Staying Mindful to Prevent End of Year Sadness
The holiday season can be one of the most stressful times of the year. In between all the holiday shopping, family planning, and decorating, many of us seldom find the time to stop and enjoy the cooler air or the smell of pine and baked goods. But those moments can be essential to maintaining our overall sense of happiness and wellbeing during the otherwise trying time. Commenting on the chaos of the holidays, Dr. Diana Raab, specialist in transpersonal psychology, states: “Being in the moment helps us gain a better understanding of ourselves.” She quotes the following sentence from Be Here Now, by Ram Dass, which focuses on yoga principles and reconnecting man with their spiritual self, that: “The journey across the great ocean of existence is a journey inward . . . ever in deeper and deeper and the deeper you get in the more you meet the truth.” According to Dr. Raab, one way to meet this truth is by practicing mindfulness. After all, mindfulness can help us recognize the already existing happiness in our own lives. In other words, it can remind us to be thankful for what we have, as well as make us more aware of what we have to be thankful for.
Staying Mindful During the Holidays
There are a number of ways to increase our mindfulness, especially over the holidays. Perhaps one of the most overlooked practices associated with heightening awareness is mindful breathing. What does this mean? Take the time to focus on the sensation of inhaling and exhaling. As we breathe in, let’s be aware of that intake of air, and as we breathe out, let’s be aware of it rushing past our nose and lips. At first glance, it might not be immediately apparent what this simple activity can do, but in essence it is to remind us that we’re alive. This is something that is easily taken for granted, but this practice can help us remember the fact that we are living, breathing human beings, and that alone is something to be thankful for.
Another helpful practice is becoming aware of our bodies and minds. In addition to focusing on how we breathe and the sensation of breathing, we should learn how to expand that awareness to encompass our entire bodies. Live in each action in each moment. Paying attention to the little things can help ground us in the present which can keep us from stressing or worrying about things that are outside of our control. In fact, much of the stress surrounding the holidays comes from a lack of attention that is placed on the here and now. Instead, we worry about the “what if’s”: what if we get the wrong gift? What if we can’t afford what we initially wanted? What if the recipient doesn’t love the gift? As these thoughts flood our conscious mind we begin to spiral into self-doubt and distress. Instead, by grounding ourselves through an enhanced awareness of our physical being, we can then begin to address our holiday responsibilities with a new, calmer demeanor. This can allow us to make wiser choices rather than allowing stress to overwhelm our decision-making. It can also keep us from over-thinking what we want by reminding us to be thankful for what we already have.
This heightened awareness of ourselves can help relieve the tension that tends to build up in our bodies and minds, particularly at this time of year. As we exhale, we might imagine ourselves physically releasing our tension with each breath. Although we might be constantly on-the-go in order to complete the number of errands that seem to accumulate as the holidays draw nearer, we can still find time to meditate. Movement doesn’t make meditation impossible, in fact, Dr. Raab advocates what she calls walking meditation. She explains: “If you have difficulty sitting still or are limited for time, a walking meditation is a great alternative to a seated meditation. Pay attention to your body as you do a ‘royal stroll,’ feeling and being aware the ground with each step you take. Think of each step as a miracle.” Time spent shopping or moving about can be useful for becoming more in-touch with our inner selves. By practicing walking meditation we are not only grounding ourselves but also cultivating a sense of inner peace and balance which can be otherwise difficult to find with all of the hustle and bustle surrounding us.
Benefits of Self-Awareness
Addressing the effectiveness of these techniques, Dr. Raab states that: “All these techniques lead to increased self-awareness, which is about having a clear perception of who you are—your personality, strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, idiosyncrasies, motivations, and how in touch you are with your emotional well-being.” After all, increased self-awareness can make us better capable of understanding ourselves as well as others, which can also make us more resilient and comfortable in our own skin.
Remember the Here and Now
Among many other things, increased mindfulness and self-awareness reminds us to be here, now. And in doing so, we remember that each day is precious, so why worry about a few days out of the year? After all, every day is special. In essence, let’s be thankful for each moment remember to appreciate the simple things. The holidays aren’t just about wish lists.