The start of a new year is the perfect time to examine yourself and your life, be proud of what you’ve accomplished in the past twelve months, and plan for what you’d like to work on in the coming dozen. Self-improvement can be difficult, however. So many people give up on their yearly goals after only a month or two because they lack the energy, motivation, direction or positivity about their chances for success, or they become overwhelmed with stress, anxiety or negativity.

Larger goals especially, such as losing a significant amount of weight, paying off debt or creating a healthy work-life balance, can be daunting. In order to have serious chances for success, you need to get yourself into a positive headspace to start, of course — but you also need to find a way to stay positive throughout your journey, practice gratitude for small victories along the way, and reduce stress and anxiety about how you’re progressing. What’s the one method that can help you accomplish all of this (and more)? It’s simple: practicing mindfulness.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.” Put more simply, mindfulness means living in the moment with an open mind and a sense of peace and acceptance.

How can mindfulness help? Studies show that mindfulness holds all kinds of benefits for those who practice it regularly. Relaxation is one; routinely practicing mindfulness meditation has been proven to decrease stress and anxiety levels, and even to increase brain function and immune strength and lower blood pressure and risk of certain illnesses. The modern world moves extremely quickly, and in order to keep up, we all have to make a conscious effort to take mental breaks and center ourselves from time to time. Reaching any kind of goal becomes harder and more stressful when we don’t give ourselves a chance to rest and achieve peace now and again. Mindfulness can affect your mental as well as your physical health, so whatever goal you’re trying to achieve, whatever worry you’re trying to overcome or make peace with, mindfulness can only help you on your way.

How do I begin practicing mindfulness?

The operative word here is “practice!” Like any other skill, you have to carve out time in your schedule for practicing mindfulness, and you have to be patient with yourself. You can’t expect to reap benefits immediately; instead, you’ll gradually work up to them. Begin by setting aside just five minutes per day, a few times a week, to start. Maybe it’s right after you wake up, in the parking lot before you head into work, in a quiet space on your lunch break, or right before bed. Find an area with few distractions, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Become aware of your body: the sensation of your feet on the floor, your hands in your lap, the breeze ruffling your hair, the way your body moves slightly with each deep breath.

Your mind will wander — a lot, at first. Be patient with yourself, and gently bring it back to your center of awareness. Envision all other thoughts as sailboats on a tranquil lake, passing in front of you as you sit on a dock. It’s okay that they’re there, and you can simply observe them as they pass by while remaining grounded in one spot yourself. The more often you practice achieving this level of deep awareness, the better you’ll feel.
To chart your progress, you may find keeping a meditation journal to be helpful. That way, you’ll be able to see how you improve, which practices work best for you, and how mindfulness affects your daily life!

What can I expect from regularly practicing mindfulness?

The benefits are nearly endless! Decreased stress and anxiety, a stronger sense of gratitude, increased patience, a clearer mind, better sleep and more energy are just some of the outcomes you may experience after becoming a regular practitioner of mindfulness. Once you create a calm space inside your head and train yourself to get there with ease, you’ll be better equipped to handle the curveballs life may throw at you, and you’ll be able to hold a more positive outlook on life and its challenges.
As we all know, the dawn of a new year is the ideal time to kick bad habits and start practicing good ones. In 2018, try setting the intention to practice mindfulness at least a few times a week, even just for five minutes at a time, and let us know how it helps you!

If you feel stress related to your body or fitness level, Bootique Fitness in San Diego is here to help. Not only will our outdoor bootcamp and zumba classes help you get in shape, but our caring, enthusiastic trainers will encourage and coach you every step of the way. When you train with Bootique, you don’t have to worry about coming up with your own workouts from scratch, struggling to find motivation, or feeling alone in your fitness journey. Between regular mindfulness practice and our supportive community of Bootiquers, your chances for finding success with your fitness goals and with managing your stress are far greater! Contact us to sign up for a free trial class with Bootique Fitness in La Jolla, Mission Valley, Hillcrest or Mission Bay, and let us help you get started on achieving your 2018 goals!