We live in an increasingly complex world and with digitalization and information overload we are in a constant state of distraction. When we feel stressed and overwhelmed the added pressure that comes with the holiday season can be enough to tip us over the edge. The greatest gift we can give ourselves this year is the practice of mindfulness: the gift of attention, of being fully and non-judgmentally in the present moment.
With its origins in Buddhist philosophy the practice of mindfulness has been around for thousands of years. The benefits are wide-ranging and no longer anecdotal with prestigious universities such as Harvard and Oxford adding to the growing body of empirical data that shows that practising mindfulness can lead to stress reduction, increased focus, emotional resilience and a greater ability to respond rather than react. It increases creativity and empathy and our overall well-being; physical, emotional and mental. The best thing about it is you don’t need anything other than your full attention to start building it into your routine or your festive activities.
While meditation is a mindfulness practice you do not have to mediate to be mindful, in fact bringing your full focus to the present moment while doing everyday activities can be just as beneficial and yield great results. All you have to do is slow down, keep your full attention on what you are doing and when thoughts or judgements arise simply notice them and let them go, returning to the present moment.
Here are 5 simple ways to bring mindfulness into your life this Xmas
Listen to some music.
We listen to music all the time, sometimes not by choice, but how often do we give it our full attention? Listen to a piece of music with full attention, notice the changes of rhythm, the different instruments and the effect it has on your mind and body. Instrumental is best but any piece of music will do.
Have a Hot Drink-You shouldn´t need an excuse to stop for ten minutes to enjoy a hot drink, but if you do here it is- taking a ten minute mindfulness break will refresh and revive you and give you a boost of energy when you get back to your tasks. There is something really comforting about a hot drink in winter, magnify that sensation by putting down your phone, turning down the chatter(internal and external) and noticing everything about it- the temperature, the smell, the flavour. Maximise your pleasure and reduce tension while you’re at it.
Walk in the Snow
If you are lucky enough to get snow this year wrap up, get outside and take a mindful walk in it. Spend 5-10 minutes noticing the sounds and sensations of walking on the crisp, white snow. Notice your body, do you tense it or stay relaxed, notice the temperature of the air as you breathe in. Even if you don’t get snow a short walk outside is another great opportunity to practice mindfulness and you can give yourself a much needed break.
Eat Mindfully. We all tend to overindulge during the holidays, eating mindfully can not only help you avoid the discomfort of excess but you enjoy what you’re eating far more and you are getting the benefits of mindfulness, so slow down and give your mince pie your full attention.
Spend time with loved ones.
This sounds like a no-brainer considering how much of the holiday season we spend socialising but we spend a lot of our time distracted so when we do connect we are not 100 % present. We listen to reply, or we get lost in our own thoughts, worries and lists of things we still have to do. Give your friends and family the gift of being fully present, put your mobile phone away (face down on the table doesn’t count) and let whatever has come before and whatever is coming afterwards go for a while, and forget your to-do list it will still be there later. It can be challenging at this time of the year but by making a conscious decision to slow down and appreciate the moment can make a huge difference to everyone involved.
If you have a lot to do think quality over quantity every time, let your nearest and dearest know that you have a short time to spend with them but spend it well.
Mindfulness is like any other skill, it is through conscious development and regular practice that we see the best results. This Xmas instead allowing the sensory overload to add to our stress levels let’s slow down and use mindfulness to strengthen our attention, focus and compassion, making us better leaders, partners and human beings.