Five Ways to Incorporate Mindfulness into the Holiday Season

Posted December 14, 2021 by Guest Poster -

The holiday season can be a time of Hallmark movies, beautifully decorated storefronts, and magic.

It can also be challenging for a lot of Wyoming residents.

Not only are the winters long and cold, but sticky family dynamics that often surround the holiday months can make this season of magic feel like a trick.

The holiday months can be a hard time to manage mental health. Many people feel depressed and lonely during busy holiday dinners. Others feel pangs of anxiety as distant family members are forced into the same room. However, incorporating mindfulness into our daily lives can help manage the chaotic lights, food, and family that surround us.

Here are five ways to incorporate mindfulness into the holiday season:

1. Breath
When your heart is racing, your head is spinning, it may be difficult to catch your breath. These overwhelming body feelings are a physiological response from our sympathetic nervous system, where our body puts us into fight or flight mode as a response to anxiety. One way to combat these uncomfortable sensations is to go straight to the source. By focusing on the breath, we can trigger our parasympathetic nervous system to bring our bodies back to equilibrium.

Two simple breathing exercises that can be done anywhere are:

4 Count Breath- Breath IN for 4 seconds, hold for 2, breathe OUT for 4 seconds, and hold for 2. Continue to repeat this cycle for several rounds.

Alternate Nostril Breathing- using your thumb on the outside of one nostril and a pinky on the other, gently press one nostril to close it off. Breath IN through the open one for a few seconds, hold at the top. Then, open the other nostril and breathe out. Repeat this process, alternating nostrils, and focus on visualizing the breath moving from one side of the body to the other.

2. Body Scanning 
This is a wonderful technique to do lying in bed after a busy day. While taking deep breaths, start by focussing your attention at the top of your head. Notice any sensations, aches, pains, or comfort you feel. Slowly move down your body, noticing these sensations from your face, neck, chest, arms, torso, legs, and feet. Focusing on each body space, can help us to quiet our minds, feel more present, and connect to our bodies.

3. Mindful Eating
Food is a cornerstone of American Holiday Culture, and taking the time, space, and intention to enjoy it is essential. When eating a big family dinner, it’s easy to want to scarf down the delicious meal as quickly as possible. Instead, focus on each bite. Notice the texture of each element of the meal. How does it smell? What precise element is your absolute favorite? Taking the time to slow down during meals not only helps us from eating to a point of being uncomfortable, but it also helps us enjoy and savor these meals. Who wouldn’t want their food to taste even better?!

4. Five Senses Meditation
In a quiet space away from the holiday chaos, the five senses mediation can help ground ourselves to time and space. This is a wonderful activity to do outside in nature.
Start with your eyes closed, and notice 5 things you hear. The birds? Cars? Wind?
Notice 5 things you feel. Sun on your cheeks? Breeze in your hair?
Notice 5 things you smell. Grass? A wood fire?
Notice 5 things you taste. Morning Coffee? Breakfast?
Finally, open your eyes, and notice 5 things you see.
This is a beautiful way to connect to your body and the natural world around you.

5. Welcoming Emotions
Whether we are trying to actively do mindfulness activities or not, it is important to take note of any intense emotions we are experiencing. Are we feeling a deep sadness? Loneliness? Are our thoughts racing with no end? Are we experiencing flashbacks to trauma, or lost in our heads frequently? It is okay to not feel well during the holidays, and it is essential to take the time and slow down to actually notice that we are struggling. If these feelings are unmanageable and interfere with our daily lives, it might be time to reach out for help. At Charlie Health, we are dedicated to helping our fellow Wyomingites with the mental healthcare they need.

Here is one of our favorite poems by Rumi, and we find applicable to the holiday season:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

This post was written by a Charlie Health employee and mental health professional as part of a partnership with that lasted from August 2021 – May 2022

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Categories: Health and Wellness, This and That

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