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Mindfulness and Mindset: An Antidote to the Pressure of the New Year Goal

Updated: Jan 10

The New Year can be an overwhelming time, with so much inner and outer pressure to set goals.  There’s nothing wrong with goal-setting, of course, but there is a danger in jumping to what we think we “should” be doing.  

I’d like to offer what I think is often missing in fitness, which is the role our minds play.   Without saying too much about them, here’s two simple yet profound exercises to try.

  1. A Mindfulness Meditation Primer.  Sit quietly in a place with no distractions.  Gently place your attention on your breath.  Be aware of each inhalation and exhalation.  Sense the particular feelings and sensations that occur in your body.  If you sit for more than a few moments, inevitably you’ll find your mind drifting to different thoughts.  This isn’t bad; in fact, it’s the point of the exercise, which is to notice that you are thinking.  Are thoughts are quite like the air we breathe, so to notice this atmosphere–and that you are somehow not the atmosphere–is a major perception.  So when you notice that you are thinking, mentally label it as “Thinking” and return your attention to your breath.  Even a few minutes a day of this practice begins to build a deep awareness of the distance between you and your thoughts.  This distance is an aspect of what could be called “mindfulness” and is an incredibly powerful tool for living a life less driven by our personal narratives.

2. The Curiosity List.  Take some time with pen and paper to simply list things that you are curious about.  Don’t edit yourself, and allow your hand to keep up with your thoughts, no matter what comes up.  Maybe it’s what the new restaurant is like downtown.  Or how they build those giant suspension bridges across rivers.  Or what living in Spain is like.   Nothing in this list is a binding pact that you must explore, but the idea is to encourage your curiosity about the world and yourself. You may wish to set a timer for several minutes. You may also be surprised by how inexhaustable your curiosity is!

If you really wish to get the most out of these suggestions, try doing each for several minutes a day for at least a week or longer.  This is a particular kind of subtle yet deep work that can make an immense difference to our perceptions of ourselves and our lives.   I’d be–ahem–curious to see the effects they have on your New Year’s outlook.

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