Karoline Barwinski

How to not lose it before the year ends

Karoline Barwinski
How to not lose it before the year ends

This year I realized that I love Halloween, but not for the reasons used to love it as a kid – candy and costumes.  As an adult I love it because….

…..I can watch the leaves change colors and be mesmerized by them slowly falling one by one until our yard turns a burnt yellow. 

….I love the grounded feeling of root vegetables and heartwarming squash soups

…..as an introvert, I receive permission from nature to retreat and go inward for rest and self-discovery.

….in a few days I’ll be celebrating my birthday (!!)

All of the above is in stark contrast to what we are exposed to in this season.  In some ways Halloween is the start of a season of consumption:

Halloween candy. 

Overstuffing our faces on Thanksgiving. 

Black Friday sales.

Presents, presents, and more presents.  

Blinking signs reminding us we need more, more, more. 

Do you find you get caught up in all of it?  All that need?  

I know, I do. 

We consume—information, food, products, services—and move on. 

It doesn't take much to convince myself I need yet another light Fall/ Winter jacket.  Or that extra slice of apple pie, because, "what the heck, I'm an adult and I can indulge once in a while."  Or one more episode of [insert the latest Netflix show you're obsessed with] because "I don't even have to press a button for the next one to play." 

But the new jacket, becomes a new sweater and a new pair of boots, that I probably don't need. The extra slice becomes an indulgence every day to the detriment of my chosen lifestyle of balance that I've been mindfully practicing all year.  The next episode becomes 2 or 3 more and then it's hard for me to get a good night's sleep because my brain is so stimulated.

It's so easy for us to lose ourselves in the distractions, the news, the stuff, the abundance of food, the information. 

We have lost agency over our own decisions and actions…. dare I say, even over our thoughts? 

So how do we gain that agency back?  How do we liberate ourselves from the distractions and the mindless consumption?  How do we invite reflection back into our lives, especially when the media and the internet are inadvertently sabotaging all intentions for reflection and feeling

How do we collectively make real progress as humans?  

We get back to ourselves. 

How would your life be different if..

...you had more agency over your decisions? 

...your decisions were mindful and deliberate and based on what you want, not what someone else, or society, wants of you? 

Can you give yourself 5 uninterrupted minutes to answer that question?  [Or are you afraid you may get distracted by your friend liking your latest Instagram post?]  I'm playing here a little bit, but you know what I’m talking about, right? 

Here are 5 evidence-based ways to gain agency back and feel in control of your life during a season when we often lose it (in so many ways ;)):

1. Take up a daily meditation practice.  Meditation trains our minds to focus.  Being able to give your fullest attention to anyone or any task at hand – be it an email to a colleague, washing the dishes, or listening to your son share about his day at school—instead of letting our minds wander, has been proven to be additive to our sense of happiness, not to mention that of those who receive our fullest attention. 

2.  Give yourself permission to focus on one task at a time.  Put your phone on silent (better yet, turn it off!), close your email, and devote a specified amount of time to one thing.   Try just taking a shower and fully focus on that beautiful shower (how warm the water is, the droplets, how your muscles are relaxing, etc.) without your mind wandering to a conversation that happened earlier in the day or your plans tomorrow.   If you find it difficult, you’re like 100% of everyone in the world and perhaps it’s time to start focusing.

3. Move daily.  Walk, do yoga, swim, run, take the stairs, or dance in front of the mirror, or all of the above, every day.  I promise you will see results even with 10 minutes of deliberate movement.   

4.  Give loved ones a gift of your presence and attention.  Time and presence for a loved one is the greatest gift you can ever give.  In our digital world we are all desperate for connection and human contact.  Go out to coffee or tea with a friend you haven’t seen in a while.  FaceTime another friend who lives far away whose friendship you cherish, but have neglected because of distance.    

5.  Tune into how different foods make you feel. When you're eating that apple crisp or pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving savor every bite.  Experiencing pleasure with food not only catalyzes the relaxation response optimizing digestion and assimilation, it allows you to fully enjoy what you’re eating and your brain won’t be saying “I need more pie!”

Happy start to this beautiful season.  Let’s not lose ourselves in it, but rather fully feel all the joys and connection it brings!