While mindfulness isn’t a new concept, its emergence as a practice that can help you relieve stress is particularly relevant in modern American culture.
We talked with Cindy Bjorkquist, director, Health and Well-Being Programs, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, about how having a mindful mindset can help you have a holiday that’s more relaxed, intentional and focused.
What is mindfulness?
Bjorkquist describes mindfulness as a mental state people can adopt and work toward. The main tenant is to intentionally focus on how you’re feeling in the present moment, acknowledge what’s happening and accept whatever thoughts or feelings are associated with your present circumstances. This works in happy times and stressful situations to help you not rush through your thoughts and feelings.
So, how do you apply the concept to the holidays? Here are four tips from Bjorkquist:
Develop a go-to mindfulness technique: Whether it’s meditation, deep breathing or playing with your dog, it’s important to take a minute to center yourself to build resilience when a stressful situation arises. You can even do this as a family by taking a walk outside after dinner, making time to enjoy each other’s company rather than rushing off to the next obligation.
Set realistic expectations: In the age of Pinterest, you might think having a perfectly-set table, cutting-edge décor and just-right gifts are what make a happy holiday. It’s about so much more, Bjorkquist points out, noting that “the holidays are about getting together with your family and friends and sharing your precious time with them.” If you’re feeling the pressure to make everything picture-perfect, let it go. “You’ve got to forgive yourself a little bit,” Bjorkquist said. That time you normally spend working yourself into a frenzy over every little detail? Consider devoting that time to self-care so you can more fully enjoy the season.
Focus on gratitude: Start a happiness journal to remind yourself of everything good in your life, particularly during the holiday season when the hustle and bustle can overtake what’s supposed to be a happy time. “Focus on being grateful for what you have instead of worrying about trying to buy happiness,” Bjorkquist advised. Teach your kids that being together is the most important gift you can give someone. Here are some other ways to cultivate gratitude, including ideas for families.
Don’t let others dictate your mood: The holidays promote togetherness, but sometimes there are certain people that just seem to push your buttons and cause stress. If you know you’re going into a gathering with someone who causes friction, think through your responses ahead of time. Be mindful of people’s differences and don’t let them negatively influence your feelings and experience. You can decide to be mindful and control your responses, Bjorkquist said.
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