How to Stay Sane This Holiday Season: Be Mindful


How to be Mindful this Holiday Season

The Holidays are upon us! Halloween has come-and-gone and soon Thanksgiving will arrive with December’s many holidays to follow. As we are all well aware, the holidays not only bring lots of fun, laughter, and love, but also a tremendous amount of stress. Whether it’s cleaning the house, cooking meals, long-distance travel, or having to see that dreaded family member, there’s no denying the holidays are stressful!

Too often we focus on taking care of our bodies during this time of year knowing full well we will partake in a few too many vices (Halloween Candy, Thanksgiving pies, Christmas cookies), but we often overlook taking care of our mental state. Getting in extra bouts of exercise are important to fend off unwanted weight gain, but relieving stress can drastically improve your mood and chance for a relaxing holiday season.

If there is one thing you need take from this, it’s to be mindful. Mindful meditation is an easy technique which can be utilized to train the mind to relax. Research has found that those who practice meditation have health benefits including lower blood pressure/heart rate, less anxiety/stress, improved circulation, and more feelings of well-being. The intent behind mindful meditation is not to get involved with the thoughts you’re having or to judge those thoughts, but to simply be aware of each thought and the response each elicits. As you continue to practice this technique, you’ll begin to find patterns in how your thoughts and feelings flow. You may notice you judge certain experiences (sounds, tastes, touch, smells, etc.) and label them in a negative or positive manner. The goal is to be aware of these feelings and find inner-balance with them.

Most stressors in life, especially during the holidays, are those which are out of our control. In Buddhist philosophy, the ultimate benefit of meditation is liberation of the mind from attachment to what it cannot control. With practice, you may find the ability to detach from the desires and reactions to stimuli and instead stay relaxed, keeping a calm mind and balanced inner harmony.

If you’re reading this and starting to feel your stress levels rise because you don’t know how to meditate or where to begin, RELAX! Try these simple meditation techniques to reduce your stress levels this holiday season!

 

Simple Meditation for Beginners

  1. Sit upright or lie comfortably. If you choose to sit, do so with good, tall posture. Imagine you are something strong and unmoving, like a mountain. If you choose to lie down, do so in whatever manner is most comfortable to you.
  2. Close your eyes. If you have trouble keeping your eyes closed or are in a bright place, you may want to try using something over your eyes to create a relaxed, dark place.
  3. Make no effort to control your breathing. Simple breathe in and out, naturally and effortlessly.
  4. Focus your attention on your breath and how your body moves each time you inhale and exhale. Observe the muscles of your face, your chest, shoulders, and abdomen. Notice if there is tension or if things start to relax. Focus on your breath, but let it be effortless and natural, not manipulating the pace or intensity. If your mind wanders to a thought your attention is taken by stimulus (sound, taste, smell, etc.), return your focus to your breath.

 

Tips for Successful Meditation.

  • Start with short periods of time. For beginners, three minutes may be sufficient practice time. As you are able to stay relaxed and mindful for longer period, increase the duration you meditate.
  • Find a place you can consistently practice. It doesn’t matter where (indoors or outdoors, home or away), but make sure it’s a place you are comfortable and relaxed. If you can designate a place in your house and incorporate décor which puts you at ease, you may find it creates a more harmonious atmosphere.
  • Hold an object. If you have a small object you can hold in your hand while you meditate, this can be used at a time of stress to bring peace. Holding the object and using your senses to notice the textures, weight, etc. will be allow you to focus on these attributes to reduce stress amidst chaos.
  • Use music. If you use music, try to find some without words so your mind doesn’t wander to the lyrics. Instrumental chords can create a relaxed environment and hearing those same notes can bring peace when stress levels rise.

 

Mindful Eating

If you asked your friends and family to describe the holidays, you’d find many answers associated with food. We plan extravagant meals and take time to sit out to spend with our loved ones. Think about your usual eating session. If you’re like me, you go through it so quickly you’re surprised you even taste the food! Mindful eating meditation engages all of the senses to slow the process down and focus your attention on the food and away from outside stress. Try these steps next time you sit down to eat.

  1. Sit comfortably with the piece of food in your hand.
  2. Look at the piece of food. Notice its shape, color, smell, weight, etc.
  3. Move it around in your hand. Notice the sound it makes as it moves, the textures you feel.
  4. Close your eyes and smell the food. Breathe deep and take in the scent.
  5. Place the food on your tongue. Keep it on your tongue and close your mouth around it. Just hold it on your tongue and feel the textures.
  6. Push the food against the top of your mouth. Notice what happens when you do so. Does it stay in one piece, is it dissolving?
  7. Start to slowly chew and let is move around your mouth.
  8. Now swallow your bite.

 

Focus! Focus! Focus! – Concentration Meditation

Mindful meditation trains the body to focus on your breath and let all other stimuli diminish. Concentration meditation involves focusing on a single point. This could again be your breath, a simple word or phrase, a photo or object, sound or music, or counting. Choose a single point easily attained/remembered so that you can take it with you if needed.  Focus your attention on this single point and should your mind wander, let the thought go and refocus on the single point.

  1. Sit upright or lie comfortably. If you choose to sit, do so with good, tall posture. Imagine you are something strong and unmoving, like a mountain. If you choose to lie down, do so in whatever manner is most comfortable to you.
  2. Engage your eyes if you are focusing on an object or photo. Close your eyes if you are listening to music, repeating a phrase/word, or counting small object (beads of a necklace/mala/rosary/etc.). If you have trouble keeping your eyes closed or are in a bright place, you may want to try using something over your eyes to create a relaxed, dark place.
  3. Make no effort to control your breathing. Simple breathe in and out, naturally and effortlessly. If you are focusing on your breath, you may control the length and depth.
  4. Focus your attention on that single point. If it’s an object, notice its weight, textures, sounds, etc.. If it is music, notice the inflections in notes and the responses they elicit. Notice the cadence of the phrase/mantra you repeat and how it makes you feel.

We hope these mindful meditation tips can help you feel a little more at peace this holiday season. If you’re looking to add in a few extra workouts this season, contact your local FAST today. Wishing you and your family a healthy, happy and relaxed holiday season.


Kyle Schneider

CSCS | Ahwatukee