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Becoming More Mindful in 2016

January 15, 2016

Everyone has their resolutions, and by now they’ve come…and probably gone. Most people have specific goals on January 1, and the top three for 2016 included (in order): 1) Lose weight; 2) Get organized; 3) Save more.

Not surprising information. Also not surprising: 73 percent of people give up on New Year’s resolutions before meeting their goals. So maybe resolutions aren’t the way to go. That’s where the idea of mindfulness comes in.

What is Mindfulness?

Merriam-Webster defines Mindfulness as, “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis; also: such a state of awareness.” While mindfulness is not a new concept (having roots in Buddhist philosophy), it has gained traction recently due to recent studies that point to its potential benefits. By refraining from multitasking and practicing active listening, initial studies are indicating that you could be impacting your life in a positive way. Read on to learn more.  

Mindfulness Helps You Make Smarter Decisions.

Ever stood by a decision just because you spent so much time/money/energy on it, and not because it was wise? Then you’ve been a victim of the “sunk-cost” bias. A study by researchers at INSEAD in Singapore and The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania concluded that just a few minutes (fifteen, actually) of mindfulness meditation reduced subjects’ vulnerability to the sunk-cost bias. In short, less time wasted on a bad judgement call.

Mindfulness Improves Memory and Academic Performance.

In a study published in Psychological Science, students who had participated in attention-building exercises showed better short-term memory and improved their score on a verbal reasoning test.

Mindfulness has the Potential to Help with Weight Loss and Eating Healthier.

Remember our top resolution to lose weight? If you’re prone to eating in front of the TV, mindfulness could help turn that bad habit around. Mindfulness helps you lose weight by directing you to truly concentrate on your food.  By slowing down it, you are both allowing your stomach to signal to your brain that it’s full and enjoying your meal more.

Mindfulness Can Help Reduce Stress.

Research suggests that mindfulness may actually help ease psychological stressors such as anxiety, depression, and pain. Participants often report that they even sleep better. By training themselves to focus on the present, those who practice mindfulness tend to show less anxiety than individuals that do not.

How do you Practice Mindfulness?

Like most things, it takes practice. Regular meditation will help give you the discipline you need; try reading mediation books or listening to guided podcasts for practice. Another way to practice mindfulness is to set reminders to regularly “check in” with yourself throughout the day. How are you feeling? What is affecting you? Even acknowledging feelings of stress can help you keep calm in high-pressure environments, such as your workplace. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, recognizing feelings of anxiety can actually help you let go of negative thoughts.

Resolutions come and go, but maybe instead of resolving to do things, we should just try to be more mindful of them. Mindfulness may be experiencing a rise in popularity, but not without reason. Losing those ten pounds will probably improve your health — but why not look into the cause as to why you gained them in the first place? By just being aware of what causes you stress, and why you are reacting the way you are to a situation, you can control your reaction. What is a resolution if you don’t actually resolve anything, after all?