As the holidays quickly approach, there is a feeling of not only excitement in the air but also the impending dread of cooking for days, shopping with 10 times the people in the stores, driving on the roads with people that are angry and in a hurry and seeing relatives that youjust don't care to see or be around. So what can a person do to make through the holidays with peace and even joy? There are actually many ways to keep in balance and not get sucked into the collective consciousness of "holiday stress." The holiday's can be joyful from Thanksgiving through New Years. In fact the tools that you will read about throughout the next 6 weeks are tools that can be used throughout the entire year to maintain peace, balance and joy in your daily life! So learn the techniques now and continue using them throughout 2017.
The first tool that in this holiday series is:
Meditation is sustained and unbroken concentration that leads to a highly focused mind. Meditation moves us from using our subconscious mind to our conscious mind. Living in the conscious mind, trains us to live with more focus, proficiency and creativity and less disorganized, chaotic and scattered. Meditation will actually help you to think in new ways and gain deeper perspective on experiences. You will find that you are not bothered by things that might have bothered or even upset you in the past.
Other benefits of meditation include:
- Slows the release of hormones in response to stress
- Stronger immune system
- Reduction of anxiety
- Lowers blood pressure
- Decreases muscle tension and headaches
- Increases serotonin production (low serotonin levels are linked to depression, obesity, insomnia and even headaches)
- Substance abuse, alcoholism and cigarette smoking have all been helped by meditation
- Increases compassion for others
- Self Acceptance
The list goes on and on and these are just a few ways (relating to holiday stress) that meditation can be life changing.
HOW TO MEDITATE?
Find a nice peaceful area, and sit quietly (don't lie down), set your timer (by setting a timer you are not constantly interrupting your practice by opening your eyes and checking your clock) and just clear your mind. As thoughts come in, imagine an ocean wave rolling in and pulling them away, gently, slowly then return to silence. Another visual is to see the words falling off a cliff then the cliff is empty. Any visual will work, have fun with it. Remember, meditation is a practice and even people that have done meditation for years for hours per day still call it a practice. The human mind must be trained NOT to have thoughts and it takes practice! So be easy on yourself.
Meditation seems difficult to some people, I often will hear, "I have tried but I can't!" YES YOU CAN! Meditation is the simple act of quieting your mind. For many people having a focus, like a mantra helps them with mediation. Pick a mantra like "peace" or "OM" or any word that you are drawn to and simply state it over and over again, slowly. You can even sing it out loud or to yourself. The point is to concentrate fully on that word and that word only. When other thoughts drift in, repeat your word/mantra.
You can meditate while walking, riding a bike or even driving! It’s simply clearing your mind and thinking of nothing! Try driving home from work without your cell phone to your ear or the radio on and repeat your mantra out loud for 10 minutes, it’s so incredibly powerful. The next time you go for a walk be present moment with what you are noticing, do NOT bring your iPod or your cell phone, remain present moment and focused on what’s around you!
HOW LONG TO MEDITATE?
Meditation is not something that you have to do 60 minutes a day to begin with. When you first begin a meditation practice, begin with 2 or 5 minutes per day. Stick with that for a week until you feel you are ready to extend your time. Continue extending your time to 15-20 minutes per day and if you can maintain this amount of time-great! If you can only commit to 10 minutes per day this is great too. Spending even a few moments a day of being mindful is far better than not spending any time. It would be nice to have a goal of 20 minutes per day at some point; this may take some time to accomplish and it’s OK.
Be easy on yourself and celebrate even your smallest accomplishments, even your 2 minute victory. You may feel like 2 minutes is nothing but I guarantee you, you are benefiting your brain in more ways than you could ever imagine.