To kick off the new year, this blog aims to put you on the best path to making the next year your most mindful and joyful one ever! I’ve selected five of the best mindfulness habits I know of to bring more happiness and calm into your life. I’ll outline them here and you might like to make a plan about how you’re going to incorporate these into your routine.
Habit 1: Seek happiness not pleasure
What’s the difference between these two? Well, pleasure is where we look outside ourself to find things that will make us feel good – from food to sex; from fashion to drugs & alcohol. What these all have in common is that they are all dependent on something or someone else – and they are fleeting.
On the other hand, happiness is something we find inside ourselves and it can be accessed anytime and doesn’t necessarily need anyone or anything external. One simple way to do this is through memories: think of the last truly happy moment you had. Was it the laughter of your child or the sublime view at the top of a mountain? Remembering happy moments is a great way to tap into the joy.
However an even deeper way to connect with happiness is to find it in anything, anywhere, anytime – for example, seeing the beauty in a weed growing in an ugly urban landscape. Gratitude practices and meditations are a great way to do this – they train your mind to notice what’s beautiful or positive around you even during a hard time. Here’s a free Gratitude Meditation I recorded for you to practice.
Overall, meditation helps you to notice the space between the thoughts, which is where happiness can always be found. But you may also experience happiness more easily at other times such as walking in nature, spending time with children, or playing music. What will you do this year to seek more happiness (rather than pleasure)?
Habit 2: Choose a daily meditation goal and design it into your lifestyle
Which brings me to meditation! Naturally meditation is a key tool for happiness – it allows you some space around and away from those pesky thoughts that can stress you out or bring you down.
But the key with meditation is to do it regularly – preferably every day. The only way to achieve this is to make meditation a habit. I have a great blog all about how to do this – you can read it here. But the take-home message here is to design meditation into your daily routine in a spot that makes it most likely to happen. Until you schedule it as part of your day, it’s pretty hard to make it a habit. When will you do meditation in your daily routine this year?
Habit 3: Choose a simple mindfulness exercise and do it daily
When you’re not meditating and you’re going through the rest of the day, it’s still very possible to practice mindfulness. There are a number of simple activities that help you to do this at any point in your day where you’re feeling a bit stressed or un-present. One such activity is the STOP practice – I explain it in this blog on mindfulness at work.
Another option is the Five Senses practice – where you stop and notice 5 things you can hear, 5 things you can see, 5 things you can touch, 5 things you can smell and 5 things you can taste (I always find those last two a bit of a challenge to get beyond one!).
So choose a simple practice like this and set a reminder on your phone to do it every couple of hours.
Habit 4: Be intentional about how you want to be in each new situation
Most of the time we rush through our days from home to work to the gym to home again without consciously deciding how we want to BE in each of these places. We can unconsciously head into work bringing our home stresses with us – or come home from work bringing our work issues there.
Instead, before you go into each new situation decide how you want to be beforehand, pause, and then go into the new place with an intention for how you will behave and feel. For example, as you arrive at work stop for a minute and decide how you want to feel that day – perhaps focused, clear, and calm? Shift your mindset toward this approach.
On your way home decide how you want to be at home – do you want to be a loving and present parent or partner? Shift your attitude and intention towards this before you walk in the door!
Habit 5: Amp up your Self-Compassion
If you tend to be hard on yourself, for example with lots of negative self-talk, or if you never feel quite good enough, then you could be in need of a dose of mindful self-compassion. This is a mindfulness meditation practice and, as always, you get better at it with practice. If you would benefit from this one, I recommend you try the free guided meditations on the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion web site.
So there are the top five ways to bring more happiness into your life this year! If you’re into writing New Year’s Resolutions then I’d love you to include some of these.
I just want to re-emphasise that all of these are habits or practices that need to be done regularly in order to get see the benefits. So design them into your routine and schedule rather than just writing them on a list this week and then forgetting about them! As with any new habit, you need to use habit-forming psychology to make them stick so read my blog about this to understand how (this blog talks about meditation but it can be applied to any other habit you want to create).
Wishing you much joy in 2018 and beyond!