With the rush of the holiday season upon us, many of us will find ourselves in a state of overwhelm and exhaustion. While it may be a time of celebration for many, getting lost in the planning, cooking, shopping and general chaos of this season can make it seem like a blur. Leaning into mindfulness practices can be a helpful way of staying present, absorbing the small moments, and creating lasting memories for years to come. But how do we do this?
Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which you focus on being aware of what you are sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment. In a larger sense, this practice is often very helpful in coping with anxiety and uncomfortable feelings/sensations that we experience. We often judge these feelings and sensations as something that must be avoided and judged as negative, instead of allowing and accepting them. In the smaller sense, we can utilize mindfulness practice as a way to stop, breathe, and take in what is occurring around us in that very moment. When we think of the holidays and the plethora of activities and tasks around them, it’s rare that we stop, reflect, and “take it all in”.
I like to consider mindfulness as something that is simple but not exactly easy. The practice requires very little physical effort or external items, but it can be difficult to implement. Many of us are accustomed to functioning at a more rapid pace, making this very intentional act of slowing down rather difficult. The following is a beginner set of steps for incorporating mindfulness into your daily life, particularly during this incredibly busy season:
Set aside some time. You don’t need a meditation cushion or bench, or any sort of special equipment to access your mindfulness skills—but you do need to set aside some time and space. Observe the present moment as it is. The aim of mindfulness is not to quiet the mind or attempt to achieve a state of eternal calm. The goal is simple: we’re aiming to pay attention to the present moment, without judgment. Easier said than done, we know.
Let your judgments roll by. When we notice judgments arise during our practice, we can make a mental note of them, and let them pass. Return to observing the present moment as it is. Our minds often get carried away in thought. That’s why mindfulness is the practice of returning, again and again, to the present moment.
Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself for whatever thoughts crop up, just practice recognizing when your mind has wandered off, and gently bring it back.
That’s the practice. It’s often been said that it’s very simple, but it’s not necessarily easy. The work is to just keep doing it. Results will accrue (Source: Mindful.org).
Finding ways to express gratitude can also be a meaningful part of daily mindfulness practice. One of the most effective ways to express gratitude is through journaling. There’s no right or wrong way to do this and no set frequency; it’s truly an individual activity. Some people find it helpful as a daily practice, perhaps by writing 2-3 things they are grateful for each morning and/or evening. Others may find weekly to a few times weekly as being what works best for them. The idea is that you are taking that time to consider what brings you joy and gratitude and making space to express it. Other ideas may include a gratitude jar, where you place slips of paper with statements of gratitude and read back after a period of time. Giving yourself gratitude prompts, such as “three things I am grateful for” can also be a helpful tool in taking inventory of what you have.
No matter how you celebrate this time of year, taking a few moments here and there to allow for quiet, intentional reflection can make a significant difference. Enjoy the moments as you can and remember to take whatever time you can to prioritize yourself.
Wishing everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving!
By: Maura L. Johnson, LCSW, PMH-C