Prioritizing Your Health During the Holidays
Part 3: Mindfulness
“Mindfulness” has become a buzz word lately and for good reason, but what is mindfulness? Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Ahhhh…doesn’t this sound like a wonderful way of being each and every day? Can you feel your cortisol levels lowering just thinking about it? I definitely can.
Practicing mindfulness during this holiday season can really help you to feel more present as well as be better equipped to handle holiday stress. Oftentimes, the holidays bring more to-do lists, shopping, parties, etc. than we are used to, so it is common not to feel connected to the present moment because you are being pulled in a thousand different directions until you literally stop on Thanksgiving to say what you are grateful for this year. All the while, you missed the small moments to be grateful for leading up to Thanksgiving because you were so busy getting ready for it. All this to say, practicing mindfulness, a little bit each day, can make a huge difference in how you react to things and others during this holiday season.
There are so many ways to practice mindfulness, but here are 5 simple things you can do to get started! Try all of them or just one. The point is to just START if mindfulness is not already part of your daily routine.
- Gratitude journal. Taking 5 minutes each day (many people like to do it in the morning) to simply write down 3 things you are grateful for is a form of mindfulness. You are forcing yourself to stop, think, and reflect on things that bring you joy in your life! These are things that will keep you going during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.
- Practice informal mindfulness throughout the day. Informal mindfulness is when you are actively engaged and fully present in whatever it is you are doing such as brushing your teeth, folding laundry, or doing the dishes. Think about how often your mind wanders when you are doing these tasks. The goal here is to bring your mind back to the present moment and take in the peacefulness that these mundane tasks can bring you if you let them.
- Meditate either sitting, moving, or walking. Meditation can be a pretty powerful tool in helping to reduce anxiety, stress, and depression. Too much stress can increase cortisol levels, and a study showed that meditation may lower blood serum levels of cortisol which is the body’s primary stress hormone. This is great news! There are so many ways to meditate. You need to figure out what works for you. First, start with a few minutes a day and work your way up if you have time and are finding meditation to be helpful. Some people prefer to find a cozy spot in the house and sit comfortably on a soft pillow while others prefer to do a walking meditation. You can sit in silence, listen to gentle music without words, or try using a meditation app such as Headspace, Calm, Breathe, Buddhify, Meditation Studio, or Melissa Wood Health.
- Pause and breathe. Simply pausing and taking a few deep belly breaths can be very beneficial. Focusing on our breath helps us to come to the present moment and just be. Breathwork is a great way to clear your mind of what just happened or is about to happen and let your mind be still while calming your nervous system. You can try box breathing where you inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, and then exhale for 4 seconds. You could also try the 4-7-8 breathing technique where you inhale for 4, hold for 7, and exhale for 8. Try 3-5 rounds of each and see how you feel! You should feel pretty grounded and relaxed.
- Say “no” more often. Repeat after me. “It is OK to say no this holiday season.” Saying “no” to things that don’t energize you or bring your joy is practicing mindfulness. It means you are taking a moment to think about what is that you need in the moment and focusing on the present. Obviously, there are going to be things that we have to do this holiday season that we might not want to do, but there will also be plenty of things that you don’t actually have to attend.
Maybe mindfulness is already a big part of your life, but if it isn’t now is a great time to start! As you can see, you can do it anywhere at any time! Hopefully by practicing mindfulness you will be better able to enjoy this holiday season!
If you are finding it hard to get started with mindfulness, I would be happy to help you figure out how to incorporate it into your life! You can book an appointment with me here.