Mindfulness Over Matter: Holiday Edition

This time of the year comes with many thoughts, emotions, and perhaps even questions. It’s a time when you may be wrapping up loose ends, reflecting on the year, and preparing for the upcoming one. Amidst all this reflection on the past and planning for the future, we tend to lose sight of one thing — the present.

You may have just gotten through finals, recently finished secondary applications for medical school, sent in your apps for graduate school, or completed some pressing deadlines at work before hitting the holidays (and maybe even the snooze button to cozy on up to some much-needed sleep). Whatever your pre-holiday hurdles consisted of, take a moment to catch your breath. Relax. Unwind. You’re close to another finish line. Time between now and the end of the year may be a good chance to practice the art and science of mindfulness.

As defined by the Mayo Clinic Health System, "mindfulness is the practice of purposefully focusing our attention on the awareness of the present moment as it relates to our thoughts, feelings, sensations in our body and our sense of the environment around us.” Think of it as soaking in each moment like a sponge, not a filter. It includes tapping into all five senses collectively. Mindfulness has been proven to sharpen your perceptive skills, reduce stress and anxiety, and even heighten your ability to focus. It also allows you to thoughtfully process your choices, decisions, and actions. It helps you recalibrate, refresh, and revisit your intentions. Embracing mindfulness is not only beneficial for personal stress relief, self-care, and clarifying your goals and decision-making. Establishing more mindfulness in your routine has been proven to enhance relationships, heighten emotional intelligence, increase empathy, and allow you to diversify perspective. It’s like adding a fourth dimension to your thought process. 

Aside from bringing a calm attentiveness to your mind, practicing mindfulness helps you set realistic goals with better understanding of why you’re setting said goals. You may harness these benefits of mindfulness to think about what truly drives your prospective health career path. For example, let’s say you’re graduating from undergrad in Spring 2018. You’re thinking about maybe taking a year or two to work and apply your skills to the test in the “real world.” Perhaps you’re thinking about potentially going back to graduate school for a Master’s in Public Health. Maybe you’ve already thought about the kind of job/title/salary you’d like to have afterwards. Setting goals is good, but it’s helpful to take a step back and mindfully think about the reasons behind them. Why public health? What kind of lifestyle do you wish to have? Why do you need to pursue a Master’s? Is there a possibility you may want to explore other potential career pathways before grad school? There is immense value in self-reflection through mindful questioning.

In addition to mindful questioning for self-reflection, there are many easy self-discovery practices you may explore this holiday break. Choose about one or two to start with, and gradually add more into your daily routine. You may notice some changes in your outlook and decision-making over time. 

  • Write in a journal reflecting on personal life experiences. Hint: These don’t always have to be substantially significant or sequential. Write anything you find meaningful to you!
  • Read a book that stimulates your cerebral waves, and take notes on the side of key elements that stand out to you. Click here for a great list to get started with.
  • Engage in a thoughtful conversation with someone older than you. Asking questions about their experiences, stories, and even views can often open your mind and challenge you to think differently.
  • Begin a 10-min meditation routine. Turn all devices off, close the door, sit or lie comfortably in silence (or with very soft music). Start drawing your awareness inwards to your breath. Take a deep inhale through your nose, exhale out through your nose. Breathe fully into the moment. Hint: Record the first thoughts that come into mind after your meditation. Often these thoughts can be the most pure without influence from external factors.  
  • Just like taking a day off from work or school, take a day off technology. Let your close friends and loved ones know you will have your phone off. Set up an automatic email reply for your inbox. Detach from social media. 24 hours is not a long time, but you’ll notice differences in your day as you embrace the current moment instead of scrolling through feeds or texts. 
Self-discovery practices take time and patience. It’s like lifting weights for your brain. You wouldn’t go to the gym after months of not going, and just start trying to bench press 150 lbs. Likewise, you should incorporate these mindfulness exercises slowly without expectations of immediate results. Appreciate the process and go with the flow. Your mind will thank you.
We at myHCN are curious to hear how you feel about incorporating mindfulness this holiday season. Share below!

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