Vitality

Mindfulness: 5 Holiday-Themed Ways To Reduce Stress And Anxiety

Holidays can be a time of great stress — we spend a lot of time with family members we don’t necessarily get along with and we spend all of our money on gifts. Punching someone in the face or cutting up our credit cards may provide some relief in the moment, but they have potentially negative consequences.

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Instead, we could use mindfulness meditation to reduce the stress, refocusing our senses to experience our surroundings in a fresh way. That method has been shown to relieve anxiety and depression. When we pay attention to the sights and sounds around us rather than focusing on the source of our stress, we are “reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience,” the U.K.’s National Health Service explains and we take at least some power away from negative thoughts. The practice is linked to Buddhism and has had both short-term and long-term benefits for people.

And because ‘tis the season, there are lots of holiday-themed ways to incorporate mindfulness into our routines:

Take a big whiff

A Christmas tree has a distinct smell, but you can get used to it and stop noticing the scent if it’s been in your house long enough. When you’re feeling stressed, you can refocus your nose to the smell of the needles, sap and bark of your tree. For those who don’t have a tree because they are busy lighting a Menorah, the waxy scent of the Chanukah candles in the box or the burnt smell of the flame could work just as well — just don’t get your face too close to the fire.

christmas-tree-1828525_1920 Getting into the holiday spirit but kind of stressed out? Use these mindfulness exercises and let it go. Image courtesy of Pixabay, public domain

Go to the light

One way to practice mindfulness is to pay attention to the different colors around you, and you could accomplish this by counting the number of colored bulbs on twinkle lights, in a multicolored box of candles, in a tin of holiday candy, in tree ornaments or in your favorite ugly sweater.

Take a walk

Cold air rushing into your lungs has a different feeling than warmer air. If you want to refocus your senses, try cracking a window or going for a walk and inhaling deeply, and take note of how the air feels going in and out. You can also count your breaths or, if you’re walking, the number of houses you pass that have a holiday decoration of some sort.

Drink it in

Cold temperatures not your thing? Curl up with a special holiday tea instead, such as one that includes cinnamon, peppermint or nutmeg. You can take note of the taste, how the hot liquid feels going into your stomach, and the warmth of the mug in your hands. Eating is fun too, so you could also substitute gingerbread cookies, potato pancakes, a candy cane or the traditional Chanukah jelly doughnuts called sufganiyot.

The bells are ringing

Using your sense of hearing to practice mindfulness can be special during the holidays because seasonal songs use instruments most of us don’t encounter on other days of the year. You could put on a pair of headphones and a holiday playlist and try to pick out those unusual instruments, like sleigh bells in a Christmas song. For those in the Chanukah spirit, you could turn on some klezmer music and count the number of different instruments you hear in that traditional style.

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