It Doesn’t Have to Take Much Time.
We all want the season to be a beautiful time of sharing and happy memories, but perhaps it’s not feeling so beautiful right now. Maybe, in fact, it’s feeling downright stressful as your TO-DO list gets longer and the time gets shorter. This is the situation many of us find ourselves in, and yet, there is an alternative: Mindfulness.
You think to yourself, “If there’s one time I don’t have time for one more thing, it’s now!” But think again! Mindfulness is portable. It doesn’t take a lot of time, and it just might reduce your stress and leave you with some wonderful memories.
Following are five ways to bring more mindfulness and less stress into the holiday season.
1. Plan in regular pauses.
Make a commitment to yourself to STOP every now and then to shift your attention away from your thoughts, feel your feet on the floor, and feel the movement of your breath in and out of your body. Easier said than done during the busiest time of year, but when you focus on what you are doing in the present moment, your mind naturally settles down and your anxiety subsides. Right now, pause for just two or three breaths and see what happens.
2. Let go of expectations.
Change is a constant part of life, and yet we often dig our heels in and decide things have to be a certain way. Think about some of the expectations you have of yourself and others over the holidays. Take a deep breath and ask yourself if this is really how things should be, or if this is just an unexamined thought. See if you can embrace this moment just as it is.
3. Take in the Good.
Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson says we are Velcro for the negative things in our lives and Teflon for the positive. We evolved to notice and respond to threats in our environment. That could be an angry bear, a misbehaving child, or our own fear that we won’t get everything done. The good stuff just slides on by without much notice.
By stopping when something good happens in our lives, and really savoring it, we can let it sink into long-term memory. Research tells us that if we do this a few times a day, for 20 to 30 seconds at a time, we can actually shift our mood and become happier, more grateful people.
4. Eat mindfully.
During the holidays, it can be easy to overeat without thinking, and sometimes we gain weight and add more stress to our lives. Take some time to recapture the joy of eating.
Eat your first few bites mindfully. Notice the colors and textures, take time to enjoy the aroma, notice the first burst of flavor as you put it in your mouth, and note the changes in taste and texture as you chew. Contemplate for a few moments how the sun, rain, and earth contributed to this food and all the people who had a hand in bringing this food to you. Slowing down the process of eating can help you eat only as much as you want and need.
5. Listen mindfully.
“Being listened to is so close to being loved that most people can’t tell the difference.” —David Augsberg
Slow down and really enjoy the people you interact with, and both of you will benefit. You will feel more peaceful and calm and will develop a better understanding of them. They will feel heard and valued as they notice your full attention on them, and they may even return the favor.
Practice being present in any of these five ways this holiday season, and see what a gift it can be for yourself and your loved ones!