After a tough couple of years, we’re all looking forward to a less chaotic, more tranquil 2023 (please GOD let this be a year of chill!). But how do we achieve that when we’re busier than ever, under financial pressure, and fighting off the languishing legacy of 2022? We asked Natasha Rix, co-founder of Pause Breathe Smile, for practical ways to integrate mindfulness into your everyday in 2023 to up your resilience, grow your gratitude, and help you to stay calm as you carry on with life.
Be your own wellbeing expert
Being more mindful can feel like a tall order in our hectic lives. You finish one job — in the workplace or at your work-from-home desk — at the end of the ‘working’ day, and then start your second job of cooking, cleaning, trying to be a good friend, daughter, and parent. And while at work there’s legislation to make sure your mental health is supported, your desk setup is ergonomic and your hours are reasonable, at home there’s no HR manager looking out for you. It falls to you to take care of your own mental health. Mindfulness, the practice of being in the present and staying aware of your thoughts, feelings and surroundings, is a proven way to improve your state of mind, and it’s easier to do than you might think.
The paralysis of analysis
Start by reviewing your own wellbeing with a self-assessment. This might feel weird because you’re used to taking care of everyone else, but identify your own stress points and the triggers in your life that make you frazzled. Is it dinnertime and knowing what to cook? Is it fitting a dog walk into the day? Is it your workload at your day job? Really try and break it down to different areas you can address one at a time.
Once you name a particular stressor, find a simple solution. If it’s cooking dinners, create a list of five meals you rotate each week, create a standardised online shopping list, and hit repeat each week. You’ve now freed up some mental space and have one less ball in the air.
Be in the moment, for a moment
There is value in planning ahead — we don’t want to forget to pay the bills or go to a meeting — but it’s good to minimise the overwhelm that comes with it. I’ve learnt to love lists! Once it’s written down it’s no longer for rumination in my head; it’s there on paper and I’ll get to it when I can. It helps to get me out of that perpetual busy state of mind.
A mindfulness practice will also help to build self-awareness and to relate positively to others, but it doesn’t have to be about sitting down to meditate everyday. Women race through their chores to then ‘do’ calm, but you can do calm and serene in your chores instead, by practising it. I used to mindlessly load and empty the dishwasher until I realised that if I did it mindfully, with belly breathing, while feeling my feet on the ground and being in the moment, I took that calmer energy onto the next thing I did.
Know and let go, don’t get caught and distraught
Once you have created a solution to something stressful and you’ve got it underway, work to let it go in a knowing way to avoid getting stuck in the distress. Stay focussed on what you’re doing, rather than multitasking. Distracting ourselves while doing things creates busy energy and tension and it’s a complete fallacy that it helps you to get more done. Rather, the more mindful you are, the easier it will be to manage more things. It’s an attitudinal shift.
Be realistic about your progress. Women are so hard on themselves: we start well on something like mindfulness and then something happens — a big work project, a bout of illness — and it disrupts our consistency. We berate ourselves for failing and that negative narration makes us feel even worse than when we started. So tell yourself that life can only be lived one day at a time. Let the next moment take care of itself and try to stay away from putting pressure on yourself to ‘succeed’ at being more resilient.
Respond rather than react
Mindful people don’t live a magical, stress free life; it’s how they respond to stressors that’s different. Try to respond rather than react. A Harvard University study into happiness found that people spend 47% of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they are actually doing and it doesn’t make them happier. The data showed that even in unpleasant situations, like being stuck in traffic, the people that accepted and breathed through it were more calm.
When a stressful scenario arises, stop, acknowledge the situation and breathe through it. Feel the air coming in and coming out of your nostrils. Feel your body relax as you exhale. A guided breathing meditation or a body scan meditation (there are many free ones online and on apps like Insight Timer and Calm) can help you to calm your nervous system and reset. It’s in that moment of the pause that you can make that change in the way you respond to tough situations.
Grab some gratitude
Rewarding yourself with chocolate, a glass of wine, or a Netflix binge when you’re feeling low is normal, but it’s only effective in the short term. We call this ‘Treat Happiness’. To stop life feeling like a grind, you have to get out of Treat Happiness and cultivate more ‘Peace Inside Happiness’. So take a walk, get into nature, connect with the people you love instead of watching six hours of The White Lotus. These activities will bring about more Peace Inside Happiness, which has long term benefits for your mental health.
Thinking about just one thing you are grateful for can also make a big difference in your day. At the dinner table each night, or at regular team meetings, go around the room and say one thing you are grateful for. It doesn’t have to be something big and fancy; just a small win. This is also a great thing to do if you have kids. Children can experience increased anxiety and stress from a young age, so bring them into your mindful moments and teach them to breathe through it, find something to be grateful for and to be in the moment. They will become more resilient when life is tricky, and kinder to themselves and their friends, and that’s something the world could do with a lot more of in 2023.