Aka: What I’ve learned this year, Aka: A new years resolution we can all stick to
Welcome to… *drumroll please*… my last post of 2014! TA-DA!
This had to be something special. A post that would leave us all in good spirits, with a little itsy-bitsy positive message to ‘meditate on’ as usual. I decided that today, (as i’ll be a little preoccupied tomorrow night!!) I wanted to talk about the greatest lesson that 2014 taught me, which has also been one of the greatest things to come along and improve both my physical and mental health in a long, long time.
Let me be frank- 2014 was a bit of a rough one for me, personally. It marked the first in about two years where my depression was acting up again on a regular basis, and drove me into some of my lowest places. This of course sparked my inspiration to start this blog, which has certainly been one of the high points of this year! I had a lot of struggles with love, and learning what it means to ‘date’ as a 20-something (spoiler alert: there’s no rules any more, and you basically seem to have to yell at the top of your lungs in an obscenely blunt fashion what you want/need from a person. Am I right?). I worked 2 jobs when I really didn’t have to, at two jobs that I let take advantage of my time and skills too often- my own fault. I also had many struggles with self love and acceptance. Some friends drifted out of the picture, while others were gained or became more prominent. It was a pretty standard year of ups and downs, but when the downs occurred, they just seemed tougher than usual due to the heightened depression. However, let me tell you- between all these bouts of darkness, I found a new light. And that light…was ME!
I decided that I wanted to transform back to a person who was confident, self loving, accepting, understanding, compassionate, and overall…happy. That’s the end goal isn’t it? To be happy? One of my other big high points this year was that I began working meditation into more aspects of my life (like meditating every day even for short periods, and even on the go!), and practicing yoga more regularly. The biggest thing I have learned from these now life essential practices to me, is Mindfulness. So let’s talk about being mindful! It’s a simple concept, but harder to fully conceive when it comes to actually applying it to your life.
Being mindful everyday essentially means that you are consistently and constantly aware of your personal feelings, emotions and thoughts at ALL TIMES. You check in with yourself often to see how you feel about certain people/situations. You ask yourself thoughtful questions often. You feel emotions fully, and acknowledge your true emotions always (aka, not hiding from the truth or suppressing emotions). You speak honestly and truthfully to everyone, and listen with intent- not intent of simply responding, but intent of absorbing the words and feelings of the person speaking to you. You listen to your instinct in order to understand your desires and needs, as well as how you truly feel about something. So all this, is the practice of being mindful. It has been proven through scientific research (research of centuries of mindfulness practices), that people who practice mindfulness in day to day life, and also during meditation/yoga/exercise, typically live more stress free and have a more heightened sense of coping skills. These individuals are also affected less by worrying, fear and such negative emotions, even though when they do feel them they address them appropriately. These people also showed other physical signs of positive improvement like lower blood pressure, healthier brain activity (especially in the frontal lobe, which is where our emotions are felt!), and typically lead healthier lifestyles, ie: eating healthy and being active. Doesn’t that sound pretty good? If learning to change minor ways of thinking, or at least how you act when you feel or think something- if that can overall give you a longer, healthier and HAPPIER life, wouldn’t you do it?!
So here is my last list of 2014; Ways that we can learn to practice mindfulness everyday:
–Check in with yourself. What does that mean exactly? I mean whenever (really, when EVER) you have a thought or a feeling that is a little more than bluntly obvious, take a moment to sit with it before fully responding. Ask yourself where that’s coming from, and why it’s being brought to your attention right now. Our bodies and subconscious always know us best- trust that instinct, and don’t be afraid to see what it tells you!
–Be honest and truthful. With yourself and with others! Take point number one there to heart, and then after checking in with yourself and realizing what you truly feel or think about something, honour yourself by voicing it. You’ve been given a strong powerful voice- recognize that, and never let it go to waste! You aren’t living your true best life if you’re not living honestly.
–Acknowledge emotions. I have come to realize that you are not living a true ‘mindful life’ if you’re telling yourself things that you don’t fully believe- even if they’re ‘positive things’. That’s not what it’s about- it’s not about suppressing the negative to only embrace positive. It’s about facing the negative and learning how to CHANGE it to the positive. If you are sad or upset about something, acknowledge that fact. Say it out loud to yourself; ‘I’m pissed at this because___”. And sit with those emotions, until you get to the bottom of where you’re at, and where you want to be. Starting to make sense now, isn’t it??
-Be physical, often. It’s important for us to get out of our minds and into our bodies at least once a day! This starts out as a disciplined practice, but becomes your lifestyle when you find what works for you. For me, I enjoy pilates, yoga, and long walks/hikes with the occasional jog. For you it might be different, like a sport of some kind. Or if you’re in a close, loving relationship…make love often (I’m only remotely jealous!) Whatever it is, do it every day. This, along with regular mindfulness practices, increases not only the obvious physical health improvements, but increases our mental clarity and our inner sense of self. Plus those endorphins- happiness all day long!
–Do not fear the journal. Yes, I had to mention journalling one more time before the year is up. I encourage having a journal on hand to document, at least for the first couple weeks of your ‘mental transformation’. Write down whatever you feel like, whenever you feel like! It helps you sort out thoughts and learn to get to know your own mind and heart much better. I don’t do it every day anymore, but at least a couple times a week or when major things happen to me.
-Meditate and breathe. Whether you full on meditate (you can read my Mindfulness Meditation post HERE), or you just take 1 minute in the bathroom at work to only focus on your breath, this is important every day. It is where the mind and the body come together at a peak to cleanse you and reset your energy and your breath, which is what carries us through each day. Allow yourself to reset as often as you need, and the more you focus on your breath, the more you begin to breathe deep, cleansing, proper breaths as your normal way of breathing. I find the more I do this, the less tense I have become now in stressful situations!
So there you have it dear reader, my two cents on what mindfulness means to me, and a breakdown of how to use it to get more in touch with ourselves every day, and there for be happier. I’m telling you, this is a simple technique (albeit it took time to really wrap my head around and learn to be fully aware!) that has completely changed my life. I am healthier and happier. I speak more honestly, and I shy away much less. My coping skills have strengthened, so my depression is at bay. I have learned not to hide from my feelings but embrace them. I am excited about the future, and for me that is saying alot. I have decided 2015 is the start of a pivotal point in my life, and it all starts with a mindful lifestyle! Here is my list of goals for the new year, all thanks to mindfulness:
-Start my year in Bali (check! happening jan. 15th!), practice yoga, mediation, eating delicious food, exploring a new culture and rejuvenating my mind, body and spirit fully.
-Find a new job, with hours that fit my lifestyle and pay that allows me to save for moving, as well as potentially going back to school for wellness studies!
-Host regular ladies meditation nights (I started a local group a month ago!)
-Write more music and perform with my band
-Only do it if it feels right. And by ‘it’ I mean everything.
-Continue with my Spirit Sister journey in the blogisphere!
Thank you for sharing my journey with me, and I really hope this last post of 2014 has inspired you in some way. If it did, I would love it if you share that with me, and share it with those close to you as well. I hope that you have a wonderful new years eve, and that your 2015 begins on a completely perfect note!
Much love to you! See you next year.