Mindfulness over the Holidays

As beautiful as the Holiday Season is, it also can be a time of hectic schedules, overeating and drinking at holiday parties and occasional family frustration. All situations that mindfulness can help with.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you carefully observe your thoughts and feelings without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to your current experience, rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future.” – Psychology Today

How do I practice Mindfulness?

There are many ways to practice mindfulness and all techniques are a form of meditation, but the goal of any technique is to achieve a state of focused relaxation. You achieve this by sinking into your body and paying close attention to thoughts and sensations – without any form of judgment. This allows the mind to completely focus on the present moment.

Basic mindfulness meditation:

Sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing or on a word or “mantra” that you repeat silently. Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment and return to your focus on breath or mantra. Notice each part of your body starting at your heads and ending at your toes. Allow any emotion to be present while doing this without judgment. Practice a relaxed naming of emotions: “joy,” “anger,” “frustration” etc. as your mindful meditation continues. Accept the presence of the emotions without judgment and let them go.

What are the benefits of mindfulness?

  • Higher brain functioning
  • Decreased stress
  • Increased immune function
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Lowered heart rate
  • Increased awareness
  • Increased attention and focus
  • Increased clarity in thinking and perception
  • Lowered anxiety levels
  • Experience of being calm and internally still
  • Experience of feeling connected

Gaining these benefits can be as simple as closing your eyes and being silent for ten minutes a day. This is a practice that is so easy, anyone can do it!


A Very Merry Christmas

lunch and beaver lake 029You never know how a day is going to end, and last Thursday ended with a midnight visit to an emergency vet in East Vancouver.

My dog, Nicky, began vomiting late at night and about 8 episodes later ended up vomiting blood. When I noticed the blood, every fiber of my being freaked out and I was convinced that he had been poisoned by something or someone. I tearfully scooped him up into my arms, darted through the rain to a cab and made the driver race to the hospital.

We arrived at our destination with me fighting off uncontrollable tears and an impending panic attack. Nick was quickly taken to an examination room in the back of the clinic and I desperately tried to follow. When I was gently told that I had to stay out front, I quickly scanned the waiting room. There was a Caucasian couple in one corner and an Asian couple in the other. I really didn’t want to make small talk with anyone and I really, really didn’t want to have to smile and pretend to be brave. I was feeling the opposite of brave and wanted to sit in a corner, close my eyes and visualize my little Terrier healthy and happy again. I picked the Asian couple’s corner. Maybe they can’t speak English I thought hopefully as I approached them.

Almost as soon as I sat down the man smiled at me and said that my dog was going to be okay. I smiled back weakly and thanked him. He asked why my dog and I were there and I told him, then thought that it would be polite of me to ask them the same question.

I found out that they were there because the woman accidentally stepped on their hamster. She was cooking in the kitchen and the hamster snuck up behind her and, well, you can imagine the rest.. The couple were very distraught but also incredibly proud of their hamster and showed me a number of photos and videos of her. I asked what her name was and the woman said “Lala”, followed by the man saying “I call her Baby”. I smiled. Those are both wonderful names I told them.

A few minutes later the vet came out to say that Lola will be ok but that Lola is a boy. The shocked look on the couples faces was priceless. Both of their mouths fell open at almost the same time. The vet then explained that Lola has balls. The woman looked confused for a second but then responded that she had always thought they were breasts.

I couldn’t have asked for a better or cuter distraction than this sweet, quirky couple and I was also very happy that Lola (not Lala) was going to be just fine.

Nicky, after a couple of days on IV at the animal hospital, is also on the mend from an attack of acute pancreatitis. After a lot of tears and fears, I couldn’t be more grateful.

So, the moral of this story? Sometimes we take the good, smooth times in life for granted and this night reminded me to never do that again. It reminded me to be grateful for every day I have on this beautiful/painful/amazing adventure called life. It also reminded me to never take for granted my little fur baby, and all of the wonderful people I have in my life, making every day so much better than it would be without them.

So this holiday will be frugal, after my $1,800 vet bill, but it will also be filled with amazing friends and lots of love. And that’s the most important thing.

And, on that note, I’m wishing everyone a happy, relaxing and beautiful holiday filled with the real spirit of Christmas. Make sure you give the ones you love a big, bear hug tonight and let them know how much they mean to you. That’s a sure-fire way to guarantee that your Christmas will be amazing.

santa dog