Many of us resolve to make a change as a new year begins — a change in our life, a change in our body, a change in our habits — hoping to increase our levels of satisfaction and happiness. Some people find that the most significant change they can make is a change in perspective.
“The next message you need is always right where you are.” —Ram Dass (1931-2019)
Mindfulness is the practice of directing one's attention on the present moment rather than ruminating on the past or worrying about the future. When in a mindful state, a person can observe what's happening in their mind, their emotions, and their body without making hasty choices that can lead to frustrating or unsatisfactory outcomes.
Many traditional religious practices are rooted in a mindful perspective, but you needn't practice a certain (or any) religion to feel the benefits of mindfulness. Mental health benefits include depression and anxiety prevention and reduced stress. Physical benefits can often be observed and measured as well, such as lower blood pressure, improved sleep, and better diabetes management.
“Meditation is not about feeling a certain way. It’s about feeling the way you feel.” ―
Mindful states can be achieved by starting with relaxation and breathing. Practicing these and focusing your attention and thoughts is called meditation. Many forms of meditation exist, but most share baseline requirements of a quiet environment, a still body, and a focused mind.
There are a number of smartphone apps available to help you learn to meditate. These are a few popular ones.
- Calm - A library of soothing sounds, guided meditations, and stories to help you relax. Additional content unlockable with purchase. Android | iOS
- Headspace - A program of guided exercises and meditations designed to fit into a busy life. Requires subscription after trial period. Android | iOS
- 10% Happier - A meditation program for "fidgety skeptics" led by Dan Harris, a news anchor who discovered mindfulness after suffering a panic attack on national television. Additional content unlockable with purchase. Links on website
- Stop, Breathe & Think - Not only teaches you how to meditate and explains the science behind it, but keeps track of how you are feeling over time. Additional content unlockable with purchase. Links on website
- Aura - Three minute personalized meditations created from your answers to questions it asks. Great for busy people. Additional content unlockable with purchase. Android | iOS
- Smiling Mind - Offers hundreds of meditations categorized by programs like Sleep, Relationships, and Workplace. Offered by the Smiling Mind nonprofit organization and is completely free with no paid content. Links on website
"It takes time, I think, to build confidence and to grow into feeling comfortable in your own skin. It’s difficult on days when you don’t feel it, but it is things like yoga that have helped me to know how to center myself and how to bring myself into that place of awareness and just being able to breathe into my own body." ―Christina Aguilera
Another activity that encourages mindfulness is yoga. Practiced in India for thousands of years in various forms, yoga builds the body's flexibility, strength, and balance through poses, deep breathing, and meditation techniques. An attractive aspect of yoga is that it can be tailored to most anyone's ability, age, and body type. The Boston Public Library offers yoga programs at many of our locations. You can find them on our calendar of events. (Note any program requirements such as pre-registration in event listings.)
Current Yoga Programs at the BPL
Yoga for All (Central Library) — Wednesdays, 6-7 pm
Hands to Heart Center’s (HTHC) runs yoga classes in the Abbey Room that anyone and everyone can participate in.
Yoga for Adults (Charlestown) — Mondays, 1:30-2:30 pm
Hands to Heart Center’s (HTHC) presents yoga for adults of all ages and levels.
Hatha Yoga (Fields Corner) — Tuesdays, 6:30-7:30 pm
Integral Yoga instructor Alicia Zipp runs free sessions of Hatha Yoga. Beginners are welcome.
Gentle Yoga (Mattapan) — Thursdays, 6:30-7:30 pm
Join the Hands to Heart gentle yoga instructor for some relaxing and energizing poses.
Mindful Minis (North End) — Thursdays, 3:30-4:30 pm through February 13
After school stress-reducing and wellness-promoting activities like yoga, breathing, mindful coloring, and emotional awareness. For kids in kindergarten, first, and second grades. Registration required.
Yoga for Older Adults (Parker Hill) — Saturdays, 10-11 am
Join us for yoga classes for adults ages 55 and older.
Relax and Release Yoga (Uphams Corner) — every other Tuesday, 10:30-11:30 am
Join yogi Melody Sylvain for a relaxing all ages yoga class.
Yoga for Seniors (West End) — Tuesdays, 2:00-2:45 pm
A gentle chair yoga class led by certified yoga instructor Tatiana Nekrasova for seniors and adults who prefer slow, low-impact exercises.
- Yoga for All (Central Library) — Wednesdays, 6-7 pm
If you'd like to learn more about mindfulness, our Reader Services librarian Jordan has picked out a sample of books from our collections.
Is stress getting to you? Are you having trouble sleeping? Or maybe you find yourself getting angry more often than you used to. Meditation could be the answer you need. These books offer tips and tricks to help you start your meditation routine and keep it going. Check one out today and start your new year off on a positive note!