Stressful Times Make Mindfulness Even More Important
My yoga instructor always says, “Do you think you are enlightened? Spend some time with your family.” The point is, even the most zen of us can get caught up in relationship patterns and history that can harsh our mellow.
You may have started the holiday season already stressed. The 2016 election was unprecedented in its divisiveness and the levels of anger and frustration that played out before and after. Some of that divisiveness may have been within your own family and, now that the holidays are here, it may seem like the level of frenzy is higher than usual.
The secret to making your holidays as enjoyable and stress-free as possible is to take the mindfulness you practice on your yoga mat or meditation cushion and actually apply it in your daily life. If we define mindfulness as controlled, conscious awareness of all of the contents of one’s mind, you can see that he who controls the content of their mind, controls their response to their environment. American minds tend to wander and mindfulness researchers have concluded that a wandering mind is not a happy mind. It is a fascinating fact that, no matter what we’re actually doing, pleasant or unpleasant, we are happiest when our mind is in the present moment.
You can do literally anything mindfully. Here are some examples every day, mindful activities.
Driving mindfully. So often, we regard our commute as a stressful annoyance, particularly if we are in traffic. Think of rush hour as a chance to relax and focus on your breathing. Our mind is likely to wander when we’re in an uncomfortable situation. Being stuck in a commute or in traffic allows us to develop being in the present moment. If you practice calm, chances are your energy will rub off on those around you and you’ll feel
Eat mindfully. We often eat while multi-tasking – watching television, on the computer or stuffing food down between meetings. By slowing down and paying attention to the flavors of our food, noticing the taste and texture of each bite, you will finish your meal feeling more relaxed and calm.
Listen mindfully. Every interaction we have, whether it is at work or at home, is an opportunity for mindfulness. Often we listen with the intent to respond, i.e., we are not really listening. Try to dedicate fully your attention and awareness to the people who are speaking to you. Not only will you feel more peaceful and calm, but you will understand better and they will feel valued.
Rest Mindfully If your holiday involves a lot of sitting around, this is a great time to recharge your batteries. Just like you plug in your phone to recharge, you can get a quick jumpstart by unplugging yourself. Try one minute of sitting with your eyes closed and noticing the ebb and flow of your breath.
Many of us will be with our families this holiday season. Family can be a major challenge to your peace of mind, especially if you or they (or both) are stressed. Breathe deeply, and resist the temptation to rehash old wounds or expect more than family members can deliver. Try to find and relish the love, generosity, and togetherness that the holidays often bring.