According to a Harvard study, our minds wander 47% of our waking hours and it’s making us less happy, even if our minds are on something pleasant. On top of that, we are almost always in “doing” mode and multi-tasking, especially this time of year. The constant busyness of life, having to be glued to our phones as to not miss a meeting, appointment or practice…. along with job, family, and relationship stress can really take its toll on our minds and bodies.
Mindfulness is the antidote to our chaotic lives. It’s a way of waking up from auto-pilot and taking back our innate, human ability to fully “be” in the moments of our lives, that can only be experienced directly in the present moment. Mindfulness is an ancient practice that has been brought into secular settings like schools, business, hospitals and even the military. According to the founder of the 37-year-old MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) program, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Mindfulness is the “awareness that arises from paying attention to the present moment, on purpose, non-judgmentally.” Which, turns out to be much easier said than done.
Other than regular visits to Kellie and her team, here are three tips to staying a little saner this holiday season:
1. Short moments, many times. Meditation can seem intimidating or even a little peculiar. Start small. Just like forming any new habit, it needs to be repeated until it becomes engrained. Practicing should not be another thing on the “to do” list, it’s something that can be built into your day. It’s a way to remember your humanity, and just “be” for a few minutes. All you need is 5-10 minutes per day. Sit in a comfy position, focus on your body breathing, sounds, or physical sensations. When your mind wanders – kindly, gently, but deliberately bring your attention back to the anchor of your attention…then repeat. Similar to a bicep curl in the gym. Practicing singlemindedness allows your mind some much needed rest.
2. 68% effort. Many of us have that “comparing mind” of attempting to keep up with the Jones’s. During the holiday season, it’s very easy to go overboard cooking, cleaning, decorating, baking for the kid’s parties, making appearances at every get together. We tend to want everything (and everyone) to be perfect. I actually call myself a “Recovering Perfectionist.” Like many, I’m prone to taking on too much, biting off more than I can chew. I’m a perpetual “striver”…that there must be better than here, which almost always leads to imminent burnout. If you relate to this, ask yourself: What would it feel like to pick a few things and put about 68% effort into it and totally be OK with it? That type of invitation sounds amazing to me. Just don’t fill that time you just created for yourself with more “doing”.
3. Pick one trigger. Start paying attention to what really pushes your buttons and notice how you automatically react to those stressful triggers. (I have young children, it would only take me two seconds to find something!) Pick one thing to start working on how you can respond more wisely to the stressor. For instance, when I’m stressed, I tend to be very reactive and yell when my kids start fighting. It’s a perfect place to practice mindfulness, noticing emotions like frustration and anger, creating a deliberate check-in and choosing to respond more wisely.
Especially during the holiday season, we ultimately want each other to be fully present, our whole, bare attention. To spend precious time with our loved ones. This is one of the greatest gifts we can give to each other. If you’re interested in learning more, check out my two-hour Stress Reduction Workshop in January 2017!