Ways to Be More Mindful in the New Year

Feeling stressed? Even the checkout line at the supermarket can provide an opportunity to practice mindfulness.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Want to be mindful in 2019? Time travel back to your elementary school fire-safety assembly. That’s right: Stop, drop and roll.

Ken Verni, a psychologist and founder/codirector of the New Jersey Center for Mindful Awareness in Highland Park, explains: “By ‘stop,’ I mean take a moment to pause. Drop is dropping your attention into the body, like feeling the ground beneath your feet, your breath moving in and out. Roll means rolling out a welcome mat to the moment, what’s right here before you.”

Mindfulness, says Verni, who has been practicing as well as teaching it more than 20 years, can benefit anyone who uses a cell phone. In other words, all of us.

“Some people feel anxious about things, so they put alerts on their phones,” says Verni. “Say you have an alert on your phone about school shootings. Just the [idea of the] alert can stir up a low-level activation of the nervous system. You want to be careful of all the different feelings your phone can trigger.”

When it gets so bad that a glance at your phone can cause spasms of stress, it’s time to stop, drop and roll. Or else, says Verni, do what the author and activist Anne Lamott once advised. He cites a favorite Lamott quote: “Everything works better if you unplug it for five minutes.” That, says Verni, “is something we can learn from the digital world. Can we, ourselves, stop, rest and come back in five minutes with fresh energy? A lot of times, we can.”

Jaanvi Jhamtani dropped by a recent mindfulness workshop at Rutgers to give the practice a spin.

Jaanvi Jhamtani dropped by a recent mindfulness workshop at Rutgers to give the practice a spin. Photo by Frank Veronsky

True enough, but the practice of mindfulness need not be attempted only by those at rest. When you are not in the lotus position—when you are instead sitting at your kitchen table before a bowl of homemade macaroni and cheese topped with crunchy panko—you are actually in the perfect pose to cultivate mindfulness, says Siobhan Gibbons, a staff psychologist at Rutgers-New Brunswick who teaches a class called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.

“One of the things we learn to do in class is pay attention to what we’re eating and enjoy it,” she says. “You do that by taking the time to sit with your food and consider the pleasure it gives you instead of turning on the TV or looking at your phone. It’s a way to slow down, to develop awareness.”

Eating, though a good option, is not the only one available to those who wish to be mindful while active.

“Lots of people enjoy mindful walking, like paying attention to the air on your skin or the leaves on the trees instead of rushing to your destination thinking, ‘Okay, what do I have to do when I get there?,’” says Gibbons.

“Even when you’re waiting in the checkout line at the supermarket, you can be mindful by taking stock of how you’re feeling, whether it’s tired or energetic or happy, in a nonjudgmental way.”

It’s possible to savor the moment, in other words, when not spooning up mac and cheese. Just be mindful that it’s fine to savor every moment of that, too

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