Mindfulness Practices for the Holidays

Over the last few years I have been working on simplifying and amplifying my work and my life, focusing on what is essential to help me feel connected and whole. Part of this work has included getting to the core of what’s working and what’s not working.  What I have learned is when I truly honour what I’m feeling and allow those feelings to guide my choices, I am happier, my relationships are healthier and there is more clarity, more energy and more joy to spread around. The foundation of the work I do for myself and the work I share with others is rooted in mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a practice of growing awareness and developing presence. Why do this? Studies show that practicing mindfulness on a regular basis has a host of health benefits including helping to decrease stress, worry, pain and anxiety and improve sleep. When we are present and aware, we have more options, we move better, make better choices rather than being reactionary and our nervous system as an opportunity to help us heal. For a calmer, more relaxing holiday season I invite you to try these mindfulness practices as you go about your day.

3 Mindfulness practices for the holidays

  1. Breath: Take a minute or more to notice your breathing without trying to change your breath. Feel the inhale coming in. Feel the exhale going out. Be totally present to what each breath feels like and where you feel it the most in your body. Notice what it is that takes your attention away from your breath. (this is normal and expected. Just notice.)
  2. Body Scan: starting with your toes and working up towards your head, feel sensation in each part of the body without judgment or analysis. Some parts will be easier to feel than others. Some sensations will be stronger. Take your time and explore what is present at that moment. (add #1 afterwards if you have time).
  3. Presence: Throughout the day pause and notice sensation in your hands (palms, fingers and whole hand). Similarly notice sensation in the feet. Feel each separately, and both together. Notice how easily you can hold awareness of sensation of the hands and feet at the same time.

Have a great holiday!

Developing Your Mindfulness Practice – Part 1

mudraWe are all starting to hear through the media the benefits of a mindfulness practice. Starting something new can be daunting, especially when you don’t have time to attend a yoga class, workshop or seminar on meditation or mindfulness. I get it, our lives are busy. However, mindfulness works. It just takes time.

I have decided to start a new series of blog posts on how you can begin to practice Mindfulness a little bit at a time, making the process manageable and realistic. There are numerous medical studies demonstrating the benefits of Mindfulness. These benefits include but are not limited to: improved social relationships, reduction of stress, anxiety and anger, boosts memory and focus,. Now medical studies are demonstrating that mindfulness reduces chronic pain, manages stress, and helps us to feel better about ourselves.

So what is mindfulness?

mind·ful·ness
ˈmīn(d)f(ə)lnəs/
noun
  1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
  2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.

Mindfulness starts with developing your perceptions of being aware of what you are doing. We don’t think about breathing because it happens naturally. But when we bring our conscious attention to our breath, feeling the air enter and leave our body, then we are breathing with awareness. Practicing mindfulness means we become the observer, the witness, of our bodies and minds without attaching meaning to what is happening. This means letting go of analyzing our thoughts, or trying to create meaning out of our experiences. The observer, “sees” something, notices it, and that’s it.

As an observer of thoughts and feelings we learn to suspend judgement with practice. We get to know our bodies and minds and by doing so we become a little bit kinder to ourselves and to others. With practice the benefits extend to other areas of our lives and we begin to see and feel these changes taking place.

To develop a new habit, it requires repetition and consistency. The activities to follow are recommend to be done at the  same thing everyday. By repeating the exercise at the same time, will help you remember to do it and it will become a part of your mindfulness practice.

Each week I will post a new mindfulness training exercise. Get comfortable with it and then add another practice next week.

 Mindfulness Practice 1:

Breathing Exercise 1

  • Sit comfortably and take a few deep breaths completely filling the lungs and slowly exhaling all the air out. Continue to breath deeply. Notice how the breath feels entering and exiting the lungs through the nostrils. Perhaps you can feel the belly expand with each breath in and soften with each breath out.
  • Begin with each breath in, silently saying to yourself “I am breathing in.” Each exhale, “I am breathing out” (eventually, your inhale, you say “inhale” or “in” and on exhalation say, “exhale” or “out”).

Finding a consistent time is key. Try: when you first sit down at or your desk, or after you respond to your emails in the morning or before you start lunch. Start with 2 minutes. Set a timer. You can always go longer if you like. If day time is a not an option for you, find a time before work or in the evening where you can sit for a couple of uninterrupted minutes.

If you like, start a journal and jot down how you feel before and after each mindfulness session.

Namaste,

Lindsay