Want to set a 2020 goal that will have a lasting impact on your life? (Not to mention the lives of your friends, loved ones, and coworkers…) Mindfulness practices not only help to settle stress and anxiety in the mind, they also alleviate many physical ailments and are good for your health.
By adding a dose of mindfulness to your every day, you’ll reap many rewards, including an increase to your overall happiness level. The best part is that for those of us who have already set goals to lose weight, get fit, and eat healthier, mindfulness ties into those, too.
Here are 20 ways to get started this year. Choose one new 2020 goal or try a few!
1. Get Your ZZZ’s
Most of us don’t feel or function at our best when we don’t get enough sleep. And that amount varies for everyone— some people need eight or nine hours of sleep each night to kick butt in their lives, while others can function well on just six. Either way, it’s important to know what that magic number is for you and prioritize your beauty rest accordingly.
When you don’t get enough sleep, or the quality of your sleep is not restful, it takes a giant toll on your mind and body. It probably comes as no surprise that even short-term sleep deficiencies can negatively impact your mental and performance state. For a better quality of life during your waking hours, including the ability to focus and be present and mindful during your day-to-day, make your 2020 goal to get the sleep your body needs.
2. Design a Morning Routine for Success
I’m a huge advocate of morning routines. I used to wake up feeling rushed, which would lead me into the day with the same stressed-out sentiment.
But the first thing you do when you wake up will set the tone for your entire day. If you want to move through your day with ease, energy, awareness and confidence, start your day with activities that encourage those states of mind. If you want to move through your day feeling anxious and irritated, there are things you can do to incite those feelings, too, although I wouldn’t recommend them.
Check out my complete guide to setting up a morning routine for happiness and success.
3. Quit a Bad Habit
It can feel daunting to break a bad habit that you’ve been struggling with for years, but it’s not as hard as you might think if you have a solid plan. Just as you learned to do the thing you’re trying not to do – you can unlearn it, too. Take a look at these seven steps that will help you put an end to this habit for good. With this plan, I outline three common, simple examples of bad habits, and how you can break them following the seven steps. Follow this 7-step plan to break a bad habit for good.
4. Learn to Be More Patient
While the thought of waiting for something you want or need seems easy in theory, it is much more arduous in practice. The good news is that even the most impatient people can improve patience. And there are ample opportunities to practice being patient, given the inevitable inconveniences, annoyances, and unplanned challenges that show up pretty much all the time. So you want to get better at patience? You must practice patience. Here are seven strategies you can use to build your patience muscles.
Walking meditation is a great way to slow down your mind and movements. We spend too much of our time rushing from point A to point B. Walking meditation is an opportunity to do just the opposite — think of walking meditation as a slow stroll without any other purpose or destination except to stroll — and be with any experiences that come up while putting one foot in front of the other. Follow the instructions and advice in this post to get started with walking meditation.
6. Sign Up for a Meditation Class
Meditation is the ultimate practice to add to your days to practice mindfulness. To jump start your practice, try making your 2020 goal to sign up for and commit to a class. It’ll answer any questions you have as you get started and help you make it a habit. I recommend MBSR, or mindfulness-based stress reduction, an eight-week program offered at a variety of universities and hospitals around the world. I loved the accountability, structure, and camaraderie that came with learning as a group. If you can’t get to a class, try an online version of the MBSR program.
If you say yes to too many things or over-plan your schedule, it can make you feel as if you’re spread too thin. And there’s nothing mindful about having more to-dos than hours in the day.
At the beginning of each day (or end of each day for the following day), make a to-do list that only includes three things. You may be tempted to add more than three things, but don’t. If you’re feeling stressed and it’s because you have too much to do, take five minutes to write down all that’s swimming in your head, and then prioritize. Removing items off your to-do list that aren’t important so you can focus on what is, is incredibly helpful to reduce feelings of overwhelm. Remember, if your to-do list is overwhelmed, chances are you are, too.
8. Schedule Device-Free Time Each Week
One of the biggest roadblocks to maintaining a peaceful mindset is technology. Between our laptops, tablets and smart phones, as a culture, we have become slaves to notifications, dings and beeps.
Try designating device-free windows of time where you ditch your device and stay in the present moment, instead. Here are some ideas:
- Go for a walk every day without your phone
- Ditch your phone every Sunday, making that conscious effort to take a technology break. If you like the idea but aren’t ready to go that far, try just Sundays from noon – 4 p.m.
- Silence your phone every evening from 6-8 p.m. (or another two-hour window of time)
- Take one weekend a month and go somewhere in nature without cell service. If you have more willpower, you can simply avoid using your device instead of going somewhere that doesn’t allow you to connect. I don’t have that kind of willpower, so I like to travel without service.
- Create conscious intentions around picking up your phone: Ask yourself, do I really need that info, or do I need something else?
9. Go Outside
Spend at least 10 minutes outside each day (without your smart phone, if possible … see #8 ) connecting with nature as your 2020 goal. Feel the wind, listen to the birds, notice the flowers, smile at the passers-by…
10. Practice Yoga
Mindful movement is a great way to practice mindfulness, especially if it’s hard for you to sit still.
In yoga, we start with the body—allowing the body and breath to lead, and the mind to follow. Many people find their way to meditation and mindfulness through yoga because it’s easier to focus on the physical body first. For me, it was the entry point to the entire world of mindfulness.
Plus, it can be a great way to get some exercise, stretch your body, and break a sweat.
11. Get Some Exercise
If yoga isn’t your thing, choose your own exercise here to anchor your mind. Run, hike, surf, play a sport … anything that gets you in the zone is a great activity to practice mindfulness. Surfers often note that everything else in the world disappears when they’re riding a wave; those who practice tai chi practice with such grace and attention; Running is my favorite way to get in the zone—there’s a reason they call it the runner’s high. But really, any activity that puts you in that heightened state of awareness will do.
12. Develop Your Curiosity Muscles
Being curious has a host of benefits. When you’re curious, problem solving becomes easier because you see more options, paths, and ways of solving a problem than your non-curious counterparts. You question more; you gather more opinions; you don’t stop at the first solution – which can lead to greater possibilities. And, curiosity can definitely help you stay present and mindful to all that surrounds you.
You don’t have to be naturally curious to adopt an attitude of curiosity. Here are three exercises to practice developing your curiosity muscles.
13. Go on a Retreat or Plan a Relaxing Getaway
Make your 2020 goal to plan a mindfulness getaway. Getting away from your day-to-day life and spending some hard-earned down time in a new place is a great way to infuse a giant dose of mindfulness into your year. The trick is: don’t over-plan your trip! Even better, don’t plan anything at all … except time to relax.
14. Practice Gratitude
It’s easy to be thankful for things and people and gestures that do us right. But it’s also easy to quickly forget. Practicing gratitude — actively — is becoming more aware of the things you treasure and appreciate in your life, leaving behind a sense of happiness and mindfulness, bundled up and stashed in your heart. Here are five ways to squeeze in a dose of gratitude.
15. Eat Mindfully
Eating mindfully is one of the most challenging practices for me; it’s become a bad habit for me to scarf down my food, however long it took me to prepare.
But mindful eating is also incredibly rewarding. When you appreciate and taste each detail of your meal, it’s a truly enjoyable experience and practice in patience. Start your 2020 goal by eating one meal a week mindfully and see how it feels. Follow these guidelines, inspired by Jon Kabat-Zinn, for a mindful eating practice.
16. Spend Quality Time Connecting with Loved Ones
Schedule some quality time with those you love. Go to dinner, play a game, have a conversation — and try to keep your smart phone resting on the sidelines to really connect with your present company. You can also try this mindful listening practice to connect even deeper with those around you.
17. Learn How to Say No
Saying NO is one of the most difficult things on earth. In some cases, you may genuinely want to do the thing that’s requested of you — you just have a limitation of some kind. In other cases, you know deep down that you shouldn’t say YES because you simply don’t have enough interest or stake in the request — but you don’t want to let anyone down, disappoint, or be perceived as rigid, unkind, or negative. Learning to say no is one of the most important skills to have in order to focus on the things you really care about in life. Here’s how to say no in the most diplomatic way.
18. Listen to Music
Instead of flipping the TV on as soon as you get home or phoning a friend, tune into some relaxing music at the end of the workday. Music is a powerful tool to boost your mood, spark an emotion, and calm your soul. Check out these two music playlists — created for meditation, but perfect for unwinding any time.
19. Space Out Activities on Your Calendar
Ever notice when you move from one activity to the next is often where you rush the most? Getting from point A to point B can be stressful. What if there’s a point A ½ that we didn’t quite plan for?
If running late raises your anxiety levels, start penciling in your transition times. For example, if you have to be at the doctor’s office at 9 and it takes 20 minutes, clearly put on your calendar when you will leave, ala: “Leave for Doctor” at 8:30 or 8:35. Leaving an extra five or 10 minutes between events in your day takes the edge off and allows you to slow down.
Creating bigger cushions in your day and planning to arrive a few minutes early will allow you to meet unforeseen traffic unfazed, and allow you to take a few deep, mindful breaths with that extra time before your next meeting, activity, or event begins.
And of course, this list would not be complete without adding meditation as an option for your 2020 goal. Meditation makes you more focused, productive, creative, compassionate, less stressed, and overall a healthier and happier human. Need I say more?
If you’re still not convinced, check out 10 benefits of meditation here.
If you’re ready to practice, check out the 10 rules for new meditators to help you get started.