From two experts on the psychology of behavior change comes A Mindful Year, the first book of its kind to join the age-old wisdom of mindfulness with cognitive behavioral sciencethe best-tested set of practices for alleviating stress and anxiety.
At a time when there have never been more ways to connect with one another, it has also never been easier to lose track of the people and passions we hold most dear. The demands of the day can leave us feeling exhausted and uninspired, while alerts and notifications constantly tug at our attention. We fall into unhealthy patterns that can be all too difficult to break.
Written from friend to friend, one day at a time, A Mindful Year invites you to start a new patternone that begins with taking just a few quiet moments to reconnect with what is most important, each day. As practical as it is inspirational, A Mindful Year marries moments of mindful reflection with calls to actiondaily nuggets of wisdom paired with friendly encouragement to live in a way that is grounded, authentic, and compassionate.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the flood of everyday life, to become disconnected from the things that really make us usto get lost. Thankfully, simply being open and attentive to the present moment can help us find a sense of space and ease and get back on the right track. With A Mindful Year as your guide, reconnect with what matters most.
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About the Author
Dr. Aria Campbell-Danesh, DClinPsy, CPsychol, is a high-performance psychologist and an expert in the fields of behavior change and long-term health (Dr-Aria.com). A mindfulness specialist and creator of the FIT Method, he works internationally with clients on their mind-set, exercise, and nutrition. He is regularly featured in popular lifestyle publications such as Women’s Health and Marie Claire. Dr. Aria is a chartered psychologist with the British Psychological Society and Senior Associate Member of the Royal Society of Medicine.
Seth J. Gillihan, PhD, is a clinical assistant professor of psychology in the Psychiatry Department at the University of Pennsylvania with a private practice in Haverford, Pennsylvania (SethGillihan.com). He is the author of Retrain Your Brain: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in 7 Weeks, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Made Simple, and The CBT Deck.
Dr. Alice Boyes is an emotions expert and a popular blogger for Psychology Today. Her research has been published by the American Psychological Association.
Read an Excerpt
"Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand and melting like a snowflake."
— FRANCIS BACON SR.
Hello my friend! Happy New Year!
The dawn of the New Year heralds an opportunity to reflect on the year that has passed and look ahead to the upcoming one. How are you feeling about the last 12 months, with its ups and downs, peaks and troughs? It's incredible to think that the next 365 days will bring undiscovered joys and challenges.
As the days, weeks, months and years roll into one another, it becomes ever more real that our time on this earth is short and precious. As easy as it is to take for granted, what a gift it is to be alive! It would seem somewhat tragic to reach the end of our lives and yet have missed out on the parts that mattered most. Let's do what we want to do now. Let's live this life to its fullest. This is a new year, a new day, and a new opportunity to reconnect to whatever we value most.
Take a moment to consider the following questions: Looking back over the past year:
What have been the high and low parts?
In what ways have you grown and developed?
What parts of your life are you grateful for?
Looking to the year ahead:
What qualities would you like to cultivate?
Who would you like to spend more time with?
What would you like to spend more time doing?
This is your time. You deserve to have a meaningful and fulfilling life. I'm excited to embark on this journey with you.
"You are always standing in the middle of sacred space, standing in the middle of the circle. ... Whatever comes into the space is there to teach you."
— PEMA CHÖDRÖN
One of the biggest challenges to connecting with what's most important to us is the feeling that we "should" be doing something else — even when we're doing exactly what we need to be doing. We might spend our entire day never really doing what we're doing as we try to get through this activity so we can move on to "what's really important."
Of course, the idea of what we "should be doing" is often a moving target. I find myself rushing through my morning routine to get out the door and to my office, only to rush home at the end of the day, even resenting the time it takes to move from one place to the next. It often feels like there's somewhere else I should be, and it's always ahead of me, just out of reach.
How refreshing it is to remember that all we can do is what we're doing right now, — that that's everything. We can allow ourselves to be fully in our experience, whatever that may be. We can find rest there.
You can find rest when you're brushing your teeth, eating a meal, doing laundry, or standing in line at the grocery store. Right now, as you're reading these words, you can rest in this moment of your life that's unlike any other, and as real as any other. Never again will you have exactly this experience. This is it.
Notice today when your mind is running ahead of where you actually are. Whatever today brings, remember that you can abide in the present — starting right now.
"In your everyday life, you have always a chance to have enlightenment."
— SHUNRYU SUZUKI-ROSHI
Life is full of the ordinary. We have everyday chores, tasks and routines that need to be completed. The trash needs to be taken out, dishes have to be washed and the dog has to be walked.
At some point in our culture, ordinary became 'not enough' and 'success' became equated with the exceptional. In each moment, though, there is the opportunity for enlightenment. Enlightenment is awareness: becoming mindful of the present moment and what you're doing, feeling, and thinking. If you're feeling frustrated and thinking, "I wish my partner was taking the trash out," enlightenment is becoming aware of this — of acknowledging it, observing it.
What if we came to see the ordinary in a different light? For our ancestors, the everyday — hunting, foraging and cooking — contributed to their survival. Nowadays, this link to the essential and sacred is often lost.
With awareness, we have a choice. We can find ways to appreciate the present moment and to see our situation with fresh eyes. We could, for instance, choose to view emptying the trash, preparing a meal, or washing the dishes as a way to show our love and to be a caring partner, parent, or child.
Notice when difficult thoughts and feelings arise, particularly when you feel or think that you should be doing something else. See if you can perceive your current situation in a new light and discover the meaning that lies hidden in your everyday actions.
"The more directly one aims to maximize pleasure and avoid pain the more likely one is to produce instead a life bereft of depth, meaning, and community."
— RYAN, HUTA, & DECI
Most of us want a life of maximal comfort and minimal pain — what Aristotle called an "hedonic" focus. The guiding question from an hedonic perspective is, "Which actions will bring me the most pleasure?" However, directly seeking pleasure often has paradoxical results. For example, if we avoid the physical discomfort of exercise, we'll feel the greater pain of disuse.
Aristotle described an alternative approach that instead asks, "What should I do in order to live well?" Choices based on this question lead to a life of "eudaemonia," a Greek word that describes meaning and connection to what we most value. Almost anything worthwhile involves some degree of discomfort, so it takes conscious planning and effort to override our focus on short-term pleasure and make choices that promote eudaemonia.
Fortunately, a eudaemonic approach does not mean giving up all earthly comforts. Ironically, the eudaemonic way of life is the surest path to a life of true pleasure. By seeking comfort, we lose it, and by giving up comfort, we find it.
For myself it can be as mundane as recognizing times when I'm putting off refilling my water because I don't want to get up. The simple act of rising from my chair to get more water breaks me out of my "Stay Comfortable" default mode and makes me feel more comfortable in the long run.
We all want to enjoy our limited days on this earth. When we plan our actions such that we'll know we've lived well — for this minute, this hour, this day — we can keep finding the sacred in our everyday lives.
Today, look for even small opportunities to choose living well over immediate comfort or pleasure.
"Mindfulness gives you time. Time gives you choices. Choices, skillfully made, lead to freedom. You don't have to be swept away by your feeling. You can respond with wisdom and kindness rather than habit and reactivity."
— HENEPOLA GUNARATANA
At this time of year, many of us will have New Year resolutions that involve eating healthily, being active, stopping smoking, or cutting down on alcohol. Even when we know what is good for us, facing urges and unpleasant feelings often seems to be the hardest part.
We usually try to ignore and suppress difficult feelings. The paradox is that the more we try to avoid feeling or thinking about something, the more it grows in strength. Anyone who has ever tried not to think about a white polar bear knows this from personal experience.
If we don't fight thoughts, feelings and cravings, what can we do? We can observe them. We can watch them with openness and curiosity. We can notice them as they come and go. This is mindfulness. Rather than reacting automatically and habitually, observation allows us to respond more skillfully — more deliberately — taking action in line with our values and the good life.
Today, my friend, acknowledge any thoughts, feelings, or cravings that you have. Rather than fighting them, simply try to observe them. You don't have to resist or be swept away by your feelings. Use this sacred space to then take action in the direction of your goals.
"The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day."
— DAVID FOSTER WALLACE
It's easy — sometimes too easy — to feel irritated at people whose actions create inconvenience — for example, the man who hits the "Up" button just as the elevator doors were closing, forcing you and your fellow riders to wait what feels like an eternity in elevator time. But these petty grievances erect a barrier between ourselves and others. It's hard to feel compassion for people we see as annoying and selfish.
We've also all had times when we've decided to cut an inconsiderate person some slack, or even extend kindness toward them. Caring for others by choosing to let go of minor irritations is truly "unsexy." Most of the time, you are the only one who even knows the choice you made, and the alternative, and how much nicer it feels to let go of that sense of being treated unfairly. We might even feel a sense of connection to the other person since we've probably done the same thing at a different time.
How can we move beyond our kneejerk irritation toward others? One of the most effective ways is to question the stories we tell ourselves to explain the person's behavior. Maybe that person speeding past you isn't a jerk, but is trying to avoid being late to pick up her kids from daycare. Checking our assumptions makes it easier to drop our sense of indignation. It might even allow us to see ourselves in the other person, fostering a sense of compassion instead of condemnation.
What if, just for today, we cut everyone a break? As we interact with the world, we can decide in advance to let the little things go. We might consider it an act of love — not just for others, but also for ourselves.
"I've had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened."
— MARK TWAIN
The future is unknown. The human brain, however, is hard-wired to seek certainty. Through an evolutionary lens, certainty is survival. Being able to predict future events increases our chances of living to pass on our genes.
Uncertainty can be uncomfortable and even distressing. When we struggle to determine the outcome of an event, the mind becomes extremely active in order to predict the future and achieve certainty.
Our minds have a tendency to fall into certain thinking styles. An upcoming exam creates worries about failing. A changing political landscape ignites concerns about job security and financial ruin. Getting older feeds fears of ill health. This is what the brain does. It catastrophizes about worst-case scenarios. It seeks certainty by imagining possible stories about the future.
The devil does not lie in our brain's capacity to construct stories or consider catastrophes. The brain's ability to make predictions is both unavoidable and adaptive. In fact, it contributed to your very existence on this earth right now. Liberation, however, is found in becoming aware of the impact of the stories, predictions, and thoughts that you hold. Are they distressing you, overwhelming you into paralysis, or stopping you from richly engaging in the activities that you enjoy with the people you love? Or are they empowering you, allowing you to make the most of each day, and helping you to prepare for the future, whatever that may be?
Notice any stories that your mind creates about the future. Become aware of the impact these predictions have on you right now. What thoughts will help you best appreciate this moment and to live the life that you want today?
"God loves to feel things through our hands."
— ELIZABETH GILBERT, EAT PRAY LOVE
We depend so much on these bodies we inhabit. Take a moment to look at your hands. You know these hands so well — "like the back of your hand," as the saying goes — and yet they've changed throughout your life. They were tiny and wrinkled when you took your first breath, when you grasped the finger of your mother or father. They've grown as you have, getting stronger and more skilled. Your left hand might bear a ring that symbolizes an eternal joining with the one you love. These hands tell your story. In many ways, they have written it.
Your hands are miraculous, responding to your thoughts: "Open" and they open, "Close" and they make a fist — your very own telekinesis. Consider all the things these hands allow you to do: hold a baby, blow your nose, push a broom, hug a friend, wash the dishes, hold your head in grief, put on your pants, lift a fork, massage sore muscles, type on a keyboard, feel the pulse of your beating heart — to name just a few.
There is great power in our hands. We can deliberately pay attention to them, noticing their movements, their sensitivity to touch, the connection they make with our physical world. Like the breath, we can always return to our hands to ground our awareness in the moment, perhaps feeling gratitude for their exquisite design.
As you go about your day today, notice your hands, both what they're doing and the sensations they transmit to your brain. May your hands serve others and communicate love.
"When an archer is shooting for nothing, he has all his skill. If he shoots for a brass buckle, he is already nervous. If he shoots for a prize of gold, he goes blind or sees two targets ... His skill has not changed. But the prize divides him. He cares. He thinks more of winning than of shooting – and the need to win drains him of power."
— CHUANG TZU
Goals are important. They give us direction. However, if we become too absorbed with the endpoint, not only do we miss out on the joy of the moment, but we also handicap ourselves. We tighten up with the pressure and make it less likely that we'll reach our destination, especially if it's important to us.
Today I was out on a marathon training run. I suddenly realized that for the majority of my run I'd been distracted, thinking about an upcoming race and imagining different potential outcomes. Something struck me. I was so fixated on my goal that I was missing out on the pleasure of running right now. Rather than focusing on the outcome, we can focus on the process. Rather than becoming consumed with winning, simply try your best. The beautiful, profoundly simple but often overlooked truth is that we can only ever try our best. When we remember this, the pressure of expectation begins to lift and we're free to enjoy the present moment.
If you notice that you're feeling gripped by your goals, including New Year's resolutions, try holding them a little more lightly. Focus on the process of what you are doing and simply try your best, held safely and warmly in the knowledge that this is all that you can do.
"Love is found in the things we've given up, more than in the things that we have kept."
— RICH MULLINS
Love seems to be about letting go. Love is apparent in the simple act of giving up some of our bread to share with another. Love is found in foregoing other relationships to be with our partner. Love is missing out on sleep to care for a child or a parent. Love is letting go of the internal voice that continually berates us for not being enough.
In a more general sense, real freedom is so often found in the things that bind us: committed relationships, consistent work, sobriety, an ethical code. I recall not long ago being very aware of what I was "missing out on" by being a parent of 3 young kids. And then I considered what it would be like — what it had been like, in truth — being on the other side, being desperate to be a parent and not knowing if it was possible. In that moment, a great feeling of gratitude completely eclipsed any sense of sacrifice.
Maybe, in some way, we're always behind bars, captive in one way or another. It just depends on which side of the bars we've chosen.
The value we attach to our deepest connections is never more apparent than when we remember what we've willingly given up for them. Today, consider how love is expressed in your life through the things you've given up — and what you've gained in return.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "A Mindful Year"
Copyright © 2019 Aria Campbell-Danesh and Seth J. Gillihan.
Excerpted by permission of Blackstone Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword (Kate)PrefaceIntroduction (Aria)JAN 1 (A)JAN 2 (S)JAN 3 (A)JAN 4 (S)JAN 5 (A)JAN 6 (S)JAN 7 (A)JAN 8 (S)JAN 9 (A)JAN 10 (S)JAN 11 (A)JAN 12 (S)JAN 13 (A)JAN 14 (S)JAN 15 (A)JAN 16 (S)JAN 17 (A)JAN 18 (S)JAN 19 (A)JAN 20 (S)JAN 21 (A)JAN 22 (S)JAN 23 (A)JAN 24 (S)JAN 25 (A)JAN 26 (S)JAN 27 (A)JAN 28 (S)JAN 29 (A)JAN 30 (S)JAN 31 (A)FEB 1 (S)FEB 2 (A)FEB 3 (S)FEB 4 (A)FEB 5 (S)FEB 6 (A)FEB 7 (S)FEB 8 (A)FEB 9 (S)FEB 10 (A)FEB 11(S)FEB 12 (A)FEB 13 (S)FEB 14 (A)FEB 15 (S)FEB 16 (A)FEB 17 (S)FEB 18 (A)FEB 19 (S)FEB 20 (A)FEB 21 (S)FEB 22 (A)FEB 23 (S)FEB 24 (A)FEB 25 (S)FEB 26 (A)FEB 27 (S)FEB 28 (A)MarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was a difficult book to review as the intent is to read one daily reading at a time for 365 days. Having said that, I have read enough of the book to know that the authors have provided the readers with words that are thought-provoking and meaningful. Written as communication between the two authors who are friends living on separate continents, I found the book to be inspirational and successful in getting the reader to focus on the moment at hand - a prelude to meditation perhaps. My intent is to continue reading the daily readings as they are intended . I' would recommend this book to anyone who needs help to shut out the busy nature of today's world. Thank you to Netgalley and Blackstone Publishing for the ARC of this book in exchange for the honest review which I have provided here.