The dictionary definition of “Mindfulness” is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique. It is often attached to meditation and holistic healing practices. Given the disruptive and chaotic culture in which we live, we all need ways to deal with the stress. The holiday season can become particularly stressful for many people due to the added pressure of so many social events and affairs that many people attend simply out of compulsion, habit or obligation. They really have no sincere desire to participate, but they are “trying” to live up to somebody else’s expectations.
Then there’s the commercial element that drives the season, shopping, gift buying and over-stretched budgets that so often include way too much indulgence on credit and credit cards causing many people to face mounting debt in the New Year. Often, people are so focused on looking ahead, planning and running around that they forget to allow themselves to be “present” in the moment that they are living and engaged with those with whom they are living and spending time whether intentionally or not. It is in this state that these prolonged tensions cause people to feel mentally and emotionally exhausted.
Exhaustion feeds into so many maladies that can challenge our mental health and ability to truly celebrate the season. This can often lead to disappointment, which feeds, into disillusionment and depression. We begin to focus on negatives rather than having a more positive perspective. It’s certainly not difficult to be overcome by negativity and disillusionment every time we turn on the television, read the newspaper or look at our Twitter feed. There are so many bad stories out there, so many tragedies, and so much dysfunction within our government and institutions, it can become overwhelming and anxiety-producing. It is up to us to not allow the stress to build up in us or within our sphere of influence. This is where cultivating a “State of Mindfulness” can help to improve your quality of life and the quality with which you live your life.
When you find your tension level rising or you become emotional for no apparent reason or you seem to be on “auto pilot” barely making it from one thing to the next, it is time to STOP and take a breath. You will notice that you probably are not taking in full deep breaths. You need to find a place, a bench, a corner somewhere that you can just be with yourself and your thoughts for a few minutes. Sometimes your car will do. Find a place to be by yourself (even in the midst of other people and other things going on). Set a time limit. Notice how your body feels (closing your eyes helps you to focus). Notice your breathing. Don’t force it, just allow your breath to drop in and release out. Don’t worry if your mind starts to wander. Don’t judge yourself; rather re-focus on being in the present moment. Appreciate the moment that you are in and do not think ahead or look back to what has already passed. Find something that you can be thankful for and allow yourself to give thanks. Perhaps just stopping to adopt a “State of Mindfulness” will help you to have a more healthy holiday season and enjoy being “PRESENT” with your friends and family.