on December 23rd, 2013 No Comments
Is the holiday season stressful or even lonely? Heard about the scientific benefits of mindfulness but just don’t see how you could fit it in? Especially during the holidays? We often mistakenly think meditation requires sitting in lotus posture, preferably on a lotus flower in the middle of a still lake in Thailand with birds chirping in the background. Although that would be nice, it’s clearly not always possible and the good news is that it’s not necessary either! No matter what we are doing – whether it is commuting or traveling, eating or talking, sitting around or doing chores, each of these activities presents an opportunity for mindfulness! Here are six easy ways to integrate mindfulness into your holidays (and any day)!
Most meditation exercises are designed to bring your mind back into the present moment where it is happiest and calmest. About 50 percent of the time, we aren’t in the present moment, according to a study of 5,000 people by Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert of Harvard University. Our minds tend to wander and the researchers concluded that “a wandering mind is an unhappy 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. So here are some easy exercises that work, no matter where you are:
1. During the Commute/Travel
Driving mindfully. So often, we regard our commute or cartravel as a stressful annoyance. The worst is when we are stuck in traffic. But hold on, here’s a chance for you to sit back, relax and focus on your breathing. Bring your mind back into the present moment and see if you can become aware of everything around you. Usually our mind is always wandering, especially when we’re in an uncomfortable situation. Being stuck in a commute or in traffic allows us to develop being in the present moment. Have screaming children in the backseat? Practice fully accepting the moment as it is. Chances are they will calm down as you do… The result? You’ll arrive calmer and feel more rested and even restored.
2. During Meals
Eat mindfully. We often stuff our faces while watching TV, between meetings or in front of our computer. During the holidays, we tend to overeat. We are so busy consuming, we sometimes fail to fully pay attention to the flavors that grace our mouths. Try eating a snack with full attention. Notice how it looks and smells, feel the burst of flavors as you place it in your mouth, notice the taste of each bite, the texture. Contemplate the many people it took to bring this food to you (from the farmers to people delivering it to stores to you). You will open your eyes renewed, calmer and more focused.
3. During Conversation
Listen mindfully. Every interaction we have, whether it is at work or at home is an opportunity for mindfulness. Usually we are bursting with the impulse to talk about ourselves, to interrupt, or, oftentimes our mind is wandering – i.e. we are not really listening. See if, even for 5 minutes, you can fully dedicate your attention and awareness to the people who are speaking to you. Not only will you feel more peaceful and calm, but you will notice that you can understand them better and they will in turn feel deeply grateful and valued as they notice your full attention on them. As Simone Weil writes, “attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”