With the holidays upon us it’s easy to get sucked into a mode of frantic “doing.” Sometimes we get so caught up in the idea of a picture-perfect holiday season that we don’t really have the time to relax and enjoy this special time of year.
When it comes to living a mindful life, it’s about balancing the to-do lists with the internal distractions we experience (worries, expectations, feelings that might arise unexpectedly). Taking time to pause and connect to the here and now can be helpful in cultivating a true, deep sense of joy that can extend throughout the season – even when things don’t go quite how you’ve planned.
Here are five ways to slow down and cultivate deep, lasting joy this holiday season:
Take a break
It might seem counterintuitive to take a break when things get hectic, but this is when it’s most critical. Reason being is that our stress response is based on our perception of threats. So when we’re feeling rundown and have a long list of things demanding our time and attention (potential threats), we’re more susceptible to experiencing the effects of stress and feeling even more depleted of energy.
Sometimes we just need to pause for a few minutes and take some deep breaths. This can shut down the stress response and give the brain a much-needed reboot. We can then get back to a more proactive state.
Try this: close your eyes and take a deep breath in through the nose and fully exhale through the mouth. Extending the exhale by a count of one or two can be very calming. Do this three times.
Mindful eating and drinking
One of my favorite, simple mindful rituals is drinking my morning coffee. I watch the color of the coffee change as I stir in my creamer, feel the warm mug in my hands and feel it’s weight, smell the delicious aroma as it enters my nostrils, and then I take my first sip – feeling the warm coffee flow over my tongue and down my throat. The whole time I’m focusing my attention on the experience, which is giving my mind a break from the endless list of to-do’s for the day.
This can be done with any beverage you like, or food you eat during the day. Cultivating more awareness around the foods you eat and beverages you drink can be very rewarding. It makes you better able to appreciate the sights, smells and flavors. It also makes you more aware of when you’re full and might be overeating, or eating for emotional reasons. Overall, it helps with cultivating greater awareness of your relationship to food. When you take time to really savor a favorite meal or beverage, it can bring a deep sense of joy.
Put on some music
It’s been said that music can heal. Music alone does wonders for our health and wellness. It can transport us to a state of introspection and tranquility. But if you combine music with mindfulness you create more space for the healing benefits.
Give yourself 5 minutes, put in your earbuds and choose 1 song to listen to that you know will relax you. Find a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down, close your eyes, and listen only to the song. Observe how it makes you feel in your body and notice where your mind goes. If it wanders, that is normal. Gently welcome your attention back to the song you chose.
If you’d like to incorporate music into a short mindful movement practice, put on a song that you can’t help but move your body to and simply notice how the music makes you feel while moving your body along to it.
Love thyself and others through small (secret) acts of kindness
Simply taking a little time each day for self-care is a radical act of self love and kindness. If you’d like a more specific practice to follow, loving-kindness meditation is one type of meditation practice that invites us to expand our ability to have compassion for ourselves and others. This is typically done by repeating a set of phrases, or mantras, to yourself. My personal favorites are, “May you be safe, may you be happy, may you be healthy and may you live in peace.” Extend these phrases of loving kindness to yourself as well.
Small, secret acts of kindness towards others encourages mindfulness in a few different ways. First, you need to pay attention to what’s going on around you so that you can recognize opportunities for helping in some small way. Second, it can be a great way to feel more connected to the people around you. Lastly, it’s a wonderful way to stretch your generosity “muscles”. If you choose to perform an act of kindness in secret, it’s a pure act of generosity; it will have nothing to do with getting accolades, paying someone back, or making someone like you more. You often get to watch the reactions of others and are likely to experience your own feelings of joy, pleasure and warmth as a result of your actions. It’s a win-win!
Rewire your mind for joy
Joy is a capacity that we all have and it can be trained and developed. It’s an attitude of the mind and we can deepen our ability to feel joy by cultivating it in a mindful, intentional way.
For example, the next time you find yourself experiencing something joyful, pause for a moment, breathe and connect with that feeling – really let it sink in. Whether it’s hearing a piece of music you love, staring at the stars in the sky, or hearing the sound of a child laughing. As you go about your day, bring your attention to what you’re seeing, touching, tasting and listening to wholeheartedly. Notice the small moments where generosity and kindness are given and received. Sense how these moments gladden your heart when you are truly present.
Reflect on all that goes well for you today – even if it’s as simple as having a favorite meal or an interaction with someone you appreciate or love. Tune into how these positive experiences affect your mind-body connection. Notice the bodily sensations, thoughts and feelings that arise. Maybe you feel a sense of opening through your chest and heart space, or perhaps it’s simply a sense of contentment or gratitude. Allow your heart to tremble, delighted by the simplicity of these moments.
Hoping you find many moments of joy this holiday season!
If you’ve found value in this post, please share with family and friends you feel would benefit from it as well. Thanks 🙂