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Incorporating mindfulness in your life in 2019

If you've already given up on your New Year’s resolution, fear not, there’s still time to incorporate mindfulness into your life in 2019, says Toronto-area family lawyer Nicolle Kopping-Pavars.

“No judgment, let's just move on,” says Kopping-Pavars, principal of NKP Law and Lotus-Law.

“The first thing to do is to realize that you're feeling judged — by your own internal critic — irritated or frustrated,” she tells AdvocateDaily.com.

“Notice that. And then drop it. What we want to do now is forget about any resolutions that we had, because few people keep them. Instead, it's a perfect time to reframe it and create healthier habits.”

Kopping-Pavars offers a number of ways to add mindfulness to your life.

Notice, breathe, action (NBA)

She says NBA should become part of everyone’s daily routine. You notice an issue, take a deep breath and then choose the appropriate course of action.

“The whole point is not to have backward thinking, which just makes us get into the cycle of feeling bad about our decisions. So, with NBA, we try to stop that cycle by noticing how we feel, taking a deep breath, and then making a choice as to what action to take. You don’t think about it again, you just let it fall away.

"Each time we notice that we have gone back to a past thought or feeling, we notice that and slowly, with a sense of awareness, we start to create a pattern of minimizing the power that the thought or feeling would have had over us." 

Daily reminders

Kopping-Pavars says daily reminders help bring NBA principles into one’s life.

“For example, each time your phone rings, or your email pings, use it as a reminder to notice, breathe and take action.

“Or set a reminder on your phone for every hour or two,” she says. “What we're trying to do is make lawyers more aware of the present moment because that’s how they will stop the emotions and thoughts from controlling their lives."

Kopping-Pavars says lawyers often get caught up in their work and let worrisome thoughts take over — "without even realizing the impact it's having on their psyche, body and overall well-being."

“Introducing little principles to just have little breaks in the day will help them connect with themselves and find out how they’re feeling at that moment,” she says.  

Mindful walks

Kopping-Pavars says lawyers need to walk away from their work at regular intervals. It could be a small break every hour on the hour — if they’re able — or whatever makes sense during their workday. She says it’s as straightforward as it sounds — simply getting up and briefly walking away.

“It could be a walk down the corridor and back again. Or they could just pace in their office — 10 steps in one direction and 10 in the other,” she says.

"Make a connection with your body, feel yourself rise out of the chair, feel your feet on the ground, your leg as it moves. Awareness of your movement allows you to connect with your body and then you're no longer caught up in your thoughts. You feel the presence of your body and momentarily clear out all those thoughts that bog you down and create emotional turmoil.

“So, when you're focusing on your body and walking up and down the corridor, you don’t want to think about your thoughts. You just focus on your body walking.  And all you have to do is walk normally. There's no weird walk, and no one would even know that you're actually using mindful movement to reset your thoughts and emotions. Simple body awareness brings mindfulness in its simplest form into your life.”

Carry a mindfulness stone or bead

“This is the best thing ever,” says Kopping-Pavars.

“I actually give my clients a little stone. It’s good when you’re in court or going into a meeting or somewhere you're feeling a little bit anxious. You carry the stone in your hand, and no one can see it. When you start feeling anxious, feel the stone in your hand. What does it feel like? Is it smooth, cold? Roll it around. This simple act takes attention away from your anxiety and moves it to the stone.”

She says lawyers are under the false belief that they can multitask.

“Truth be told we cannot. Our minds cannot focus on two things at once. So when you start feeling anxious, you have something that can fit into the palm of your hand. Your concentration shifts from your emotions, feelings or thoughts to the feel of the stone in your hand.

"This small shift can work wonders and minimizes the power that an emotion or feeling has over us. We can't control emotions, but we can start to manage them."

 Find a mantra

“Mantras are wonderful things,” says Kopping-Pavars.

“When you're thinking of one, you manage your awareness because you can't have a thought and say a mantra at the same time,” she explains.

It can be as simple as breathing in and out and repeating a word or phrase — such as “serenity” or “find serenity now,” says Kopping-Pavars.

“When you recite a mantra it takes you away from the emotions that are distracting you,” she says. “It catches you when you’ve gone off to things that are not helpful."

Gratitude journal

“I suggest having a pad next to you, and when you're feeling frustrated, grab it and be grateful for something. ’I'm grateful I had my cup of coffee. I'm grateful this meeting is finally over,'” says Kopping-Pavars. "Instead of being negative about what you're doing, you find gratitude for the most mundane things. It's the energy and the consciousness of gratitude that is important.”

She says focusing on one tiny positive thing “shifts the energy” away from what’s causing the frustration.

Wake-up call

Kopping-Pavars says the wake-up call can be life-changing.

“It’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning — even if your eyes aren’t yet open. You wake up and say, ‘Thank God, I'm awake.’ Because you are awake and you’ve got your whole life ahead of you. You have this moment and guess what? You didn’t die in your sleep. You woke up when thousands of people didn’t.”

Essentially, she says, it’s being grateful for having another day "and another opportunity to be better and do better."

“Spend 30 seconds every morning just being thankful that you woke up,” says Kopping-Pavars. “It’s actually the most beautiful moment because you’re still in this almost-slumber state and nothing has touched you yet. Enjoy the feeling because, within 20 seconds of that, you're going to say, ‘Oh God, I have to go get the kids up, or I have to do whatever.’ The day is going to infiltrate you.”

By incorporating the practice into one’s morning routine, she says those thoughts of the day ahead “aren't going to bombard you so painfully.”

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