The holidays can be stressful for everyone. Even though they offer a chance to reconnect with friends and families, they can create and added layer of pain or depression. For those who are adjusting to recovery from addiction, changes in relationships or loss of loved ones, the tension and pressure of the holidays often results in increased anxiety. Between juggling a handful of social events and trying to keep up with the fast pace of the season, you might even be experiencing holiday burnout. Now is the time to slow down and check-in with yourself, and starting to practice Mindfulness Exercises is one of the best ways to do that.
Mindfulness exercises are about being aware of what you’re feeling in the present moment. It has been shown to decrease stress in relationships, enhance empathy, and improve communication. You only need your breath and this present moment to practice mindfulness exercises. Here are some simple tips and techniques that will support your body, mind and soul, and help make your holiday more fulfilling.
Activate Your Mindfulness Exercises Muscles
Often times people use the terms mindfulness and meditation interchangeably, but mindfulness is just one of many meditation techniques that focuses on a heightened sense of awareness, or deeper concentration.
The key to mindfulness is learning how to activate these powerful “mindful” muscles”. Try closing your eyes and taking a deep breath, focusing as much as you can on each breath. Remind yourself of how grateful you are for each breath and let yourself embrace the present moment, feel it, and then let it go. You can’t focus on the now when you’re thinking about the past or the present, you only need to be present in the moment and continue to repeat the process of mindful breathing. If you notice your mind is drifting, gently bring yourself back and re-connect with your breath.
Practice Active Listening
Active listening is a way of listening and responding to another person that promotes mutual understanding. Also known as empathetic listening, this practice is about listening to understand, not to reply, or critique, argue or convince. The goal is to comprehend.
Make an effort to be more attentive to the conversations around you. Don’t assume you know what someone is going to say, really listen to their words and try and understand the point they are trying to make. You might be surprised to see how much you learn. Pay attention to what people are trying to convey through their body language. Try setting aside your smartphone, tablet, or any other device and turn down the music or television because you can’t practice active listening when you’re distracted. The idea is to make the other person feel heard.
Some additional ways you can practice active listening:
- Give Your Full Attention
- Be in the Moment
- Limit or Avoid Giving Advice
- Don’t Interrupt
Allow Yourself to Feel Your Emotions
Become more aware of the emotions that you’re feeling and observe them without judgement. If you’re experiencing grief or loneliness during the holidays, you’re not alone. Give yourself space and time for recovery when these emotions come up. If you’re feeling happy and excited, take a moment to express your gratitude.
Be Supportive of Other’s Emotions
For those who have lost a loved one during during past holidays or throughout the year, the season may bring added anxiety. Those who are grieving might not express the same enthusiasm about yearly traditions, or gatherings with family and friends, and they’ll often have a difficult time relating to general good feelings associated with the season. It’s not always a joyous occasion.
The best way to help those who are grieving is to let them know that you care. Notice their body language, allow them to communicate their feelings (if they want to), ask if there is anything you can do to help them, and remind the person you are thinking of him or her or even their loved one who’s sick or died.
Some great ways to stay in touch and let people know you care include: Cards, Phone Calls, Emails, Facetime or Skype, or in-person visits.
Mindfulness Exercises Include Letting Go of Judgement
Tension and conflict can arise during the holiday season, which can quickly lead to arguments or disagreements. Whether you feel disappointed in yourself or someone else, take a break, recognize how you’re feeling, allow yourself to feel the emotion, and then let those feelings go. This can be difficult to do, which is why it’s important to practice these techniques.
Let go of judgment not only towards other people, but towards yourself as well, and remind yourself that everyone is going through something. This is sometimes forgotten and practicing this with mindfulness exercises can really make a difference in the outcome. Let go and accept the things you cannot change, because acceptance is what allows us to make room for compassion.
Eat Meals with Awareness
Mind what you eat (and drink), instead of eating (or drinking) mindlessly. It may not seam like mindfulness exercises, but it is related.
The holiday season wouldn’t be complete without comfort food, sweet treats and desserts, office potlucks and edible executive gifts. Practice mindful eating by allowing yourself to enjoy a meal with family and friends, co-workers or neighbors. Slow down your thoughts and make an effort to be aware of all five senses and practice your mindfulness exercises. This allows you to be more mindful of your decisions and helps to consciously prevent overindulgence and feel more content.
Get Out of the House
Being cooped up in the house with family, friend, and people you’re not used to can be stressful, Sometimes it’s best to get out of the house. Take a walk around your house or around your block, take your dog for walk, or just stand outside and focus on your breathing. If you live near a park or the beach, try to fit in 15-20 minutes of nature, which is proven to help improve your mood. Mindfulness exercises include allowing yourself to be mindful of your connection with nature and be aware of what you feel and experience.
Mindfulness Exercises: Take a Quick Meditation Break
Need to get away from your family? Co-workers getting a little too festive? Don’t have time between holiday parties? Take a moment for a quick meditation break. As you already know, practicing meditation daily can significantly decrease stress and anxiety. It can also improve your overall mood and well-being. The best thing about meditation is that you can do it on the go.
A mantra is meditation that includes a strong and powerful word that helps prevent negative emotions from escalating, Mantras are fast and easy to remember, and they are not statements of belief. A single positive word is more receptive to the conscious mind than it is to an “I am…” affirmation.
Take a moment to observe your emotion and name it. Then choose the opposite of that emotion or just a positive word, take a deep breath, and say the word in your mind. Take another deep breath, and repeat the process. Set that as your intention for the rest of the day and practicing this regularly will help you make mindfulness exercises a part of your life forever.
During this holiday season, it’s important to work on the basics: getting enough sleep and exercise, drinking enough water, and taking some you time. Taking care of yourself allows you to be more attentive and mindful of others.
One great way to practice self-care is by keep a journal. Journaling allows you to express your thoughts, concerns, worries, memories, gratitude, etc., by removing certain mental blocks. It helps you understand yourself better and view your problems from different perspectives, and work through your thoughts.
What are you favorite mindfulness exercises to deal with stress?
Melissa Holmes Goodmon, Founder & CEO of Casa Capri Recovery, obtained her BA in Psychology and is a Licensed Drug and Alcohol Counselor (LAADC) specializing in women’s core issues. She is recognized as a leader in the field of mental health and substance abuse recovery where she has been an advocate since 2006.