Writing contribution by Amy Chlebek Lloyd, MS, LPC
With the New Year underway, we can take a few moments and reflect on what carried meaning to us in 2016. The first image that probably does not come to mind is the “to do” list or completion of it. In fact when we try to do more, many times it makes us less available to others, drains our energy and makes it more difficult to focus. Picture jumping on a hamster wheel with nowhere to exit or slow down. When we are caught up in the cycle of the daily grind, it isolates us from others and makes it almost impossible to be present with ourselves. The reverse can also occur when we get hooked on the adrenaline rush of buying, consuming, and over-exercising with similar detrimental results.
Have you ever been out and seen a family together having dinner yet no one is interacting because everyone is on their phones? Technology is meant to free up time and yet it consumes hours of the day due to the bombardment of information. Let’s remember for a moment gathering around a dinner table sharing a meal having conversation without distraction of electronics. Our most fulfilling moments are often when we take the time to truly engage with our families and friends.
Maybe this is why people love small children and pets; they live in the moment and when we connect with them we can allow ourselves that space to be playful and available. There is little anxiety in a child’s face when she is laughing or tension when a dog is playing in a field. It’s pure presence without the stress or fear of the future.
The great Chinese philosopher by the name of Lao Tzu once said:
“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
• Perhaps you have 10 items on your to-do list. Before hopping on the hamster wheel, ask yourself is this something I really need to do today? The answer may surprise you. Pick two or three meaningful items to accomplish in the day.
• Try a yoga class or practice. In yoga, students attempt connecting body and mind through the breath. Do not turn it into a “to-do”; instead try observing it as a doorway to center and slow down.
• Practice mindfulness: a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.
• Walk for mental clarity. Let go of the app that asks you to take 10,000 steps a day and allow yourself to become aware of senses around you
such as the sights, sounds and smells of nature.
As we feel the pressure of the typical New Year’s resolutions like preserving a youthful body, getting promoted at work or raising the perfect kids, let’s take a step back and return our focus to what is meaningful in our lives and what we can do to engage and enhance it. Often it’s simply being present in our relationships and pursuing our passions at a mindful pace.
As 2017 unfolds, take time to pay attention to ways you can allow less to equal more in your life and be open to the gifts of each day.
Amy Chlebek Lloyd is a licensed professional counselor with over ten years’ experience in private practice. She holds a Master of Science degree in professional counseling and worked for a leading psychiatric and addiction hospital in Atlanta. Amy’s specialties include complex PTSD, addiction, anxiety, depression, food issues and stress management. Her clinical focus is individual, couples and groups using psychoanalytic and cognitive techniques. Amy’s undergraduate degree is in Aviation Engineering and she has experience in the corporate setting.
Trained and certified in yoga and barre, Amy has led 12-step support groups, yoga retreats, mindfulness and meditation education and barre classes. More recently, she studied plant-based nutrition at Cornell University due to her interest in the science and psychology of healthy eating. Amy lives in a northern suburb of Atlanta with her husband and two step sons ages 22 and 19.
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