Give yourself a gift this month. Practice mindfulness. Focusing your attention and awareness on the present moment—which is what mindfulness is—can help you manage everything from holiday stress to family stress to pressure at work. It can help you experience more satisfaction and joy in life, this month and every month. Here are some ways to get started:
Limit multitasking. As much as you can, do one thing at a time and give it your full attention. Avoid switching back and forth between tasks. Keep in mind the words of the psychologist Mary Pipher, who says in her book Seeking Peace: “A very simple definition of mindfulness is doing one thing at a time.”
Spend some time each day alone in mindful meditation. Sit quietly in a place where people, tasks, and noises won’t distract you. Focus on your breathing, inhaling and exhaling evenly. Thoughts will inevitably arise, but simply observe your thoughts without judging them. You may want to consider choosing a “mantra,” a word that you associate with feeling relaxed, such “calm” or “peace,” and say the word you’ve chosen when you exhale. Breathing evenly while repeating your mantra can help you eliminate distractions and stay aware of the moment.
Practice mindfulness when you’re with others. Listen closely to people, whether they are new acquaintances, close friends, or relatives, and try not to interrupt. Focus on what others are saying — not on what you want to say next.
Unplug your devices. Turn off your television, cell phone, tablet, or laptop so they won’t distract you from your thoughts, feelings, and actions. Or keep your gadgets in a room where you can’t see or hear them.
Use all five of your senses. Let yourself see, hear, touch, taste, and smell your world. Take a few moments to sniff an orange, notice its color, and feel its texture before you peel it. Eat it slowly. Observe your reactions. Does the orange have a different taste or bring more pleasure when you take time to savor it? Or sit outdoors with your eyes closed. Notice the sigh and sounds of birds, the scent of the flowers, the feel of the breeze on your skin. Using all of your senses will make you more aware of your surroundings and may make you appreciate them more.
Try progressive muscle relaxation. This technique may help if physical tension makes it hard for you to practice mindfulness. Sit or lie down in a quiet place. Then tense and relax different muscle groups one at a time. Start by holding out your right arm, making a fist, and tensing your arm and fist for a slow count of 10. Then relax your arm and fist for a slow count of 10. Repeat with your left arm. Then, with your legs, stomach, and other muscle groups.
Be patient with yourself. Avoid judging or criticizing yourself if practicing mindfulness is difficult for you at first. If you’re like most people, it can be a challenge to stay in the moment if you’re used to multitasking. Stick with the process, if only for a few minutes a day. With regular practice it will get easier over time.
Look into books, DVDs, and other resources on mindfulness. Explore a variety of approaches to mindfulness if you don’t find one that works for you right away. You can find many good books and DVDs on mindfulness at bookstores, libraries, and online.
The LifeWorks program also provides a network of counselors who can offer you in-person support. The service is free and available 24/7, whenever you need it, and it’s completely confidential. No one at work or at home will be told that you’re using the service. You can also find online resources at www.lifeworks.com including the infographic, Brief Mindfulness Exercises.
Call LifeWorks at 888-267-8126 or visit www.lifeworks.com (AAA members have login access).
Also learn about:
How to Be Present This Holiday Season
Holiday Health and Safety Tips
Adopting a Positive Mindset at Work