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5 minute mindfulness

5 Minute Mindfulness for the Holiday Season

The gifts, the wrapping, the parties…oh my! Seemingly endless holiday demands can put additional stress on our time and resources. For most people, the holiday season is the busiest time of year with extra of everything – social demands, work projects, family obligations, and holiday to-do lists. I often find myself rushing through the season to get to the "next thing" and before I know it, New Year's has passed and its mid-January.

I have fond memories of the holidays growing up. Most all of them involve family, food, and spending time together, making memories. When I think about it, those memories are lived in the moment. I have no recall of the stressful moments or endless holiday tasks – just memories of laughter and connectedness.

In an effort to slow down and enjoy all that the season has to offer, I have resolved to be more mindful this holiday season. To linger in the moment longer. To be present while wrapping presents. To be aware of each moment. To put the stress of the holiday season aside to truly enjoy the gifts the season brings. To be more mindful.

Simply put, mindfulness is paying purposeful attention to the present moment. The practice of mindfulness has been around for decades and has many benefits including providing more appreciation for life, improvement in focus and attention, and reduction of stress levels. As mindfulness is the act of focusing on and experiencing the present, it can be applied to just about anything we do in life – including holiday preparations. Also, if the additional pressures of the holiday season induce stress, practicing mindfulness is an excellent way to focus and relieve stress.

Mindfulness can be practiced anytime, anywhere. The simple act of pay attention to and appreciating the sights, sounds, and smells of the holiday season is the act of being mindful. Eat mindfully at holiday parties by slowing down and savoring each bite of your favorite dish. Notice how it looks, how it smells, and anticipate how it will taste. Mindfulness practices can even be applied to your holiday shopping by slowing down, noticing what is around you, and paying attention to your breathing and pace. Taking note of the brightness or twinkle of holiday lights, the crispness of the cold air, or the sweet smell of cookies baking all bring you to notice and appreciate the present moment – the essence of being mindful.

If stress (holiday or otherwise) interferes with your ability to live in the moment, consider adopting a daily practice of mindful breathing. As little as five minutes of mindful breathing each day can help clear your mind of stress and improve your ability to focus on the present. Mindful breathing can help you concentrate by reducing your mind's distracting thoughts. Tension can be released from the body and anxiety can be reduced.

To practice mindful breathing, follow these steps:

  1. Sit comfortably on the floor or in a chair, making sure to keep your back straight.
  2. Take a deep breath and close your eyes.
  3. Breathe normally, focusing your attention on your breathing. Feel the air moving in and out of your lungs.
  4. As you are focusing on your breathing, you will likely experience thoughts or distractions. As you experience these distractions, do not give them too much attention. Acknowledge that your mind has wandered and return your focus back to your breathing.
  5. Start by doing this practice a few minutes each day and then gradually increase your time.

I often hear, "I can't believe it is already the holidays" or "time goes by so fast this time of year." If you feel like your holiday season is a blur of activity and stress, it doesn't have to be that way! By practicing mindfulness, you can slow time down, reduce stress, and thoroughly enjoy your holiday season.

University of Illinois Extension Family Life Educators offer a program on Mindfulness. For more information on mindfulness or to contact your local Family Life Educator, click here. Also, be sure to check the Family Files Blog for more resources on mindfulness.

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