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How to Start off the New Year with Mindfulness

By Jennifer Jones, USMC, AAKP Board Member and Ambassador

If you are ending this year with a certain degree of stress, it's okay. There is nothing wrong with you. Calling this year overwhelming would be an understatement. Those of us with chronic kidney disease may be accustomed to uncertainty. However, many weren't prepared for the psychological and physiological impacts this pandemic has caused.

One thing that is certain, however, is that we humans are resilient. To cope with what has happened and to continue to navigate the unknown into the new year, developing a practice of mindfulness can help us tune in to what we're sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future. Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the surrounding environment through a gentle and nurturing lens.

A few simple ways to practice mindfulness include:

  • Taking time to experience your environment with all of your senses - touch, sight, sound, smell, and taste. You can do this while eating or taking a walk in nature for example.
  • Try to intentionally find joy in simple pleasures. Slow down and live in the moment with everything that you do.
  • Treat yourself the way you would a cherished loved one. Try not to be so hard on yourself when things aren't going your way.
  • When you are experiencing negative thoughts and emotions, sit down, close your eyes, and take a deep breath. Focus on your breath as it moves in and out of your body. Even just one minute of this will help but take as long as you need to feel calm again.

Mindfulness isn't an instant solution to happiness, however, when practiced on a consistent basis, it is scientifically proven to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Being present in the moment also helps you discover more reasons to be grateful that you may have missed while distracted by negative thoughts and beliefs that aren't serving you.

This year has taken a toll on all of us and it is easy to focus on everything that has gone (and is still going) wrong. However, I ask you instead to take a moment to remember moments of kindness and compassion that you have witnessed or experienced.

Remember and honor those who lost their lives this year by continuing to make your health and well-being a priority.

Mindfulness resources: