Try these 5 mindful exercises to get you through some of the more stressful Holiday moments…
Tackle the crowds with - BREATHING THROUGH THE FEET ON THE FLOOR
Christmas is a busy time for everyone and you can often find yourself in crowds of people that you would normally avoid, whether you are shopping or at a Christmas party. If crowded situations make you feel anxious, then this exercise is a great trick to learn.
Breathing through the feet on the floor is something you can do at any time to ground yourself, without having to move or draw attention to yourself.
Making sure both feet are planted firmly on the ground, drop your attention to the soles of the feet. In your mind’s eye, imagine that you are breathing in and out through the soles of the feet. Keep your attention firmly on them, and if your mind wanders, simply bring it back. Continue for a few breaths, or for as long as you wish.
Avoid family dramas by - LISTENING MINDFULLY
Although it is always lovely to spend so much time with loved ones around Christmas, the constant socializing and extended visits can often cause friction and bad tempers. This year, try listening mindfully to your family and friends and see if it makes a difference.
When we communicate with others, a large part of our time is spent in our heads, rehearsing what we want to say, rather than paying attention to what is actually being said. For that reason, we often miss important information. This holiday season practice being present when you are listening.
- Stay present. When you notice your mind wandering bring it back, exactly as we do when we sit in meditation practice.
- Let the speaker finish without interrupting.
- Listening mindfully is much more than just listening with the ears. Notice the speaker’s body language and facial cues as well as their tone of voice.
- If you notice yourself mentally “rehearsing” what you want to say, acknowledge it and let it go.
- Notice if there is a wanting to fix and make things better. Unless advice is specifically being sought, can you simply listen and be a witness to the other person’s experience?
When we listen mindfully we maintain a wider perspective and are better able to pick up cues that might hint at the history underlying the words that are being spoken. We can acknowledge their pain and respond with empathy.
This isn’t an easy practice, so be gentle with yourself when you forget and interrupt. Do persevere, though, since it’s a skill that benefits others as well as yourself.
Banish Holiday Blues by APPRECIATING THE GOOD
Try not to focus on the negatives of the holiday season, as there are so many positives too! When you notice yourself focusing on the bad, try to stop yourself and think of everything you have to be grateful for.
BANKING THE GOOD
Sometimes people are surprised at the way a seemingly insignificant experience creates a strong sense of pleasure, which they experience again when they reflect on it—an added bonus! Our natural negative bias means we usually forget a transitory pleasant experience—the warm sun on our face, the scent of a flower, the smile that lights up a child’s face when they see us—but if we pay attention to the experience, noticing its different elements, we “bank” it in our long-term memory, and life starts to feel richer and more fulfilling.
Enjoy yourself with - MINDFUL EATING
Food is big part of Christmas for a lot of people, but it can often become an overwhelming pat of our to-do list and we can forget to appreciate the meals we take so long to prepare!
Try applying some mindful practices when you are preparing at eating this Christmas and start to savor all the delicious traditions that make up your holiday!
Begin with preparing the food. Turn off the radio or television and give your full attention to what you are doing. Chop the onions and feel the smart in the eyes; experience the crunch of the celery, the fresh smell of the lettuce as you break it open. It doesn’t matter what the food is, the instruction is simply to be present.
When you come to eat, give your full attention to the experience. Now this might not be possible for the whole of a Christmas dinner with the entire family, but every now and again try to savor the smells and take a mouthful and be with that experience, chew it, and eventually swallow it. Engage all the senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell.
PAUSING FOR CHOICE
If you often find yourself feeling guilty after Christmas for over indulging, you can also try this. When you find yourself reaching for that extra cookie or piece of chocolate, pause. Simply acknowledge what is happening without judging.
Become aware of how you are feeling emotionally, any thoughts that might be present, and any physical sensations in your body. It is important that you don’t judge yourself, but simply bring your attention to the breath, breathing in and out a few times before expanding your attention to include the whole body once more. Then, acknowledging all you have noticed, make a decision about what you want to do next. It is your choice and you are the only person who has the power to do something different in that moment. Whatever decision you make, be with it. So if you do choose the treat, be fully present with the experience of eating it, savor it, and let go of any judgment.
Take some time for you with - THE BREATHING SPACE
We can spend so much time worrying about other people over the holidays that we can forget to take time for ourselves. Try this simple exercises, perhaps once a day, or if you’re feeling overwhelmed. By looking after yourself, you will give everyone around you the best version of you this Christmas.
There are three stages to this simple practice:
1. Ask “What’s up for me right now?” Check in with your head (thoughts), heart (emotions), and body (felt sensations). Keep it short, and label what you discover. Sometimes there may be more than one emotion, for example.
2. Take your attention to the sensations of breathing. Perhaps repeat silently to yourself “Breathing in … breathing out …” as you follow each breath. This stage can be as long or as short as you like.
3. Expand your attention from the breath first to include the whole body. Become aware of points of contact with the floor, seat, or bed, or with other sensations, and then notice the environment—sounds, smells, the touch of air on skin … Continue with your day.
This blog has been extracted from A Year of Living Mindfully by Anna Black.