By: Erin Rose Ward, Journey Meditation Teacher
The holiday season is heralded as the most wonderful time of the year, and certainly there is a whimsical and romantic quality to it all. However, along with the celebration comes the inevitable stresses of family, travel, the closing down a year, and the anticipation of another one. If you wake up a little less merry and a little more Grinch, you are not alone. More than that, you have the capacity to support yourself through the mindfulness practice. Taking a moment to reset through breath, movement, and awareness.
Here are three little practices to do anytime you need to bring yourself back to balance and calm, and make way for more yule tide cheer.
Feel: Take a moment to pause, sitting or standing, and close your eyes. Place a hand on your heart and one on your belly, and close the eyes. Simply breathe slowly and deeply. The key is to not change anything - not how you feel, not the details of what is going on for you in your world, not anyone else’s decisions or choices. Right now, you choose to be with what is.
Breathe deep and full and open up to the texture of the present moment. Now, even if it is wildly uncomfortable, speak out loud one nice thing about yourself. And then say it again. And again. Repeat it a few times out loud. When you speak loving language out loud, you imbue the present moment with gentility and cue your mind that more of that language is needed. You are soothing yourself in the way only you can.
Move: The second step is to put your feet on the floor and dance like mad. That’s right, put on a song and dance like no one is watching (or everyone if that feels more fun for you). We use movement of our physical body to bring our mental and emotional bodies into a place that better serves us. We go from suffering to celebratory in a matter of a few quickened heartbeats.
Dancing also releases dopamine and serotonin, making it much easier to feel energized and excited about the present moment. Faking it until you make it really works when it comes to changing your mental state via the body. When you are feeling lethargic, down, or sunk in your own emotions, do something to disrupt this mental pattern. Even if it is truly the last thing you want to do, and for the first minute the mind tells you how stupid and childish it all is, commit to doing it. After the song ends, pause. Close your eyes and take three deep breaths, right as you are, and simply notice how you feel.
Breathe: The third tool in this holiday arsenal — which is available anytime of year — is an intentional breath practice. One that supports the parasympathetic nervous system by concentrating on an elongated exhale. When we are feeling upset, angry, anxious, or any other emotion that causes us suffering, it is very likely that we are constricting the breath or breathing shallow. This practice takes us out of the mind and into pure unity with the present moment through the breath.
Find a comfortable seated position and set a timer for three minutes. For those three minutes, count as follows: breathe in for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of 16, exhale for a count of eight. Repeat this breathing pattern over and over again until the timer goes off. Once it sounds, pause for a moment before moving and notice without judgement how you feel. If you have the time, you can choose to do this practice again or for a longer amount of time.
Pause to feel, move, and breathe so that even when you’ve heard Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas” 10,000 times too many, you can come back to balance. A simple reminder from within that you possess all the tools you need to support your highest, thriving, most unique existence.