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Tips from the Experts: Mindfulness for the New Year

Ryan Cook
Tuesday, Jan 17, 2023

As the holiday season comes to a close, many of us are headed back to the humdrum of daily life and straight into our long-set habits surrounding work. It is common enough to set lofty New Year’s resolutions to be “less stressed” and approach work “differently” as the New Year kicks off, but rarely do we make the necessary ground-level changes around mindfulness to reach that goal. Ready to break the cycle? Consider adopting the following mindful habits, espoused by experts, in order to reach the next holiday finish line with gas left in the emotional and spiritual tank.

Set rituals, NOT routines.

One could be forgiven for thinking that rituals and routines are two words describing the same thing. However, according to Hannah Ubl and Lisa Walden, co-founders of Good Company Consulting, there is a crucial difference between the two.

Rituals require a degree of mindfulness and intentionality often absent from mere routine. When we develop rituals, therefore, it can help create mindful boundaries and give us guide rails for when we transition from activity to activity. For example, Ubl and Walden recommend ending your workday by closing your computer, taking a deep breath, and audibly reciting “All done for the day.” This can help reinforce the boundary between work and home life.

Don’t check your phone first thing in the morning.

Ok, this sounds like an obvious one, but I’m willing to bet that many of us fall into the trap all the same. Not only are there problems concerning blue light and eye strain, but, Human Connection Expert Chris Bashinelli proposes that the real issue is that phones put us in a state of reactivity and defensiveness.

Emails, news alerts, and even weather updates all force us to confront unknown and possibly upsetting incidents as the first act of our day. Many of the alerts are no doubt important and will need to be handled in good time, but to start our day with them is a critical error. Instead, Bashinelli recommends trying to start your morning with a small act of mindful gratitude. Making the first act of our day one of gratitude instead of stress, anger, or defensiveness sets us up for a more productive and rewarding experience as we carpe diem.

Refine your intentions.

We make countless decisions every hour. It can be challenging to take a breath and think deeply about how we make the most optimal choices. But according to monk-turned-viral-content-creator Jay Shetty, the results are more than worth it. Refining intentions is simply the process of writing a list of potential choices you have throughout your day and then mindfully thinking about the mental and emotional factors feeding into each particular choice and possible outcomes. These could be as simple as one-word prompts. If you find yourself writing down descriptors like jealousy, pride, or ego, that’s your cue to start removing these “weeds” from your mindful garden.

If, on the other hand, you find yourself writing words like compassion, purpose, fulfillment, or joy, then you know you are on the right track and should instead start planting “seeds.” Even if your day doesn’t look radically different after this process, you will have thought deeply about how you will approach each choice and be aware of your own thoughts and goals as you move through your schedule.

Practice mindful listening.

Being a good listener is one of the first core skills we are supposed to master as children. But somewhere along the line a lot of us instead become masters at waiting for the other person to stop speaking so that we can say what we’ve been thinking the whole time. Sometimes, we may hear what the other person is saying but focus only on their audible words, missing the wider context. Leadership Expert Ritu Bhasin refers to these processes as one and two-way listening respectively and proposes that they both miss the mark of true, or mindful, listening.

Mindful listening takes into account not only the words being said, but the physical context of where a conversation is happening, both participants' mental and physical state, and asks us to take time before issuing any response to fully consider our role in the conversation. The result? More fulfilling conversations that leave all participants less stressed and more conscious of their own thoughts, needs, and perspectives.

Don’t eat alone, build community.

The problem: an increasing share of people feel dislocated and isolated at work, resulting in higher levels of burnout, depression, and anxiety. The solution: mindfully investing in community. The guide: Shane Feldman, founder and CEO of Count Me In. So how do we get from A to B? Well, according to Feldman, it can start with something as simple as lunch.

Many of us eat lunch in a rush, on the go, and alone (an intensely American phenomenon by the way). By doing so, we are depriving ourselves of a vital opportunity to mindfully build community and create lasting relationships with those around us. Like many of the recommendations so far, this sounds a bit paradoxical. However, Feldman notes that cultures around the world intentionally stop working to mindfully engage with coworkers, and as a result actually experience higher productivity, creativity, and rapport in the workplace.

Realize your own role as a mindful leader.

Okay, you’ve woken up with a moment of gratitude, practiced mindful rituals, and refined your intentions. You’ve even eaten lunch with workmates where you’ve listened mindfully. Now what? Pandit Dasa, the author of Urban Monk, has a suggestion. Realize your own role and power as a mindful leader. A leader, according to Dasa, doesn’t even need to hold a formal leadership position. Instead, it is merely someone who is attempting to live mindfully themselves and is in a position to inspire others around them to do the same.

Dasa’s step-by-step recommendation includes developing a mindful sense of humility, appreciation for others around you, and leading by example. Ultimately, the process will not only help you develop a sense of purpose and calm but also spread those benefits to those around you.


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