According to Jon Kabit-Zinn, mindfulness is “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” Kabit-Zinn is one of the most prominent voices in mindfulness work and has demonstrated its effectiveness in improving physical and emotional health.
For many, the holidays are a frenzied and overstimulating season, paired with traditional and new obligations. Gatherings might draw attention to who is missing or what could have been. Sacred celebrations can mix with intense emotions. Keeping mindful among it all can seem like a joke.
But with practice, the benefits of mindfulness can be yours. Here are some tips on how to be mindful this holiday season, based on Kabit-Zinn’s definition:
Paying attention, on purpose …
It might surprise you how much you’re “in your head” thinking or worrying instead of paying attention to the holiday sights, sounds, and smells that are all around you. Practice moving away from focusing on the running commentary in your head to being aware of your surroundings. See if you can do this with even more attention to detail.
In the present moment …
Your mind will wander. You’ll think about the driveway that needs de-icing, you’ll fret about the scan that’s scheduled for next month, or you’ll worry that this holiday will be the last with your loved one. When this happens, gently bring your focus back to the here and now. Ground yourself by focusing on what you see, smell, taste, feel, and hear. Bring your awareness to your body and allow yourself to take slow and deep breaths.
You might find yourself thinking, Aunt Ruth didn’t send me a holiday card, the green bean casserole was cold, or that the dog could do a better job lip-singing in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. As you observe the holiday’s happenings, challenge yourself to do so without judgment. Give yourself permission to let go of disappointment, failures, and expectations of both yourself and others. When these judgments surface, take an objective stance without allowing the thought or feeling to get tangled up like last year’s string lights.
The thing is, mindfulness takes practice. We won’t do it perfectly. You’ll still experience a mix of frustration, heartache, and, hopefully, joy. Know that we join in with you during these coming weeks, as allies and as a community.
All of us at the Colorectal Cancer Alliance wish you a merry (and mindful) holiday season.