We’re so often caught up in the momentum of our thoughts and worries about everything we need to get done in a day—feeling overworked, oversaturated, and overcrowded. The stress of always feeling so much pressure is one of the biggest hurdles to feeling kind and connected to the people around you. That’s why 2018 is all about creating space: mental space, emotional space, and physical space to make a little more room for your mind to settle and for your heart to open.
Start the new year with seven ways over seven days to slow down, declutter your mind, and free up your attention, so you can be the kind, generous person you know you can be:
1. Take a minimalist approach to your calendar—schedule one less thing today.
We spend so much time rushing around, getting to the office or a meeting on time, or running errands. It’s easy to get annoyed with people because they appear to be "in your way" as you try to get from one place to another. Instead, schedule one less thing today, and enjoy the fact that you don’t have to rush. Use that extra space to make more positive connections. Make an effort to say hello to those you pass on the street, and be friendly during your commute. Make a conscious effort to be a kind driver. Let people merge with a smile, and when others do something nice for you, be sure to wave to say thank you. It will transform your day.
2. Allow space and time to savor the little things.
Today, don’t jump on email or social media, and instead take time to enjoy small, positive moments. For example, try savoring your coffee or tea. Pause and take a moment to:
- Feel the warmth of the cup
- Breathe in the aroma
- Think about where it came from
- Savor the first sip
- Notice how the liquid feels in your mouth, and then moves down your throat
- Appreciate the warm sensation
- Enjoy the flavor!
And throughout the day, take time to notice your surroundings, like when you walk from your car to your front door. Slow down and notice what you see, hear, smell, feel, and taste, really paying attention to your experience. This simple shift in attention can boost your happiness and will increase your capacity to enjoy pleasant events overall.
3. Check in with how you're feeling right at this moment.
Check in with yourself to see how you are feeling at least once a day, with openness and a sense of kindness. When difficult feelings arise, you can change your relationship with them and feel a greater sense of calm. Sometimes it helps to name your feelings. For example, "Oh yes, there is that frustration again…" or, "I am feeling angry…" The simple act of naming can help create some distance and perspective. Try a helpful app if you find yourself forgetting.
4. Find space in your mind.
For most of us, our thinking is like a loop that feeds our stress and worry—we may be thinking about something over and over again or trying really hard NOT to think about something, which just makes us think about it even more. Research has shown that learning to identify less with thoughts and feelings by noting them as they come and go can reduce the intensity of feelings of stress and worry by up to 50 percent. Try the Noting meditation, to pull yourself out of this mental loop by simply noting the thoughts as "thinking" and coming back to the breath. You’re not trying to reject your thoughts or trying to stop having them altogether. It’s more like stepping onto the bank of a river and simply watching the river of thoughts flow by as opposed to diving in and trying to reverse the flow.
5. Blow off some steam by getting your body moving.
One of the best ways to relieve stress is to consciously release the tension in your body and get your blood moving. Yoga has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, improve symptoms of depression, as well as increase feelings of optimism and well-being. Try this short yoga routine for stress to clear your mind of mental chatter and ground yourself in the present. Stretch out those muscles and make some space to feel calm and relaxed.
6. Expand your heart space.
Kindness can be like a life preserver when you’re stressed. Kindness has all sorts of positive effects: It can lead to increased happiness, reduced inflammation, and a healthier heart, in addition to more positive interactions and relationships. When you cultivate kindness (and studies show that you can!), it can pull you out of the Bermuda triangle of feeling overwhelmed, especially when you take time to cultivate kindness for yourself. Take 10 minutes to meditate on kindness, and feel your heart get bigger.
7. Create a sacred space.
Create a place where you can be quiet and still. Nothing says sacred space like a simple shrine, made very personal to you, on a bookshelf or small table. Follow these steps to get set up:
- Place a beautiful piece of fabric on the shelf or table.
- Light tea lights—our favorite are made of beeswax. Turn off the lights and let the flicker of warm, soft light soothe you.
- Use Incense or essential oils—scent is a powerful way to define a space and can make it calming and enjoyable.
- Add an inspiring image, which can be a photo of nature or someone who inspires you or any object that is beautiful to you.
- Place a small carpet or Japanese mat and a few throw pillows on the floor in front of your personal shrine, which can be used as meditation cushions and really helps to delineate a calming space.
Giving yourself the gift of quiet and calm will allow you to be much more open, contented, and relaxed.
Interested in learning more? Check out mindbodygreen's meditation teacher training.
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