It’s the very start of a new year so you know that means tons of “New Year, New Me” posts. And I am here to jump on the bandwagon!
The fresh start feeling that comes with the beginning of the year is so satisfying for me. Almost like climbing in a freshly made bed after you just shaved your legs. My eagerness and excitement to get this year started is definitely no different from the year’s past.
I’m trying something new to kick off January: a reflection on things I want to take with me into 2022. To be completely transparent, I haven’t always been a huge fan of reflecting because I tend to focus on what I didn’t make happen. But 22 is my favorite number so it feels like a big year for me and I want to kick it off with a bang.
Here are 5 things that I focused on in 2021 that I’ll be keeping in my bag of tricks for 2022.
1. Being present.
Presence is a practice that I made a priority last year. I could feel myself letting my life slip by with constant running thoughts. Always feeling like I had somewhere to be or something to do. In 2021, I made it a point to be more focused on the here in my life. I made a mantra: I am here, in this moment. It helps to remind me that no one really needs me to do or be anything besides what I am doing and being in each moment.
Through focusing on presence, I started to see how much beauty there is to be witnessed. For example, how awesome are plants and trees? It’s like the universe’s way of saying, look what happens when you focus on your own growth.
Presence also helped me to become more kind and compassionate with myself. At first, it was hard for me to remain present. I’d reach for my phone or totally check out and find these intrusive, almost cruel thoughts, about not being able to stay present. In those moments, I gently reminded myself that it’s okay to be new at things. I wasn’t going to be Buddha overnight.
Presence is a practice that needs attention on a moment-to-moment basis. If you’re new to it, take your time and be gentle with yourself. Play it like a game, reward yourself when you feel accomplished in your presence.
It may sound cliche and I can feel the eye rolls already. However, gratitude has always been what leads me back to myself. It was the first “spiritual” practice that I began way back in 2017 when I really felt like my life was a jumbled mess. I found that if I could focus on just one thing to be grateful for, more would follow.
I started a gratitude journal where I’d write down 3-5 things I could feel gratitude for in the day that just happened. Small things, big things, it didn’t matter. At first, it felt daunting to try and come up with 3-5 things every day, and now, it happens with ease. It’s such a refreshing way to hit the pillow at night and I truly believe it makes waking up in the morning better too.
If you are new to the practice, start with the obvious. The roof over your head, the way your covers feel, the cool cup that you love to drink water from. And then I invite you to check in with how your body feels as you think about those things. For me, it feels like I’m getting a really warm hug from something far greater than I am.
That feeling is what will start to amplify as the universe delivers you thing after thing to feel grateful for. Gratitude is nothing short of life-changing.
3. My breath
Another one of my favorite things that I practiced in 2021 was focusing on my breathing. When I am feeling like I’m running a thousand miles a minute, my breath brings me back. If I am too stuck in my head about a problem, back to my breath I go. It helps me to get into my body and getting into my body brings me back to the present moment.
When I started to remember my breath, I saw how shallow my breathing always felt. When yoga teachers and other coaches talked about breathing into your belly, I thought they were crazy. There’s no way I could push my breath all the way down there. As I paid attention to it, I began to see what they meant.
Being able to shut out the world and breathe deeply into my belly has reduced my stress and anxiety immensely. It makes things seem more manageable and less scary. I’ve also been able to deepen my connection with my body and as a result, understand my emotions better.
This is another practice where you can start where you are. If you have never thought about your breathing before, you aren’t alone. I encourage you to pay attention to it, if even just for a moment. Take your time and let it be easy.
4. Intentional listening
Boy, oh boy has this been a game-changer all around for me. Intentional listening is when you focus completely on what the other person is saying. There is no need to react to them with a head nod or an “uh-huh.” Work on being completely present with them and what they are saying.
This practice has taken effort on my part. I was shocked when I began at how many times I went to say something that really added no value to the conversation. And it was startling to discover how much I had to be nodding my head or encouraging a conversation that didn’t really need it.
This is something that I come back to every day and time and time again throughout the day. And it’s probably the most rewarding one on the list. I’ve learned so much about myself and the people I love with intentional listening. It’s deepened relationships in ways that not many things have and I believe it’s made me a better person.
5. Soul writing
I learned about soul writing a couple of years ago and it’s something I don’t know if I could survive without anymore. Soul writing is taught by Janet Conner and I learned it from my good friend Amy Isaman. It takes your morning journaling a step further by intending to connect with your inner being.
When I began this practice, I didn’t know what to expect but I was compelled to keep doing it. And after a few weeks, I couldn’t stop. The dedication to myself and creating the time and space for this every day has easily been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.
The things that have come out of my life as a result of forming this connection are so beautiful. It’s everything. I cannot speak highly enough of this practice.
There you have it, friend. So whether you are into the new year, new you or it’s just another ordinary day, try one or all of these out.
They have helped me to deepen my connection to myself. They’ve helped me to feel things I never thought possible.
And I think that’s all we really want anyway. To develop a connection with ourselves because once we do that, connections with everyone else become that much more satisfying.