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!


Stopping to Smell the Bluebells

So my intuitive eating experiment is starting to include other areas of my life.

I’ve been a part time Digital Marketing student for a little over a year now. I work full time, study part time and manage two social media accounts for local businesses in my spare time. It’s a busy schedule and after spending approximately five or six hours a day on my computer at work, I’m hunched over my laptop for another couple of hours in the evenings. On top of this, I’m getting notifications throughout the day and night of likes and comments on the various pages I’m managing. I feel like I’m married to Facebook. And the marriage is in trouble. Even the dopamine hit of a bunch of “likes” on my posts isn’t really working for me anymore. I’m afraid that Facebook and Twitter have become my proverbial ball and chain.

I woke up Saturday morning with burning eyes sporting big, black circles under them, tired looking, blotchy skin and a bad attitude. I started to post content for one of my pages and the photos I had planned to share looked fuzzy and pixelated. I felt my teeth clench and my shoulders tighten and all I could think was that this is supposed to be my weekend. My time to relax and have fun. And I wanted to cry. It was sunny and beautiful out, my dog was staring at me, waiting for his long, Saturday morning walk and I was clenching my teeth, completely burnt out, tapping furiously away at my laptop again. Something had to give.

So, I resigned from one business via email and told the other that I was cutting my work in half. then I put my laptop on the shelf, unplugged my TV, texted a few friends that I was going off the grid for the weekend, threw my two smart phones in a drawer, grabbed my pup and hit the beach.

Nick (my dog) and I ran, strolled, sprinted, sat under a tree and stared at the ocean. We crouched on a rock and watched a heron as he fished for his lunch. The waves crashed against the shore and I felt myself starting to relax. My shoulders weren’t hurting anymore, my teeth weren’t clenched and I realized that too much social media will suck all of the joy right out of your life.

Walking home along the dirt path, Nicky decided that the long, wild grass growing along either side was going to be his all-you-can-eat salad bar. So, instead of standing impatiently waiting for him to finish his meal, I sat in the soft grass and ran the cool, green blades through my hands, breathing in the exquisite scent of fresh, spring green things. Then I thought why not lie down in the middle of this long, cool grass and stare at the leafy green tree above my head for awhile. The branches were shining in the sunlight, with leaves from a soft spring to deep, forest green and they were incredibly beautiful and soothing to look at. Then I glanced across the path and saw a patch of sweet, little bluebells with a few buttercups mixed in. They looked like the prettiest things I had ever seen and, all of a sudden, I realized that I felt incredibly happy.

Occasionally people walked by me on the path. Some smiled and said “hi” or commented on Nick’s grassy feast. Some gave me concerned looks. But I didn’t really care. I was happy.

So, maybe the secret of happiness is that it’s about connecting with yourself, nature and slowing down enough to notice the beauty around us.

And maybe the other secret is that it’s the opposite of what you feel when you spend too much time on Facebook, Twitter or even my beloved Instagram.

happy dog