By Emily Hornsby, NCHPAD Mindfulness Instructor
The holiday season can be an exciting time of the year, but it can also be overwhelming. Travel, parties and events, making time for friends or loved ones, and added financial responsibilities are just a few of the stressors this time of year. If you are feeling overwhelmed by this added stress from the holiday season or just need to pause, a few simple mindfulness practices can help you pause, relax and enjoy the holiday season.
- Mindful pausing: Pausing for a moment or two to notice what you can perceive through your senses, moving from thinking into direct experience.
- Mindful breath: Taking three breaths mindfully as an invitation to relax and create space between your thoughts.
- Heart hug: Gently placing your hand over or near your heart space (or imagining holding your hand to your heart) can cause the release of oxytocin, one of our “feel good” hormones. Feel or imagine the warmth of your palm on your body, and take a few intentional breaths. Over time, your body learns this response and a quick gesture will work.
- Self-hug: Place your arm or arms over your chest or another part of your body and give yourself a hug, or imagine giving yourself a hug. This action has the same effect as a heart hug.
- Other gentle touch: Gently rubbing your hands or fingers together, placing your hand on your thigh, or placing your palm against your cheek. Some people find a light tapping with their fingers at the center below their collarbones reassuring.
- Tuning into sensation: If your movement is limited, you might feel the air as it hits your skin on the face or another part of the body. Experiment to see what works best for you.
- Spend time in nature to become more grounded and reconnect with yourself. You may want to try leaving your phone or electronic device at home when you spend time outdoors so you connect with your surroundings. Hear the birds sing, listen to the wind blowing through the leaves on the trees, or notice birds and other animals.
- Practice Mindfulness Meditation to help you rest your attention on the present. Sit quietly and focus on your breath, another anchor-like ambient sound (background or surrounding noise), an object in the room, or another part of your body like your hands or feet. When thoughts, feelings and emotions come into your awareness – and they will – gently notice them. You can even name them to yourself – thoughts are here, planning is here, fear is here, anxiety is here – and then let them go and return to your breath or other anchor. It’s just like training a puppy repeatedly; you return to your breath or other anchor. By practicing mindfulness meditation, you are retraining your brain to be in the present rather than worrying about the future or ruminating about the past.
- Practice gratitude by either mentally noting what you are grateful for regularly or keeping a gratitude journal and writing down a few things you are thankful for.
- Don’t forget to do what you enjoy: Exercising, playing a sport, playing a musical instrument, listening to music, painting, sculpting, gardening, spending time with family and friends, or even watching a favorite movie or TV show are all beneficial. It’s easy to get caught up in the to-do list of the holidays and forget to do the things we enjoy.
- Above all else, be kind to yourself.
Interested in more Mindfulness content? Check out our Mindfulness series on our YouTube channel.