by Kathy Simpson
Mindfulness is an everyday practice for every season of the year. With the holidays upon us and the stress that can often accompany them, what better time to bring greater mindfulness to your days – and what better resolve for the new year. These tips can help you cultivate the inner peace that personifies the season.
1. Eat consciously.
Turn off the TV, put aside your phone or the newspaper and make your mealtime an event all its own. Take in the color and the smell of your food, feel its texture in your mouth and savor the flavors. Eating is an amazingly rich and complex symphony of sensations when you really pay attention.
2. Pause at the light and when you’re in line.
Wait times are opportune times for mindfulness practice. If you’re stuck in holiday traffic or waiting in a department store checkout line, take a breath and bring awareness to the present. Notice your surroundings, and check in with how you feel. If impatience or some other emotion arises, just note it with curiosity and return to the breath.
3. Take a mindfulness moment when tensions rise.
When emotions are triggered, our normal impulse is to take action – to fight, flee or freeze. Yet these are the times when mindfulness can serve us best. Rather than react impulsively, pause and take a full breath or two. Relax the body and soften the mind. It can help defuse the charge of a potentially challenging situation.
4. Really listen.
Listening is a mindfulness practice that builds connection. When you’re in the company of another person, put aside your need-to-do list and thoughts of what you’ll say next and really listen. Your full attention is one of the greatest gifts you can give to another.
5. Be kind.
Kindness feels good – for the person who extends it and the one on the receiving end. It also cultivates a happy, peaceful mind that’s less judgmental and more able to be present in the moment. And kindness isn’t just for other people; remember to extend it to yourself, too.
6. Uni-task, not multi-task.
We’ve all become masters at multi-tasking – but mindfulness and multi-tasking don’t coexist very well. Try slowing down and focusing on one task at a time. Complete each task thoroughly before moving on to something else. You’ll likely be happier with the results and feel calmer in the process.
7. When walking, simply walk.
In many traditions, walking is a form of meditation. Choose an occasion – when you’re walking into work, out to the mailbox, or through the shopping mall – to bring as much awareness as you can to the moment. Slow down your pace. Feel the pressure of your foot on the ground as you take each step. And, of course, breathe.
8. Don’t believe everything you think.
Mindfulness is the only practice that can reveal what the mind is up to when your attention is elsewhere. The mind can be like an untrained elephant on a stampede – out of control and potentially dangerous! So as you’re being mindful, take note of your thoughts. Be curious about them. Cultivate what’s wholesome and helpful and let the rest go.
9. Establish a regular meditation practice.
A regular meditation practice will help ground mindfulness in your daily life. Just five or 10 minutes can make a difference. Sit in a chair or on a cushion and bring your attention to the breath. When thoughts arise, as they inevitably will, note them, let them go and return your attention to the breath. Repeat.
Take intentional breaks during the day simply to notice your breath. Feel the air as it moves through your nostrils. Notice the rise and fall of your chest and belly and the expansion of your ribcage as you breathe. You’ll likely feel instantly more calm and centered in your body.
For more helpful ways to discover how to live in the moment, we encourage you to visit our website for upcoming programs to complement and guide your practice. We’re here to support you however we can to live a life of compassion, calm, and true happiness.
Kathy Simpson is a freelance writer with Copper Beech Institute who specializes in mindful living and holistic health.