Health

Take back your holiday season with mindfulness

Holidays are nostalgia for some, but for others it is one of the most stressful times of the year. Christmas shopping, holiday traffic and excessive socializing – it’s enough to overwhelm anyone.

Practicing mindfulness is one way to deal with the annual emotional roller coaster at the end of the year. It allows us to acknowledge our emotions, enjoy our surroundings and spend the season remembering the things that matter most to us.

What is Mindfulness and why now?

Practicing mindfulness as a stress reliever is one of the oldest tricks in the book, but what does it mean to be mindful?

It just means you’re in the know. When you practice mindfulness, you observe and acknowledge your thoughts and emotions as they occur, without judging them as good or bad. In other words, you live in the moment.

A mindful moment can help you organize your thoughts and ease the passage of difficult emotions.

smiling woman relaxing in front of christmas tree

Where to find mindfulness during the holidays

You can start practicing mindfulness by actively focusing on the present. Acknowledge your feelings when they come to you, but keep them Bee a distance; you want to understand them objectively without attachment.

Instead of multitasking, observe your environment with all your senses. When you talk to someone, listen actively – don’t think about the chores waiting for you at home. As you walk, focus on the sun warming your face and the sound of your shoes on the trail. When you focus on the present moment, you do not consume yourself with fears and worries that exist in the past or in the future. If something doesn’t allow you to be mindful, write it down so your brain knows you’ll come back to it later.

elderly couple walking together on winter snowy street

Have yourself a meditative session

Symptoms of chronic stress can include: psychological and physical, including headaches, digestive problems, and depression. Meditation can help you keep stress at bay by drawing your attention.

Select a calm spot and close your eyes. As you breathe, focus on each inhale and exhale, noticing the rise and fall of your abdomen and the air flowing through your nostrils. If your mind wanders, focus back on your breathing.

woman meditating and doing yoga in front of the christmas tree

Social Anxiety: The Least Festive Accessory

If you’re feeling a lot of anxiety leading up to Christmas dinner, you’re not alone. Relationship conflicts and dysfunction increase during the holidays. Practicing mindfulness can help you deal with stressful relationships and increase your Empathy.

Acknowledge your feelings and why you have them, but accept that other people have feelings too and they may not behave the way you want them to. They may feel the same as you: tense or overwhelmed. Accepting that a situation is out of your control makes it easier to let go of your judgments and expectations and focus on the joy of the moment.

Young stressed woman sitting at the table forgot to take her medicine pill for anxiety but she started drinking champagne and she is afraid because she has to go to the Christmas party

Give yourself the gift of health

The seasonal changes associated with fall and winter can affect your mood, energy levels and sleep patterns. Studies show that aerobic exercise reduces our body stress hormones and stimulates mood-elevating chemicals.

It also helps that the physical strain of exercise relieves mental stress by preoccupied with your concentration. Some experts recommend combining exercise with mindfulness-based stress reduction, a therapy technique that treats mental stress and physical pain.

Happy young female runner in knitted hat running in snowy street

Spread the Christmas Spirit by helping others

It is easy to become too preoccupied with our own lives to consider the needs of others. The holidays are the perfect time to take the focus off ourselves and our worries by putting that energy into helping others. Hang up a neighbor’s Christmas lights, donate time to a food bank or toy campaign, and reach out to friends and family who may be struggling.

Have compassion for others activates your mesolimbic system, making you feel rewarded. Having empathy for others also leads us to have more sympathy for ourselves.

Couples visiting outside in the snow, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Be your own secret Santa

When your basic needs are missing – for example you do not drink enough water or do not sleep – your body and mind are taxed more. Develop a self care routine to prepare for stressful situations and to better manage your emotions.

Get into the habit of checking in with yourself and don’t be afraid to find some time to focus on your needs. Self-care allows us to be available when others need us.

Young woman taking a bath wearing Santa hat, Christmas relaxation

Unplug yourself with a smartphone

You may not think smartphones and mindfulness belong in the same sentence, but interest in meditation as a health strategy is growing. Self-care is a separate category in your smartphone’s app store, where you can find apps for breathing exercises, meditation, and other mindfulness techniques.

A study at the University of Arizona found that students who used a mindfulness meditation mobile app, reduced stress and more self-compassion. Turn on the app notifications or set aside a time for guided meditation in your self-care routine.

Woman relaxing by listening to mindfulness music from smartphone app.  Caucasian woman wearing wireless earphones listen and feel the music while at home.

Remember your reason for the season

The last thing you want for the holidays is to add more stress to your routine. Expectations of and for our loved ones and holiday rituals can be too idealistic and cause us disappointment. Experts explain that our brains desire for ritualand those rituals have tremendous emotional power over us.

Instead of letting traditions or tasks dominate your vacation experience, focus on the people around you and their needs. Recognize that not everything will go as planned, but you can still experience the joy of every moment.

smiling family taking winter photo outside

Be realistic with resolutions

With the new year just around the corner, you might be able to narrow your list of New Year’s resolutions. remember to are realistic as you outline your goals and break them down into smaller achievements throughout the year.

Also, be kind to yourself if you didn’t keep your resolutions from last year. Keep moving forward and maintain a sense of gratitude that you can celebrate new beginnings.

New Year's resolutions 2022 typed on typewriter