- Studies have found that only a small percentage of persons achieve their resolutions.
- Focusing on simple and realistic practices helps people reach positive goals.
- Actionize your happiness with proven practices for reducing anxiety, such as breath, gratitude, and curiosity.
No one denies that the holiday season is stress-filled. Now it's over, right? You should feel relieved, yes?
Well, that might be the case if you didn't worry about what is coming next, such as more pandemic concerns, prices rising even more, and achieving your 2023 goals and resolutions.
It would be silly for me to claim those stresses don't exist, or that they don't create anxiety. Of course they do. There are even studies that show how few people attain their New Year resolutions, thus producing a self-induced sense of failure and more stress.
Fortunately, there is an antidote to stress. As stress researcher Hans Selye once said, "It's not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it."
The antidote I'm going to share here involves one-minute mindfulness tips (from the book One-Minute Mindfulness) that can transform your New Year. You'll be surprised how easy they are to implement and integrate into your day.
3 Simple Tools to Actionize Your Happiness
1. Just Breathe. This tip can help you relax anytime a situation is making you feel impatient, tense, or anxious. In the next minute, you can perform this stress-defying maneuver, one breath at a time.
The secret: You need to belly-breathe into the deepest part of the lungs. This expands your abdominal cavity all the way around, like when you blow into a balloon.
How does a belly breath help you relax? By turning on the body's relaxation response. It occurs when the abdominal cavity expands and pushes on the inside of the spine, which presses the vagus nerve and turns on the response that lowers blood pressure, pulse rate, and makes you feel calmer.
Right now, practice taking a deep breath, letting your belly move freely with the in-breath. Imagine surfing each breath like a wave, noticing how it rises and falls. Take three of these breaths and with each exhale, feel the tension drain out through your body and out the bottom of your feet. As I like to loudly say in my workshops as I exhale, "Aaaahhhh." How sweet is the breath.
2. Practice Gratitude. Think of gratitude as a potent vaccine that inoculates you against negativity. Instead of letting annoyances get to you, apply the cleansing power of gratitude to wash and scrub out the negativity from almost any situation. Gratitude is not a magic trick, yet it can make a half-empty glass appear half full. In fact, research has shown that gratitude can reduce depression and increase feelings of optimism and well-being.
Locating gratitude is a good way to cope with difficult, stressful, and negative experiences. If you are feeling any kind of negative emotion, counteract it in the next 60 seconds by noticing something for which you are grateful, such as paying attention to all the little good things in your life. This can include basic things like the chair you sit on, shelter, food, warmth, and clothing. Also personal things that support you, such as your health, the work you do, having transportation, etc. Don't forget the array of relationships that support, enhance, and enrich your life. There are so many ordinary things to be grateful for.
3. Be Curious. The third practice is about bringing an attitude of childlike curiosity to any event—even that gathering or office party that you dread attending. In Zen Buddhism, there is a term for overcoming the tendency to be stuck in old mindsets: “beginner’s mind” or “don’t-know mind. It’s a reminder to constantly let go of all our preconceived ideas.
Curiosity, or beginner’s mind, asks us to contact and experience whatever is happening as if for the first time—be it encountering a rude salesperson, being stuck in a long line at the store, or trying to find a gift at the last minute. For example, instead of being locked in a negative, stressed-out mindset, don’t-know mind opens us to the possibility that the next 60 seconds will unfold with their own beauty and wonder. In this liberating mindset, for example, you may stop for a minute to listen to the chirping of birds that harken springtime, or you might pause to have a conversation with someone who is nearby.
You might even pretend you are a child again, and imagine how that child would view the situation—or that person—in a fresh way. With this more open and spacious view, you are no longer clenched up and anxious, but filled with wonder and anticipation. How wonderful to be curious.
Don't give up on using these three simple tools. Make a point of using each at least once a day for a week. Write down your experiences. Check in with how these shift your moods. Then, if you like the results, keep using them for the next month. I hope you will find these mindfulness practices useful as you embrace a fulfilling 2023.