Happy New Year! At the end of December, I like to review the past year – what I appreciated and what I learned. Maybe you do, too.
Here are 3 small habits that gave me the biggest results in 2018. Maybe you’ll might find them helpful, too.
Each take between 1 to 15 minutes. Use them anytime to get you back on track psychologically. They can improve all areas of life – health, financial, relationships, career, happiness. Enjoy!
#1 – Getting Present – 1 minute
In some ways, 2018 was a tough year for me. Goals I wanted to achieve just didn’t happen, no matter how hard I worked. At one point, I decided to stop trying. I remembered how helpful silent meditation retreats could be, when at a crossroads in life. I signed up for a Vipassana retreat where we sat and walked in silence for several days. It was like doing a “mental cleanse” of all the intensity of the last 6 months.
At the end of the retreat, I had clarity. I didn’t need to change what I was DOING, but how I was BEING while doing it. I needed to bring more presence into my daily activities. I’d been lost in past regrets or worrying about the future too often. Those mindsets were cutting me off from my creative problem solving abilities.
To tap back into the clarity of the silent retreat, I decided to try 1 minute of “being present” throughout my day. The trick is to stop and tap into as many senses as possible. For example, waiting at a traffic light. Instead of worrying about being late for my meeting, I would do this exercise where you name what you see, hear, feel, etc.
I see the red light in front of me. I feel my hands on the steering wheel. I hear the sound of the engine. I feel nervousness in my stomach. I see a woman with a dog cross the street. I hear the whirring sound of the heater in the car. I feel the heat blowing on my face.
This activity forces your mind into the present. The list of benefits to being present are endless. Everything from less stress, more creativity, better relationships, higher immune system, wiser decisions, and much, much more.
Can you really get all those benefits in only 1 minute? Try it and see for yourself. I found it very helpful to bring more wisdom and creativity to my daily life. Obviously, the more you do it, the better. It’s now a habit for me when riding on an elevator, stuck in traffic or when I get lost in worry. Let me know if you try it.
#2 – Whisper Breath – 5 minutes.
In 2018, I had a lot of high pressure situations and found myself unable to sleep at night. I started experimenting with wearable biofeedback devices such as the HeartMath Inner Balance app.
You clip the app onto your earlobe and then into your smart phone so you can measure heart-mind coherence. When you’re out of coherence it’s red and when you’re in coherence it’s green.
It was often red for me. The good news was that I discovered a way to shift that. I started using the app each morning while doing the “whisper breath”, as I like to call it. In yoga, they call this the Ujjayi Breath. This breathing technique helped me get and stay in coherence throughout my day.
It’s where you constrict the back of your throat like you do when you whisper. If you do the Whisper Breath as you breathe in and out for 5 minutes, it increases the relaxation hormones and decreases stress hormones. This enhanced my creativity, physical wellness and helped me sleep at night.
Here’s a podcast I did about the Inner Balance app with one of the HeartMath Founders Dr. Deborah Rozman.
Also, for a quick tutorial on Ujjayi Breathing CLICK HERE.
#3 – Letting Go Ritual – 15 minutes
After meditating and watching my breath more often, it became clear that I needed to do some letting go. I was holding onto grief about losing a good friend to cancer. I was trying to finish impossibly long task lists by working 7 days a week. One day I opened a closet and everything fell out. That was a sign I needed to do some “letting go” on many levels.
In the past, I always put this task off because I didn’t have enough time. In 2018, however, I created a habit of doing 15 minutes of letting go. On Sundays, I would journal for at least 5 minutes about any feelings or thoughts that were stuck in my system, anger, grief, hurt, frustration, happiness. I got it all down on paper, and then ripped up the page and threw it out.
Next I would take 5 minutes to go through my list of activities for the coming week and highlight at least 5 things to abandon, move to another week, or delegate.
Finally, I set up a donation box. For 5 minutes I would go to a closet and find one thing to donate and one thing throw out.
Looking back, I can now appreciate the challenges of the past year, because they made me more resilient. Those challenges forced me to create and stick to these 3 practices, which I’ve been able to share with thousands of others. Although I’ve been teaching resilience for years, there’s always more to learn and apply to daily living.
What mindset habits from last year made the biggest difference for you?
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