Dec 19

The Gift of Mindfulness

It’s easy to get swept up in the chaos of the holidays this time of year.  For most of us, the next couple of weeks will be jam-packed full of holiday parties, school recitals, shopping, and entertaining.  The Holiday Season can be a time of wonderful experiences and traditions with family, friends, food, and festivities. However, it can be easy to let this time of year zoom by without allowing ourselves to take a breath and really enjoy the present moment.  By the time New Years comes around, we find ourselves marveling at the exhilarating holiday ride, yet unsure of how we got to our destinations.

If you’d like to be more present over the holidays, or all days for that matter, perhaps a gift you could give yourself would be to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine.  Mindfulness is a word used to describe the state of being aware of one’s moment-to-moment thoughts and experiences, without judgment.  Mindfulness has been shown to help reduce stress and anxiety, regulate emotions, increase memory and focus, as well as improve relationships.  Mindfulness can be achieved through a variety of different methods such as mindfulness meditation, mindfulness-based therapy, and mindful education.

If you’re short on time, here are some easy mindfulness exercises that you can try right now:

1. Focus on your breath for one minute.  Pay attention to the way you feel as you inhale and exhale. Notice the way the air feels against your nose and as it travels down into your lungs.  As your attention drifts to other thoughts, simply notice them, and allow them to float back out of your awareness as you gently, without judgment or self-criticism, remind yourself to focus on your breath.

2. Focus on an object for one minute.  It could be anything (for example: an animal, a flower, or a painting) and look at it as if you have never seen it before.  Notice its details, colours, shapes, movements, and stillness.  You can also do this with a small piece of food.  Inspect its shape, texture, weight, firmness, and taste. As your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to the details of the food.

3. Focus on a regular routine task, such as walking the dog or cleaning the house.  Pay attention to every action that you are doing, pay attention to all of your senses. What are you feeling, seeing, and hearing? Stay in the present moment. As your mind wanders, gently, without judgment or self-criticism, bring your attention back to what you are doing.

When we incorporate mindfulness into our lives we can, stop ruminating about the past, worrying about the future, and simply enjoy living in the present moment.   

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.” -Henry David Thoreau

Additional Resources

Free guided mindfulness meditation from UCLA

TED Talk – All it Takes is 10 Mindful Minutes by Andy Puddicombe

Find a free mindfulness “Meetup” group