With each new year we think about all the personal and professional activities and challenges we want to take on. We have the motivation and energy of a new year and 12 months to make it happen, but our list can become overwhelming as the year moves on. Don’t make promises you know you can’t keep – make the only one that will matter in 2019. Mindfulness does not disappoint!

Scrap the new year’s resolutions and just be mindful in 2019…

With each new year, we think about all of the personal and professional activities and challenges we want to take on. We have the motivation and energy of a new year and 12 months to make it all happen, so we make an ambitious list that soon can be overwhelming as the year moves on. We often get to the end of the year and have the realisation that we didn’t get it all done… the guilt and disappointment kicks in and we either give up or begin again!

Do yourself a favour and do just one thing in 2019… mindfulness. It’s been the buzz word in recent times but it’s not a fad. Cultivating mindfulness and incorporating it into your life will have a broad impact on your personal and professional life. Mindfulness in its simplest definition is a mental discipline that involves training our attention – it supports our mind to be more focused, clear and effective. It doesn’t cost you a thing. no memberships, no technology, no special equipment, no extra time. It’s a no brainer!

Researchers surveyed 2,000 participants in Canada and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms. The results showed the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000, or around the time the mobile revolution began, to just eight seconds.

Meanwhile, goldfish are believed to have an attention span of nine seconds! We have a distraction epidemic!! This has a significant impact on our ability to learn, perform at work and generally enjoy life.

The cognitive skill of mindfulness that can help us:

Improve focus, attention and memory
Increase self-awareness and emotional intelligence
Reduce the impact and influence of stressful thoughts and feelings
Facilitate better communication and relationships
Improve personal and professional performance
Contribute to our physical and mental wellbeing
Provide us the opportunity to respond rather than react to people and situations

So, if any of these things are on your new year’s to-do list, then mindfulness is for you.

Mindfulness is both a form of meditation (formal practice) and a way of living with awareness (informal practice). Mindfulness mediation takes place on a chair or cushion and the informal practice of mindfulness refers to being attentive and present to what we are doing in daily life. ‘Attentional Intelligence’ is an intelligence which when highly developed allows you to effortlessly but ‘mindfully’ notice where attention is at any moment and to intentionally choose where you want it to be (Linda Ray 2012).

Punctuating our day with mindful commas (a few seconds or up to a minute) and full stops (several minutes) is a great way to integrate mindfulness into our life and have a positive impact on our day to day experience.

Here’s some daily mindfulness tips:

When you first wake up in the morning, before you get out of bed, bring your attention to your breathing. Observe five mindful breaths. You can do the same at the end of the day before going to sleep. On average we take 21,600 breaths per day, when was the last time you paid attention to just five of them?

Really tune into a conversation you are having. Listen with your full attention. What do you notice? How does the other person respond to you? Can you listen without agreeing or disagreeing, liking or disliking, or planning what you will say when it is your turn? When talking, can you just say what you need to say without overstating or understating? Can you notice how your mind and body feel? Giving someone our full attention is the greatest form of respect.

Notice changes in your posture. Be aware of how your body and mind feel when you move from lying down to sitting, to standing, to walking. Notice each time you make a transition from one posture to the next. Take in your positioning and posture at your desk and make any adjustments.

Drink and eat something mindfully. Take a moment to tune into all of your senses. What does it look like? Smell it and notice any sensations in your body or memories it evokes. Bring awareness to seeing your food, smelling your food, tasting your food, chewing your food, and swallowing your food.

These are ideas about incorporating mindfulness into your life and the activities you’re already doing. So, if you don’t have spare time in your life, no problem – simply bring mindfulness to what you’re already doing.

Journaling is an effective tool for cultivating mindfulness and has so many benefits for both your personal and professional life. Journaling brings you into a state of mindfulness; past frustrations and future anxieties lose their edge in the present moment. It calls a wandering mind to attention, from passivity to actively engaging with your thoughts. You become aware of the internal chatter and your emotional state. Here are some surprising benefits that might convince and motivate you to start writing…

Increases emotional intelligence – Journaling is an outlet for processing emotions and increases self-awareness. This internal familiarity becomes a bridge of empathy; you’ll better understand what others are experiencing. Being able to get on the same page with someone is a mark of emotional intelligence and allows for a much deeper connection.

Boosting memory and comprehension – There’s a unique relationship between the hand and brain, sparked by the composition of thoughts and ideas. Words are representations of ideas; the formation of letters causes the mind to compose or re-compose ideas while journaling. This strengthens previously covered information and forces you to engage in cognitive recall.

Facilitating insights and ‘aha’ moments – To write without thinking can be a powerful tool — “stream of consciousness” writing. It brings out thoughts and ideas you never knew you had in you, and loosens up your expressive muscles, your mind makes connections and gains insight where you might have been struggling before.

Improving communication skills – Journaling is a form of written communication, albeit to oneself but according to a Stanford report “writing has critical connections to speaking”. The sub vocalization of tracing your written thoughts naturally translates in actual vocalization. Journaling is an exploration of language, you’ll have the natural urge to search for new words and increase your vocabulary.

Building self-confidence – Journaling about a positive experience allows your brain to relive it and reaffirms your abilities when self-doubt appears. The release of endorphins and dopamine will boost your self-esteem and mood. These reflections can become a catalogue of personal achievements that you continue to go back to.

Achieving goals – Journaling often includes your dreams and ambitions, yet the idea that scribbled words can help achieve goals is understandably fanciful. But consider building a house without a blueprint. That makes more sense. Writing goals signals to your brain “this is important.” Your reticular activating system (RAS) then flags relevant opportunities and tools to achieve that goal. More detailed goals provide a psychological blueprint and increase the likelihood of achieving them. So, ensure that your 2019 is everything you hope it is and utilise mindfulness and journaling to bring you success.

Forget the overwhelming list of new year’s resolutions and put your energy into incorporating mindfulness into your everyday life in 2019.