The Holiday season can be a magical time of year. But let’s be honest: it can also be stressful. There are gifts to buy, meals to prepare, and plans to arrange. You might find the Norman Rockwell experience you had in mind becomes an emotional minefield.
According to an article published by Johns Hopkins Medicine, the holidays bring as much stress as they do joy for some people. Practicing meditation can help replace stress with joy this season so that you can enjoy your time with family and friends.
Meditation is scientifically proven to have a positive effect on the brain. The practice provides many neurological benefits including cognitive preservation and anxiety suppression.
Meditation also fosters a healthy perspective allowing you to be more forgiving, grateful, and mindful so that you can be more present and relaxed. This simple practice helps you be more understanding and less irritable allowing you to appreciate those you surround yourself with this season.
To avoid the stress and anxiety of the holiday season, be sure to Incorporate meditation into your schedule. If you’re not sure where to start with meditation then consider one of these 3 ways meditation can help eliminate your stress this holiday season.
Do a 10-minute meditation:
Mindful.org provides a simple 10-minute meditation to help you eliminate stress this season:
- Start with a few deep breaths to settle your mind and body.
- Observe whatever is going on for you right now, and then come back to the breath. Whether you feel stressed, relaxed, or anything else, for a moment, let it all be. Without judgment or expectation, just notice it all, and come back to the next breath.
- Now, picture the next few weeks. Take a moment to notice what comes to mind when you picture the holiday season. How does your body feel: is it tight, or restless, or even nauseated, or exhausted? Notice that, and let it be, and then come back to the breath.
- Notice what emotions arise. Maybe there is some mix of excitement and joy and dread and tiredness.
- Relax into the breath. Right now, there’s nothing to do, no one to be, nowhere to go. In this moment, sitting, this is all there is. Other times might be for acting or thinking. Right now, take care of anything emergent, but otherwise, let go and focus on the next breath again.
- Shift your attention to those you care about. Take a few moments to focus on your friends and family. Picture them, and wish them well.
- Now shift your attention back to yourself. Take a few moments to be grateful and wish yourself well as you previously did for family and friends.
- Practice letting go. Whatever might be derailing your plans, realize it’s just a thought. Don’t wrestle with it – label it for what it is. And then be willing to let it go. After you’ve thought about it, come back to your breathing: breathing in… and then breathing out.
As thoughts and emotions arise, observe them as if you’re watching a cloud float across the sky. Watch these passing thoughts or emotions as an unattached bystander. Observing without reacting allows you to manage them and find a solution.
Click here for a 10-minute guided meditation.
Download an app:
There are several apps you can download right to your phone to help you relax any time of the day.
Calm offers guided meditations, breathing exercises, sleep meditations, and relaxing nature scenes, and sounds that you can access anywhere. Calm also has bedtime stories read by well-known voices to help you relax and peacefully fall asleep after a long day.
Stop, Breathe & Think
Stop, Breathe & Think is a free meditation app that tells you to stop what you are doing, check in with your thoughts, and assess your feelings.
QuietKit is another free app that provides guided meditations for beginners. You can choose increments from 2 to 10 minutes. If you prefer not to use their app you can listen to the meditations for free directly on their website.
Headspace offers a paid and premium option. The app’s free Take10 is a 10-day beginner's course that guides you through the essentials of meditation and mindfulness. Using Headspace is a great way to begin your practice of meditation.
Try a 60-second meditation:
If you’re short on time then try one of the following 60-second mediations.
60 seconds of mindfulness:
Mindfulness is a focused awareness of everyday activities like brushing your teeth. Almost any task can be completed mindfully. Practice 60 seconds of mindfulness today while washing a dish. Slow down and focus all of your senses on this one dish — feel the weight of it in one hand, and the lighter, softer sponge in the other. Smell the scent of dish soap and listen to the sound of the water running in the sink. Feel the soapy sponge as you move it across the plate, and watch your hands as they work to make it clean.
60 seconds of breathing:
A quick meditation that you can do anywhere: focusing on your breath for just 60 seconds can lower your heart rate and reduce tension within your body. Set a reminder on your phone or computer. When it goes off do nothing but breathe for a full minute. Close your eyes if you can and try to think only about each exhalation and inhalation, making them as deep and even as possible.
60 seconds of counting:
Similar to mindful breathing, counting to 10 provides a moment to focus on a calming action before moving on with your day. Try it right before you leave work for the day or before your dinner guests arrive. Close your eyes and count — you can do it in your head or out loud — and try to visualize each number as it passes to keep thoughts from interrupting.
60 seconds of repeating a mantra:
Mantra meditation is commonly used by athletes and performers as a calming tool before a big event. Repeating a word or phrase that you find comforting and empowering gives your brain something to focus on. This form of meditation can slow your heart rate and increase your inner peace. Try this before bed to keep the next day’s events from disrupting a peaceful night’s rest.
We never intend to make the holiday season a stressful time of year. The planning, the decorating, and managing expectations – it happens on its own. But taking the time to meditate can help bring internal awareness so that you can cultivate peace rather than turmoil.
Commit to regularly meditating this year so that you can be more compassionate, less stressed, and embrace the true spirit of the season.