It’s the most wonderful and yet STRESSFUL time of the year! Many of us place high expectations on ourselves throughout the month of December, shopping, cooking, traveling, spending, and of course, years end preparations at work. Many of us feel we must complete all chores and tasks with a cheerful smile or risk the inevitable label of Grinch. Inevitably, what you would rather do is curl up on the couch in your Christmas pj’s, hot cocoa in hand, while dreaming of the peace that December 26th brings. I want you to know that your less than festive feelings are valid, but more importantly, they are manageable when you practice a little thing called mindfulness!
One thing you may forget to ask Santa to bring you on Christmas is the willingness to practice mindfulness. Although it may be difficult to open yourself up to this new concept, it will most definitely be worth your while. Studies have shown through meditation and mindfulness, the areas of learning, attention, focus, and compassion grow stronger. By implementing better habits and kindness to ourselves, we are seeing lives transforming. The brain begins to take on a cortical thickening and the growth of new neurons in response to repeated positive, mindful practice. In turn, what we practice grows stronger.
If we choose to repeat thoughts and habits of judgment, stress, shame, anger, and frustration these thoughts will continue to grow more of the same. On the other hand, we have the choice to implement more positive habits such as meditation, mindfulness, and kindness.
What we think and practice grows stronger, and now is the best time for you to make the choice to implement improved thinking and habits.
This Christmas make the choice to give yourself the best present ever! By implementing and practicing mindfulness, you provide yourself with a gift that keeps on giving, not only for you, but also for those around you!
Now that you have decided to become more mindful this holiday season, here are a few tools to get you started and make your transition easier! A thought to keep in mind: Mindfulness is intentionally paying attention to yourself and others with kindness.
One simple habit that we can incorporate immediately is kind attention.
Kindness provides us with courage to look at the part of ourselves that we may not want to see. Kindness also bathes us with dopamine which activates the learning centers of the brain and provides us the resources we need to change. Incorporating true and lasting transformation requires utilizing kind attention.
How can I begin practicing kind attention? Learn to say you love yourself and allow for kindness to yourself daily. Some of us may feel that saying, “I love you, (your name)” to yourself is too difficult. If so, start with an easier statement such as saying, “good morning, (your name)”. As you say it, place your hand over your heart and take a couple of deep cleansing breaths. Allow for and feel the peace and calmness come over your body.
Once you have practiced the good morning mantra, add “Good morning, I love you, (your name). Continue to place your hand over your heart, feel your heartbeat, and take three deep cleansing breaths. As you release your breath, count to 4 in your mind so it becomes a slow relaxing release. Incorporate this practice into your daily morning routine when you first awaken each day. Begin to add new statements and identify what you are grateful for. As you begin implementing kinder, more positive thoughts and statements, you will begin to improve your energy, thoughts, confidence, and recognize what you are practicing is growing stronger.
A second habit to integrate as a daily practice is to become aware of and implement your Emotional Guidance System. The questions we must ask ourselves: Are we identifying our feelings as they arise? Are we effectively processing our feelings, or are we stuffing them, or neglecting them altogether?
When I mention the word feelings above, I want to provide a gentle reminder that the words: ok, fine, and, alright are not feelings. When asking others or when asked: How are you feeling? Our likely response are the words mentioned above. They are easy and quick responses that do not allow us to identify what we are truly feeling. In essence, we may be stuffing or even neglecting our feelings. By doing so, we are not utilizing our emotional guidance system which has been bestowed in us to help guide us through our journey of life. We must learn to identify and process our feelings as they arise rather than shutting them down, neglecting them, or even acting out in negative ways.
Many of us want to be happy and/or successful. We have the thinking that once we obtain a certain thing such as a new home, car, money, status, or partner, then we will be happy and/or successful. I don’t want to be the Grinch in this story, but I must tell you that it doesn’t work that way. We spend time wishing, hoping, and wanting and we miss the actual journey. As I wrote in The Resume’ of Life, if you are waiting on someone, something, or someday to make your life whole and complete, you will be waiting a very long time. To gain a sense of happiness, wholeness, or completeness we have to learn to practice these feelings in the now. Once we learn this lesson, it will provide you more of the same. What we practice grows stronger.
It is imperative that we learn to check in with our self throughout the day and recognize what we are feeling by utilizing feeling terms such as: happy, stressed, sad, frustrated, grateful, anxious, excited, etc. We then need to take a moment and identify what is causing us to feel that way. Once we learn to identify and acknowledge our feelings, we can take the opportunity to be more aware of what we are thinking and how we are acting, along with recognizing what may be going on around us. This helps to improve our emotional health, our balance, and become consciously aware of our now moments along with helping us to recognize what we may need to do to improve.
By incorporating kind attention, implementing the emotional guidance system, and practicing mindfulness, we have provided ourselves with truth, confidence, awareness, and transformative growth.
Once you incorporate these simple techniques into your daily routines, you will quickly see how easy it is to improve your mindset and positively transform your life. As you practice these new habits, you will improve your energy and benefit those around you.
As you see, what you practice does grow stronger!
From me to you, Merry Mindfulness!
Terry J. Walker, M. A.
Bridging the Gap Trainer
Soul Stretching Success Coaching