This holiday season, do you find yourself thinking about upcoming family events, planning parties, cooking meals and wrapping gifts—all at the same time? Are you overwhelmed with shopping, decorating, party-going and time commitments? In truth, we all tend to get just a bit overwhelmed by our holiday to-do list, which disrupts our normal routine.
With Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s just around the corner, it may be our intention to focus on our blessings and all the good that we have in our lives, but in the rush of the season, it’s tough not to lose our connection to the present, and our feelings of gratitude.
Enter mindfulness. Mindfulness is a mental state that can be achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and sensations.
I’m sure many of you have heard of this concept. It’s often used as a therapeutic technique because it allows you to direct your attention to the present without judgment. Mindfulness can help you take a deep breath and slow your pace—even during the hectic holiday season.
Spearheaded in the 1980’s, Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD began using mindfulness skills to help patients cope with chronic pain, anxiety and stress. He created the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program now in use by many hospitals and medical centers. Mindfulness skills have been shown to be effective in reducing anxiety, depression, binge eating, substance abuse, chronic pain and many other disorders. Mindfulness skills can help you control overwhelming emotions and increase your tolerance of distressing situations. Mindfulness has also been shown to improve blood pressure and sleep patterns, relieve stress, and reduce gastrointestinal distress.
So, how can you use mindfulness in your everyday life, starting now?
Begin by sitting quietly and focusing on your natural breathing. Allow thoughts and feelings to come and go without judgment. Remember, thoughts and feelings are not facts. Notice body sensations and allow them to pass. Notice sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches and let them pass. If your mind wanders and you find yourself daydreaming, redirect it back to the present moment. Return your focus to your breathing and begin the process again.
In truth, with so many things to manage and juggle, it can be difficult to stay mindful every day let alone during this most hectic time. Practicing mindfulness is one tool that can help.
Wishing you happy and meaningful holidays,
Statesboro Psychiatric Associates
Mindfulness Tips & Reading