Why Mindfulness Matters When You’re Setting Goals
By Mekita Rivas, VIDA editor/member
You’ve probably heard the term “mindfulness.” It’s been a buzzword for a few years now, with articles and influencers telling us that we all need to be more mindful. But what, exactly, does that even mean? Is it daily meditation? Going on wellness retreats? Escaping to a cabin in the woods for a week?
Well…yes and no. Mindfulness can look a lot of ways depending on your personality and priorities. But it definitely doesn’t need to be time-consuming or costly. In fact, there are super simple habits you can develop to lead a more mindful life. Below, Chris Parkison, group fitness manager and yoga instructor at VIDA Fitness The Yards, breaks down what mindfulness is really all about.
If someone has a goal to be more mindful, how should they go about doing that?
I would follow that question with another question: What is your goal for the mindfulness? To reduce stress? To be more loving or more grateful? For example, you could do something simple — you could wake up in the morning, sit without any music or TV on, and for five minutes, think about ten people in your life you’re grateful for. Just think about them. Let the gratitude consume you.
There are lots of people you can feel grateful for who do good things for you all the time. Working that muscle of gratitude will make you a more grateful person in general. And that will lead to being less demanding of people because you want to spread the gratitude.
That’s a great, practical example. How does mindfulness fit into the big picture of wellness overall?
The number one killer in the United States is heart disease. One of the biggest factors in heart disease — besides poor diet — is stress. When you combine a poor diet and a stressful life, you get a recipe for death. Mindfulness can reduce your stress levels. When you spend more time being grateful, forgiving, patient, loving, and trusting, you spend less time being angry. You spend less time being hateful, intolerant, and jealous, and that’s less stressful.
Why is it important to be mindful of your emotions?
It feels much better to love somebody than to hate them. There’s no negative and positive really — just emotions that don’t serve us. Think about the emotions that don’t serve you and that do serve you. The problem is that anger feeds itself, and so the angrier you get, the angrier you get. Fortunately, the more grateful you get, the more loving you get, so that’s a positive feedback loop.
Mindfulness has kind of become this buzzword. What does it mean to you?
Mindfulness to me means taking your time. It means patience. For example, with eating: It’s a good thing. Whenever you eat something, instead of just sitting in front of the TV and shoving a burrito in your mouth, why not take the time to sit down? Why not take the time to make your dinner? Why not take the time to sit with a friend or loved one and eat together, instead of watching TV? It will take more time, but that time is better spent than if you just shove a burrito in your mouth and binge watch Netflix for four hours, which leaves you feeling totally empty.
Mindfulness is also taking that risk to be patient. Instead of doing what you’re doing every single day and repeating yourself endlessly. It’s taking the time to step out of your normal routine, try something different, and be a little fearless. It’s patience. It’s when you’re eating, taking your time eating. Enjoy your meal.
Why should people prioritize mindfulness, especially at the beginning of the year?
Because breaking habits isn’t easy, and mindfulness work takes time. The habits you’ve created have taken years and years to get cemented in your mind. If you want to break those habits, you’re going to have to take the time to unlock them.
You should also do it because of your health in the long run. They’ve done studies about the people who live the longest, and what they all have in common is that they eat family meals at least once a week. They spend hours together just interacting with their families — not sitting in front of the TV. We’re creatures who are social. We have been for millions of years. We need that in our lives.
Any final words on mindfulness?
I would stress that mindfulness is hard work, but it’s the most necessary thing that you could do. Ask yourself: Is what I’m doing serving me, or is what I’m doing not serving me? And if it’s not serving me, how can I break that habit? How can I do something else? Because there’s nothing more mindful than the present moment and making decisions based on what’s really there — not what’s in your mind.