Did you know that mindfulness is the practice of a moment-to-moment, nonjudgmental awareness? According to the nonprofit TED organization 2015 speaker and psychiatrist/addiction specialist, Judson Brewer, mindfulness techniques can help quell unhealthy cravings. Say hello to a new way to support your New Year’s resolutions like eating better, exercising more and maintaining your cool with the kids. But, to many of us who are all too familiar with racing minds and long to-do lists, the idea of making time to practice mindfulness seems far-off at best.
Brewer’s research states that the problem is that we’re so caught up in the past (or future) that we function on “autopilot” in the present. Especially during the rush of the holiday season, we’re constantly and chronically under stress – which is not only harmful for our health, but also results in poor decision making, emotional turbulence and limits access to perspective, ideas, and insights.
When talking about mindfulness, “practicing” is the operative word. Just as we exercise our bodies, we train our brains. The first step to mindfulness is to keep your breath in mind, as much as you can, throughout the day. This simple act of remembering your breath, pivoting your attention to it and following it in and out – for one second, one minute or more – begins to strengthen our attention networks. The stronger our ability to pay attention to the present moment, the less susceptible we are to emotional triggers. For meltdown moments, try taking the following steps for a little bit of Holiday S.O.S. in cross-legged, easy pose.
Begin sitting in Sukhasana (easy pose) by folding a thick blanket or two into a firm and steady support about six inches high. Position yourself on the edge, with your sitting bones on the blanket and your legs outstretched in front of you on the floor. Fold the legs in toward your body, separating the knees, crossing the shins, and slipping each foot beneath the opposite knee. Relax the feet so their outer edges rest comfortably on the floor and the inner arches settle just below the opposite shin. You’ll know you have the basic leg fold of Sukhasana when you look down and see a triangle—the two shins together form one side, and each thighbone creates another.
Place your hand on your heart (this triggers the release of oxytocin, an anti-stress hormone) and connect with the sensations of the body – the warmth of your hand, the rise and fall of your chest, the feeling of resting in your body fully. Take three, slow, nourishing deep breaths. Ask yourself: “what is the most loving, compassionate thing I can do right now – for myself and those around me?” Then act on it.
Why not try it now?