With a new year comes resolutions and aspirations for a happier, healthier life. We leave – or at least, try our very best to leave – unhealthy habits in the past and build habits that will make us more grounded, more content and, ultimately, more successful.
This is easier said than done, however, especially when you consider mental health. More of us are more stressed than ever before, and the past few years have done nothing to provide comfort. From pandemics to global recessions, we certainly have a lot on our minds – and we don’t give ourselves nearly enough time to unwind.
Think about the sheer amount of time the average person spends on social media – In 2022, it was reported that this figure stands at 2 hours and 30 minutes daily. If anything, this figure seems low. We live our lives online to a large extent, and we have everything at our fingertips; the constant immersion never stops. But to give your mind a chance to reset and recover, it might be necessary to check out, unplug and practise some mindfulness.
Mindfulness has been known to improve well-being, resulting in a happier, more satisfied life. What’s more, mindfulness may even be helpful for physical health, resulting in better sleep, reduced chronic pain and fewer stomach upsets. But where to start? If you’ve never before contemplated mindfulness, here are seven mindfulness strategies you could try in 2023 for a happier you.
Table of Contents
1. Crafting and being creative
Anyone who has done anything creative can tell you that there is a certain peace that goes along with it. You often hear about artists getting ‘in the zone’, phasing out reality for a few precious minutes while they focus on detail, colour and shapes. Some people find activities such as knitting particularly therapeutic, given the repetitive nature of the hobby, while others like to paint. Some enjoy colouring mindfulness designs, while others turn to sublimation designs, superimposing images onto mugs, stationary or shirts. Whatever the case, there are some real benefits to getting creative, particularly if you’re a highly analytical person who spends most of your day behind a computer screen. Remember, you don’t need to be any good – what matters is the activity itself, not the outcome.
This one can be done by anyone, anywhere, at any time. The act of simply walking somewhere and letting your mind wander, can be hugely liberating. If possible, try to get outside and walk in nature. Take in everything around you, and you can’t help but become reconnected to the world and realise we are only one small part of a bigger picture – which really helps to put our problems into perspective. Take your time, walk slowly, and give your thoughts a chance to really slow down.
3. Building a gratitude list
It can be so easy to focus on what we’re lacking, what we need and what we so desperately want, but more important is acknowledging what we have and what we’re grateful for; accepting and embracing where we are rather than where we could be. One centring mindful activity is to build a gratitude list, which involves listing each thing in life you love and are grateful for. People who practise this try to add new items every day. It’s best done in the morning to start your day off on a good note, and it can make for really comforting, inspirational reading material when you’re feeling down.
If you don’t possess a single green thumb on either hand, all is not lost, as with crafting, you don’t need to be an expert, you just need to try. Gardening serves three purposes: it gets you out in nature, it gives you a simple, single task to do (planting seeds, watering flowers, or digging up weeds), and it can be physically demanding, all of which combine to help focus your mind and pull you into the moment. If you don’t have your own garden, you can always plant flowers or vegetables on the windowsill, or perhaps get an allotment – there are options open to you.
5. Cleaning and decluttering
It might not be the most exciting of prospects, but if you set aside some time dedicated to cleaning and clearing out, you might be surprised at how it clears out your mind, too. We live in a day and age that values things – we are always buying more, but how much of what you have in your home do you really love, need and use? How much of it is just an inconvenience and in the way? Clutter creates chaos, and once your home is free of clutter, it’s easier to keep clean and tidy, which will save you time in the long run.
Maybe you had a journal when you were younger, maybe you didn’t, but keeping a journal as an adult is likely to be a very different experience. Less so is journaling about exactly what you did, but more about how you felt and what you thought. This type of reflection and introspection is a hugely valuable mindfulness tool that will help you better understand your reactions to life and why you react the way you do in certain situations. Also, the act of physically writing your thoughts down on paper can force you to slow down and take time to be in the moment and to reflect.
This is possibly the most obvious and intimidating of all the mindfulness activities mentioned so far. If you’ve never meditated before, you might not know where to start. You might be worried about getting it wrong. What’s important to know is that meditation isn’t about clearing your mind of thoughts. Rather, it’s about being present in the moment and feeling a sense of calm, peace and balance. Take the time to close your eyes and be in the moment. Listen to everything around you – the wind outside, the dog snoring next to you, breathe calmly, take note of what you can smell and what you can feel. Don’t let yourself get fixated on work, money worries or other life concerns. This moment is about you, and for about five minutes out of every day, you can take the time to be by yourself, unrushed and unpressured.
There are many different ways to centre yourself and to be mindful throughout the day – everyone is different, and we will all prefer different activities. What matters is finding the perfect mix of techniques that work for you so you want to keep them up and practise them every day – for a happier, more content you.