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Mindfulness: The Antidote to Holiday Stress

Mindfulness is a commonly heard buzz word, used in different ways. We all know it’s important, but what exactly does it mean and how can we harness it?

Two definitions of mindfulness.

Definition 1: Jon Kabat Zinn, the founder of mindfulness-based stress reduction, defines mindfulness as “The awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.”

The emphasis is on concentrating on each moment, as opposed to sleep-walking through your day without much awareness. You can purposely bring your attention to things happening around you.

Definition 2: As seen in spiritual circles, mindfulness is keeping your attention alive in the present moment. This focuses on a sense of awakening rather than being on automatic pilot.

We all know what it’s like to go blindly through the day, without giving tasks much conscious thought.

The Trouble with Auto-Pilot

Have you ever found yourself mindlessly driving to work on a Saturday morning, by habit, when you meant to drive somewhere else?.

The obvious problem with living in this zombie-like state is that we can miss so much by performing actions by rote. We can miss out on experiences and connections with others.

The practice of being mindful or aware can help you feel more PRESENT, and in a way that is INTENTIONAL. Mindfulness is the antidote to auto-pilot.

Rather than things being automatic or mindless, there’s a sense of being aware of what’s happening in the situation. As you allow yourself to be present to what’s happening around you, it can bring a sense of slowing down and feeling more calm.

The Best Holiday Recipe – Just Add Mindfulness

This holiday season, as you spend time with family, intentionally take the time to notice small details around you or in other people. You can share these observations with others, such as telling your host how beautiful the flowers are on the table, while taking the time to savor each bite of the Thanksgiving turkey.

And when you get distracted or feel emotional, you can use mindfulness to bring you back to the present moment. If you find your cousin’s comment irritating, you can notice the feeling of irritation without reacting or telling him off. You can let the moment pass, and focus on something more pleasant.

Mindfulness Can Help You Break the Cycle

Mindfulness can help you break the cycle, even if the holidays make you feel like this young lady.

Ultimately, mindfulness can help you learn more about yourself and your patterns of behavior. Some of them may be old and no longer useful to you. If you can adopt an attitude of being nonjudgmental and curious, you can feel less reactive.

When you’re less reactive, there is more space to be present and choose how you want the moment to feel.

This can take practice, but the ultimate goal of mindfulness, especially in terms of a spiritual approach, is freedom from the minds’ grasping to control things and make things a certain way. As you better get to know yourself and your patterns of behavior, you can choose if you want to engage in certain things such as arguments or self-criticism, or not.

The holidays can be a great time to start practicing mindfulness and increased awareness. Start with noticing your surroundings, the sights, the smells, the sounds. Notice without judgment how they make you feel. When something is unpleasant, see if you can live peacefully with it for even a minute or two, preventing automatic reactions and judgement and suffering with it.

(If the man in the photo had been more mindful and noticed his surroundings, he may have seen himself photobombing his wife’s proud moment. Plus, I think it’s hilarious, and wanted to add some Thanksgiving humor to your day!)

See what happens as you awaken to the moment and feel what happens as you do that while engaging other people. Try really listening to them, making time and space to hear them. And try allowing yourself the same luxury, maybe even asking for time and space to share what you are feeling in the moment.

Wishing you a peaceful and present Thanksgiving this week!

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P.S. If you haven’t heard yet, I’m offering a special online holiday training to help you feel more mindful, calm and present amidst the chaos of the busy season hat is just beginning now. Click here for more information and to receive the Early Bird discount so you can make this the best holiday season yet, and feel full rather than depleted on January 1st!

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