The holiday season is upon us and let’s face it, the holidays are notorious for bringing added stress to your life.
From your hyper religious cousin with his never ending questions about what church you go to (“We actually don’t “do” organized religion… we meditate with our Rottweiler….”) to loads of sugar exposed nieces and nephews that don’t have anything PLANNED to do (mommy’s busy with her Bailey’s), the holidays are enough to throw any sane person over the edge.
So, besides bringing a few extra bottles of Merlot, what can you do about it? The answer may surprise you: Mindfulness.
Wait, WHAT?!? Yes, you heard me…
Mindfulness is the art of staying present in the moment and using the power of awareness to understand what’s really going on in your heart, body, and mind. When you practice mindfulness, you really tune in and think about how your physical sensations relate to your overall well-being and the actions you take. Mindfulness also helps you to hold others in compassion, regardless of your differences in opinions or difficult memories from the past.
This holiday, test out these four easy to do mindfulness practices…
Don’t underestimate the power of a deep inhale and exhale. When you set an intention to focus on your breath, you can cool your body down and release “feel good” hormones. The good thing about your breath is you always have it (if you’re breathing, there’s more good going on with you than bad) and it’s an easy practice that no one will notice. So when you’re hands deep in a turkey (or chillin’ with your Tofurky )and great aunt Lucy corners you to discuss her painful varicose veins, take a deep breath. You’ll be glad you did.
Although its easy to psych yourself out about the people in your family you would be okay not seeing for another year, remember that life is short. Hold your family members in compassion and remember that just like you, they want to be happy. Try saying these phrases in your mind if you feel overwhelmed by negative thoughts or feelings:
May (insert name) be held in compassion
May (insert name) be peaceful
May (insert name) be free from suffering
By sending positive vibes out into the universe, you’ll feel lighter and more peaceful. If you are really struggling, say the above phrases but instead of inserting a name, use “I.”
Go for a Mindful Walk
Set aside at least twenty minutes every day before or after large family gatherings to go for a mindful walk. You can do this with or without your family…(if you have a choice). During your walk pay attention to the sensations you feel, see, hear, or smell. Pay attention to your breath and say, “in, out, in, out” as you inhale and exhale. Some people also like to pay attention to their feet touching and leaving the ground. By being mindful of what’s around you and the physical sensations you feel, you will leave your judgments and negative energy at the door. Tis’ the Season after all…
Did you know that when you think positive thoughts instead of focusing on the bad, the neurons in your brain literally form NEW CONNECTIONS and you are more likely to think positive thoughts in the future? I think of it like filling a jar with memories. If 90% of your memories are positive, and 10% are negative, when your mind reaches for a memory, you are much more likely to find a good memory. During the holidays you can also work to create new, positive memories with your family. By focusing on the present moment and understanding we can’t change the past, we have a real chance at being happy.
Now, instead of ending up sick in bed with a case of stress related irritable bowel syndrome, these simple mindfulness tricks will help you to stay happy and worry free this holiday. Who knows, maybe you’ll even catch yourself smiling at your next family gathering!