Updated: Dec 6, 2021
The Holidays are upon us. Here are some simple everyday mindfulness techniques to help us take care of ourselves in the midst of what can be a hectic and emotional time.
The Holidays can be joyful and they can also be stressful. It’s ok to have mixed feelings.
The Holidays are a lot of extra work for many of us. In addition to the shopping, required parties, travel planning, cooking, organizing--there is more emotional labor. It can be overwhelming and exhausting.
We may find ourselves challenged by family members and feel we have to defend our life choices.
The Holidays can also bring up loneliness and grief.
But with all the extra work, planning and family time, it's hard to find time to create space in the mind and take care of ourselves.
You don't have to schedule full hours of meditation to take care of yourself. What you can do is take moments to:
Take a breath, let it out.
Acknowledge your feelings. It is ok to have feelings come up. Notice them. Where do they show up in your body? Name them. Try to digest them when you have time later.
Send yourself the utmost compassion and friendliness. Be your own best friend. Perhaps even put your hand over your heart and imagine sending loving vibes.
Sprinkle mindful moments into your day.
Mindfulness has been proven to reduce stress. Studies show mindfulness can lower blood pressure, increase immune response and improve health in many other measurable ways.
Mindfulness is defined as simply noticing the present moment, on purpose and without judgement. (Paraphrasing Dr. Jon Kabat Zinn, founder of MBSR.)
Here are Three Exercises that are simple and can be folded into the day.
1. Mindful Eating and Drinking
One of the simplest ways to practice mindfulness is through eating or drinking something mindfully. I’m not talking about a weight-loss technique. I am talking about being aware of the present moment. Simply sitting down, taking a sip of tea or water and opening up to the experience can be -- strangely profound. Noticing the sensations on the tongue of heat, cold, wet--the flavor, the clearness, the milkiness, etc. Suddenly my mind is not so full of thoughts and I can just be.
When we simply see -------- moment - to - moment ------what's occurring, observing without judgment or preference, we don't get lost in thinking. So often the internal dialogue is: "I prefer this moment to that moment, I prefer this pleasant thought to that pain in. my knee." As we begin developing this choiceless awareness, what starts coming within the field of awareness is quite remarkable. We begin to experience directly the tree seen, the music heard, the earth felt, the flavor tasted, and the flower smelled.
--adapted from A Gradual Awakening, Stephen Levine
2. Mindful Walking
Another simple way to practice mindfulness is to go for a walk. Have you ever gone to the store and not remember how you got there? Because you were on autopilot. Your body took you to the store and your mind was busy thinking about everything else. Walking mindfully is a completely different experience! You could leave the house and set the intention to notice color. Your experience of walking will be amazing
Artist: Henck Van Bilsen, psychologist & Author
3. Five Senses Exercise
Here's another quick and easy technique you can do, if you only have a minute or two. It helps you practice mindfulness quickly in nearly any situation.
Notice five things that you can see.
Look around you and bring your attention to five things that you can see. Pick something that you don’t normally notice, like a shadow or a small crack in the concrete.
Notice four things that you can feel.
Bring awareness to four things that you are currently feeling, like the texture of your pants, the feeling of the breeze on your skin, or the smooth surface of a table you are resting your hands on.
Notice three things you can hear.
Take a moment to listen, and note three things that you hear in the background. This can be the chirp of a bird, the hum of the refrigerator, or the faint sounds of traffic from a nearby road.
Notice two things you can smell.
Bring your awareness to smells that you usually filter out, whether they’re pleasant or unpleasant. Perhaps the breeze is carrying a whiff of pine trees if you’re outside, or the smell of a fast-food restaurant across the street.
Notice one thing you can taste.
Focus on one thing that you can taste right now, at this moment. You can take a sip of a drink, chew a piece of gum, eat something, notice the current taste in your mouth, or even open your mouth to search the air for a taste.
I hope your Holidays are happy and joyful. I wish you comfort, friendship and compassion during this time, and always! May this practice serve for our awakening, and the awakening of all.
Here's a little SNL Skit about the Holidays. Sometimes humor is good medicine!
Cover Photo by Callum Shaw on Unsplash
Five Senses Exercise Source
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