January 14, 2017

The 12-Month Mindful Challenge.

It would appear that Elephant Journal unknowingly shaped my year.

Last night as I was preparing to kiss this year goodbye and embrace the next with open arms, I found a Facebook live video in which Waylon mused that “resolutions” can feel incredibly guilt-laden, and that it’s easier on ourselves and others if we consider changing our language around the new year to focus on “aspirations” rather than “resolutions.”

In pondering my own aspirations, I thought it might be easiest to do what every success coach says we should do, and break these aspirations into manageable chunks. Smaller time periods are much less daunting.

Inspired in part by The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, I opted to think up 12 ways to be more mindful this coming year. Some of these things touch on my vices; others are the same things I say I’ll do every dang year (and I’m getting sick of my own BS).

This is the roadmap I’m using. I hope to build on each one, and by the end of the year, be a steam train of awesomeness (or at least, more mindful).

January: Live within your means.

I’ve struggled with needless spending for ages. This month, I’m going to eat food I already have in my house and only buy what I need. In addition, I’m going to try and pack my lunch for work instead of buying from the food court. This will be the first month in my adult life that I create (and stick to) a budget.

February: Reduce waste.

When I first joined the Elephant Journal Apprenticeship, I was intrigued and inspired by an article I read by Josette Myers. Reduce waste enough to only use one mason jar for an entire year’s worth of waste? Say what? That concept has, admittedly, never been on my radar. I’m not careless about waste, but I wouldn’t say I’m passionate about green issues either. That’s shifting, so I’m building it in as a part of my quest for a more mindful year.

March: Meat-free. (Eek!)

Inspired by Hilda Carroll’s “Meat-Free Monday” posts and a couple of other super rad vegans I know, I’m going to forego meat this month. I’ve never done this and I’m not sure I can—which seems like a great reason to try. (Not to mention that this will help me build on my love for the planet, too!)

April: Send the Love.

Send a handwritten letter of gratitude to one person each day during this month. So many people in our lives go without thanks, not knowing the influence that they are having on a day-to-day basis. Plus, who doesn’t love getting mail, right?

May: Ditch the disposable.

I’m determined to kick my to-go cup addiction. I love a good Tim Horton’s Iced Capp or Starbucks Frappuccino, but not only are these drinks incredibly high in sugar and bad for me, the number of throw-away cups I go through in a year is ridiculous, as is the amount of plastic covering each of them. Recently, my roommate told me that these drinks cannot be made in a reusable cup. That alone should be reason enough to kick the habit. Instead, I’ll opt for water or tea. A mantra I’ve found to help me make healthier choices is: “Is this fuel or is it toxic?” It might seem dramatic, but it helps me to stay focused. The same thing applies to our earth as it does to our bodies.

June: Get moving!

This will be a set amount of time dedicated to movement each day. This could be done in a social way, like an exercise class or a nature walk with a friend, or at home on the treadmill.

July: Screen detox.

It’s incredible how anxious I become if I’m separated from my smartphone. I know I’m not alone in this. This month, the goal is to limit screen time each day and quit using a cell phone as an alarm clock.

August: Passion pursuit.

Be intentional about carving out time to work on things you love. I know, this can seem impossible. But: “If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” ~ Jim Rohn

September: Embrace the silence.

As an extrovert, I’ve never been great at this, but I’m drawn to people who practice yoga and meditation as if it’s some kind of mystery. (I know it’s not, but I’ve always wanted a slice of that peace, and even that statement sounds contradictory.) This month, find time to sit in silence. Practice yoga or meditation. Be with nature, or be with yourself. It’s worth it.

October: Give.

Find at least one thing to give away for each of the 31 days this month. Get creative. This doesn’t just need to be about stuff. Giving could consist of volunteering your time for an organization that you’re passionate about, or working a less desirable shift for a coworker just because.

November: Poke a bruise. 

Everyone has things that they wish they were better at. Focus on those things this month. This will be a challenge, but you’ll come out the other side feeling like a damn warrior. (I’ve already started making mathematical flashcards).

December: Exercise the two most powerful words—yes and no.

Learn to use them and mean them, the first time. Do not apologize for doing so.

If you do decide to take on any part of this journey, please leave a comment so we can connect. I’m anticipating this new year to be one that brings forward motion for many of us. Whether we choose to do all, a few, or none of these things, know that I’m cheering for you.

May it be of benefit!



Author: Jen Schwartz

Image: Eric Rothermel/Unsplash

Editor: Catherine Monkman

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