From a mindfulness perspective we definitely don’t need an arbitrary reason, such as opening a new calendar, to start fresh, choose a new path or to decide to be there for ourselves.
But if January 1st is the societal point in time that we have collectively chosen to take a moment to consider our futures and try to benefit the planet…then yahoo!
Go for it, I say.
But I’d like to suggest a New Year’s Resolution that might not be the first to come to mind for most people.
Yes, there are New Year’s resolutions about changing habits that alter the shape of our bodies, and there are resolutions around how we handle money, hoping more will come in and less will go out.
And there are lovely, compassionate resolutions about treating the people we love more lovingly.
But what I want to suggest here is a resolution that will change our minds.
Because one unconscious thing people do in their minds and not even realize is have conversations with themselves and other people.
I am talking about those imaginary discussions and debates that we run through our minds with our friends, our lovers, our family members, our co-workers and especially our enemies.
And the habit of these imaginary dialogues is one worth breaking.
It might take a little focus.
It might mean spending some time with ourselves where we aren’t so distracted if we are going to catch these conversations in mid-flow.
Because this New Year’s resolution involves slowing down and being aware of our thoughts. And it also means cultivating a loving attitude towards anything we find (even if we find we are still venting at an ex-lover one year, 10 years, even 20 years later).
The mind is allowed to do anything it wants.
It is us as conscious beings that are responsible to look at the mind and say “Yes, please more of that,” or, “No, thank you, that is not going to benefit me so carry on, now unwanted thought.”
Here are three reasons that when bringing awareness to the mind we should tell the imaginary conversations to hit the road:
#1 We Are Missing Out On the Amazingness of the Moment
Like, for myself, I may have plans to meet a friend for tea in the morning, and I’m getting ready, picking out an outfit, thinking about what time I have to leave, and then as I’m in the shower I’ll suddenly find myself rehearsing what I am going to tell my friend about when we meet. I mean when I examine my mind what I find is that I’m picturing sitting with my friend at the cafe and I am having the conversation with my friend already.
I’m not even there with them yet and I am already having the conversation!
This is crazy when we think about it.
I mean, the shower, what a lovely place. Hot water dripping down, soaking my hair, making me feel all warm and fresh. Why not just experience the shower? Soon enough I’ll be with this friend and once I am there I can decide what I’ll tell them. But no, I am already having a futuristic conversation while in the shower and it is an unnecessary one at that.
When we catch ourselves having these non-existent conversations this is success. A great opportunity to turn back to the moment at hand.
#2 They Stress the Living Daylights Out of Us
And that example of the conversation with a friend I am planning to meet later in the day is a pretty minor example of a self-talk conversation. What about the ones where we’re confronting the people we’re angry at? That is when we can feel our heart pound faster and our blood pressure rise. These are the internal arguments that send our body into fight or flight. And this uncomfortable response is just from having an imaginary conversation about a controversial area or hurtful topic.
This is one of the reasons many of us are way too stressed out and have the health impacts that go with too much stress. Even when there is no stress. Even when we are just drinking a cup of coffee somewhere quiet. In our minds we aren’t somewhere quiet. We are telling off our friend, or debating with our ex, or blaming our parents.
I am sooo guilty of this, too!
But by noticing this artificial stress, from an unreal conversation, we can make a purposeful choice to drop back into the moment, slow down our breathing, see that we are safe and sound and get the health benefits, too, from reducing our stress.
#3. They Are a Waste of Time
So many of us feel like we don’t have enough time. That there are things we want to do that we just can’t get to because we are too busy. Well, here is something we can cut out of our day.
What else could our minds be doing for us instead of having non-existent conversations in our minds that will never lead anywhere?
This is why this is such a great New Year’s resolution, to watch our thoughts for a day or better yet a week, (or even a lifetime), and then we can decide if there is a better use for our minds then by having these imaginary, non-existent chats.
Okay, so I know this isn’t the flashiest of New Year’s resolutions. We won’t get to buy any new clothes, or join a gym, or even write a loving card to someone. But we will be giving a big gift to ourselves. The gift of getting to know our own minds which in turn leads to having more control and choice in our own lives.
Getting a grip on the chatty Cathy’s in our brains will also makes us more present with the people we surround ourselves with.
Because instead of being distracted by the imaginary conversations we are having we can show up with all of ourselves for the real ones.
What a great way to spend next year.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Ruth Lera
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Vince Diloria/Flickr