5 ways mindfulness can help you thrive this holiday season
The holidays are right around the corner — not that you need reminding if you’ve recently ventured into any store, turned on the radio, budgeted for travel, or checked social media. It really is the most wonderful time of the year, full of family, friends, food, and gratitude. But if your holiday cheer is tinged with anxiety, you’re not alone: a poll by the American Psychological Association found 31 percent of men and 44 percent of women experience higher stress this time of year.
Holiday stress doesn’t have to get the upper hand: practicing mindfulness can help. Mindfulness — a state of relaxed, focused awareness of the present — can be cultivated through time-tested techniques like short, daily meditation. Scientific researchers are documenting benefits of practicing mindfulness that could come in especially handy this time of year. Here are a few ways of working it into your routine to help you make the most of the season.
1. Sleep tight
It’d be nice if we could all go to sleep with visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads — but what if your to-do list is crowding them out and keeping you awake? A good night’s sleep will help you make the most of your holidays. Studies like this one from the Journal of the American Medical Association show meditation can help you get the sleep you need.
2. Tackle your to-dos
Speaking of lists, Santa’s not the only one making one and checking it twice. A study from the University of California at Santa Barbara found that through mindfulness practice, students could train their brains to enhance memory, focus, and attention — just the skills you need to stay on top of your list.
3. Make your cookies count
You’d be hard-pressed to make it through the New Year without going on at least one good cookie binge. And that’s okay! Tasty food and festive drinks bring people together this time of year. But if you’re worried about overdoing it, consider this: A small but growing body of research suggests that mindfulness can help us keep a handle on food cravings, and savor and enjoy food more while we’re eating it.
You might wonder how you’re going to pull it all off, but somehow you always do: once the travel, shopping, cooking, cleaning, and planning are taken care of, you can finally relax and hang with your friends and family … great, right? You love your family, but that’s no guarantee that you’ll always like them. Even the extroverts among us can run low on social energy this time of year, so mindfulness can help you feel compassion and empathy when you need it the most. In one study, establishing a practice of brief meditations was associated with a big increase in compassionate behavior to strangers. In another, researchers could actually see more activity in the regions of the brain associated with empathy in experienced and new meditators alike. Mindfulness may even help when it comes to intimate relationships.
5. Be good to yourself
Besides your in-laws, you know who else will appreciate your balance and compassion? YOU. When it comes to favorite traditions, pulling off the big feast, or showing your loved ones you care, it can be hard to manage everyone’s expectations, least of all your own. Experienced mindfulness meditators say one of the important parts of the practice is an ability to accept the present as it is, rather than as we’d wish it to be. They say, through mindfulness, we can relieve ourselves of much of the stress of our ‘role expectations’. It’s no surprise that studies have revealed correlations between practicing mindfulness and improved self-compassion and self-satisfaction.
While the above studies were not specifically researching Lumosity's mindfulness program, we have adapted many of the age-old techniques into our version of easy-to-learn mindfulness exercises. Our five-minute sessions are a great way to begin your mindfulness journey, or deepen your practice.
We believe incorporating mindfulness into your routine can help you not just survive, but thrive through the holidays. So we’re unlocking more mindfulness sessions for November and December for all registered users. Get started today — because if you take care of your mind this holiday season, your mind will take care of you.