How to start the New Year in a mindful way

 

I never make New Year’s resolutions. I don’t believe in them.

Saying that you want to do something is very easy. Doing it is the hard part, and most of us fail.

Especially when our brain is still fogged with heavy alcohol clouds, the intention we’re trying to set with our resolutions might not register in our brain as a non-negotiable new behaviour.

Many people say that the way we start our day is crucial to how our whole day will evolve. I’ve experimented with it quite a bit and firmly believe it’s true.

For years now I’ve been in the luxury position of having about four hours each day between waking up and starting work. Four hours which I can use exactly as I like. No kids, no partner, no commute either, just me and those 4 hours.

By trial and error I have learned that the way I spend those hours can make or break my day.

The things I do each morning, set the pattern for the whole day and make me do more of it during the rest of the day. If I indulge in rolling over, my whole day seems to be lazy and I don’t find energy for anything. If I first read for an hour, I end up reading all day. If I get active straight out of bed, I run around full of energy doing things all day. If I find my focus and inspiration with meditation and writing early in the morning, my whole day seems to be inspired and focused and flowing with ease.

Last year, around this time, when people started talking about New Year’s resolutions, I realised that I could apply this principle of “setting” my day to the New Year as well. Instead of just setting an intention to do certain things in the New Year, I decided to “set” my year by very consciously filling my first day of the year with doing things I find important for my well-being and growth.

We all know there’s a significant difference between thinking or saying something, and actually doing it.

 

I filled my first day of 2017 with things I love to do, things that make me feel good, things that make me healthy, focused, inspired. See the full list below.

I made mindfulness my main focus that day, and with that in mind did everything else with full awareness of why I wanted to do it, and when.

A number of things on my list were already part of my daily/weekly routines, but giving an official spot to creativity and study were new “settings” for 2017. I wanted to give my writing and my personal growth both a good amount of attention, even priority, so I gave them prime time on January 1.

During the year I have started writing regularly, first on my blog and then for Elephant Journal, when I was an apprentice in Elephant Academy. I can call myself a published writer now, and am happy to say that I have an (almost) daily writing habit.

I’ve also read nearly every day at least a couple of articles or a few chapters in a book that helped me grow and learn new skills.

Later in the year I started with Morning Pages.

I had a great 2017.

And now I’m preparing to have a great 2018 as well.

Here’s a list of things that we can do on January 1 that set us up for a great new year. It’s all about choices, that we can each make for ourselves.

Each choice gives us the opportunity to grow, or to fall back into old behaviours that don’t serve us.

> The most significant choice could well be one that we have to make the night before: to get drunk or not. Sleeping late, waking up with a headache and not wanting to do anything is not exactly how I’d like to spend my whole year. We don’t have to go tee-total, but pacing our alcohol intake on New Year’s Eve will definitely make for a better start of the new year than a huge hangover.

> Waking up, we can take a couple of minutes to stretch, gently awakening body and mind.

> Let’s not grab our phone. Let’s keep our thoughts with us for a few more moments, instead of allowing them to get torn away by emails and social media. We could try a few gratitude thoughts instead. What can we be grateful for, in 2017, last night, right now?

> Time to get out of bed (choosing not to indulge in sleeping in)! Now is a good moment to do a few gentle things for our physical health: Oil-pulling helps the body to eliminate toxins and is great for tooth and gum-health (make tongue-scraping a part of the ritual too!). Dry-brushing stimulates our lymphatic system, and is great for our skin as well. Drinking lemon water rehydrates the body and helps alkalise our system.

> Writing morning pages, filling three pages with all the random thoughts that want to be centre stage in our mind we choose to process some of the stuff we need to work through. It can help us get clarity and create some space in our heads for more productive thoughts. Once we’ve written it down, it doesn’t need to take up space in our head anymore. Morning pages are also a great way to stimulate our creative mind.

> Meditation. Whichever way works for us is the right way to meditate. Whether we just sit still on a cushion, chant a mantra or some positive affirmations, stare at a candle flame, or go for a walk in nature, taking time to become still has a positive impact on our well-being. This has been scientifically proven. Choosing to meditate on a regular basis can bring us more focus, patience, motivation and inspiration every day. A great way to start our year!

> Intermittent fasting. This one is new on my list. Postponing our breakfast, stretching the period between our last evening-meal and the first time we eat in the morning, has a powerful impact on our digestive system. According to dr. Mercola it boosts fat-burning, and helps regulate our blood-sugar levels. So let’s not eat for another hour or so, choosing to postpone our instant gratification-urge. A cup of tea or coffee is fine.

> Mindfulness. Being mindful while we’re doing ordinary daily tasks is a great way to practice our mindfulness-muscle. Paying attention to our movements, our sensations when we are showering, drying off, dressing, preparing our food or sipping our coffee are great ways to practice being in the moment, creating focus, and intensifying our experience. Choosing mindfulness, everything gets better. Our whole year will be better!

> Exercise. Whether we get it in first thing in the morning, or later in the day, let’s make sure to get some exercise on New Year’s Day! A little walk through our neighbourhood or, if the weather sucks, we can do some exercise at home. Some yoga, or a bit of abs, push-ups and taking the stairs 5 times is enough to let our body and mind know that we’re choosing to make exercise part of our whole year.

> Food. Yes, we’re eating on New Year’s Day. Let’s make an effort to prepare some beautiful and healthy food. Nourishing our body with whole foods, fresh vegetables and fruits, and not indulging in junk food, sweets and alcohol can really help set that intention to improve on our dietary habits. Every day we have the choice what we eat, and how we prepare our foods. Starting our year with some mindfulness around food can set the tone for a whole year of healthy eating!

> Read/study. Feeling alive and well is directly related with spiritual and mental growth. When we regularly learn new things, stretch our mind and tickle our curiosity, we feel better. Reading non-fiction or studying online we can enhance our well-being, so let’s not skip that one on New Year’s Day!

> Social time. Relationships are important for our well-being as well, so let’s make sure we spend some quality time with our family or friends. Choose an activity that everybody will enjoy, play a game together, or make something,  cook together, go somewhere with people we care about. Make sure there is real conversation and interaction happening. Turn off the phones, even if it is only for 10 minutes. It’s a powerful gesture to show that we are committed to give attention to the people we are with when we turn off our phones.

> Chores. Yes, it’s a day off, I know. But finishing one of those 500 chores that we wanted to finish last year, sets a great intention to be more efficient and persistent with finishing projects throughout the year. I am very good at putting off chores forever. Adding a moment of achievement to the first day of our year could be a great motivator to get us going! This one is important for me this year!

> Creativity. Being creative is essential to feeling alive. We all have creativity in us. Let’s make sure we’ll be using it well in 2018. Taking time on New Year’s Day to create something can help us spark a whole year of creativity. Whether it’s cooking, painting, writing, fixing stuff or gardening, if we spend some time doing it on New Year’s Day (in the case of gardening we can read a book about it, or plan our garden for springtime), we’re kick-starting a creative and inspired year for ourselves.

> Spending time with Nature. This is so essential for our physical and emotional health. Let’s go for a walk or a bike ride in the park, or, if the weather really sucks, try at least to stare at the clouds, watch a tree being whipped by wind and rain, or listen to that utter stillness of the snow covering everything, take care of our house plants. Connecting with Nature on the first day of the new year sets the clear intention to go out there more often.

These are all things that I plan to do on the first day of 2018 to create the “settings” for my year.

I hope it will inspire you all to make a good start for your new year, and would love to hear what you choose to do on January 1.

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