ability to smile more often will make you appear younger. Maybe it will alter your posture, giving you a more relaxed and confident way to move. All these benefits can have a great impact on your life – whether it is in your love life or professional life (possibly both!).
As the year progresses, you will notice that being mindful will allow you to evaluate your progress for the goals you’ve set for yourself in a realistic and timely manner. This is how mindfulness targets the three areas you will need to achieve those goals:
1.- Setting Realistic Goals
Being mindful requires you to know your present self in the ever changing nature of the world. You will no longer be bound by the harsh judgement of your expectations. Instead, you will recognize reality and calmly contemplate ways to achieve the changes you desire. With mindfulness, change comes from a place of love and acceptance. Think of the changes you want to achieve this year: lose weight, read more, exercise 5 times a week, etc. Mindfulness allows you to understand that these changes come from a place of love. You want to improve because you love yourself. Without mindfulness, the outlook would change. You would think: I want to change because I hate how I look. In the long run, that type of outlook would aggressively push you to set goals that are unrealistic (ie. “I’m going to go to the gym seven days a week”). The former, however, would understand that a body should not go through that type of stress in such a short term. That realization would help you set more realistic and measurable goals, which becomes more sustainable in the long run.
2. Tracking Progress
Being mindful makes you aware of where you are in respect to many things; namely: your goals. Being aware of the progress you’ve accomplished reminds you of the progress you still want to achieve. Furthermore, such a level of awareness would also equip you with the ability to make adjustments along the way. Life is not written in stone; and neither should your goals.
3. Finding Motivation
Mindfulness arms you with the capacity to focus on progress rather than in perfection. Even if you momentarily fail, you’d be able to get up and continue your path at a steady pace – after all, you have come all this way!
So, the question then becomes: how can we improve our mindfulness?
In an article that I first found in the Huffington Post USA from Berkeley (The Top 10 Insights from the Science of a Meaningful Life in 2016), I learned that not all mindful meditations are the same – according to a German study. The results of the experiment observed that “During body scan, participants saw the biggest increases in how aware they were of their bodies (unsurprisingly) and the sharpest decline in the number of thoughts they were having, particularly negative thoughts and thoughts related to the past and future. Loving-kindness meditation led to the greatest boost in their feelings of warmth and positive thoughts about others. Meanwhile, the observing-thought meditation seemed to increase participants’ awareness of their thoughts the most”
As you can imagine, there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to meditation. That is why some people do Mandala meditation, others yoga, others Transcendental, others breathing, or some sort of combination.
So, what are you waiting for? select the meditation that suits you, get into the mindful mode and change the world starting by the one thing you can change in 2017: realize the real potential in yourself.