Staying Jolly for the Holidays

christmas-1909456_1280The Christmas season is certainly a happy time for many people, but it’s often hectic nature can cause a great deal of stress.

Thankfully, there are easy ways to manage this stress without distracting from the necessary shopping, cooking, and family time. The psychologist, Dr. Tara Brach, claims that this is a perfect time to see how meditation can help relieve stress and boost overall happiness.

Meditation, Dr. Brach contends, promotes the idea of mindfulness, encouraging us to simply sit in the present moment. This helps stop our mind from dwelling on past interactions or from stressing about future events. This allows us to relax and regain a level of focus and perspective.

If you are experiencing holiday stress, you are not alone. The American Psychological Association offers a few recommendations to help you relax. They encourage each of you to “take time for yourself” and “be mindful and focus on the present,” connecting to the idea of meditation.

Many readers may instantly roll their eyes and dismiss these notions of mindfulness and meditation as fully of trendy, New Age buzzwords, but Dr. Brach points to the scientific evidence for an actual neurological effect from meditation. This research suggests that meditation can have a positive effect on the emotional sectors of your brain.

This is just one example of the evidence showing that mediation has a beneficial impact on your brain. A 2011 study at Yale University found that meditation helps prevent the mind from wandering, promoting happiness by maintaining mindfulness. Similarly, numerous studies have shown that meditation can reduce depression, anxiety, and even help treat addiction.

The practice of meditation may call to mind a multiple hour Zen retreat or stories of practitioners sitting for days on end, but that sort of time commitment is unreasonable for beginners, especially beginners overwhelmed by the Holiday season! Instead, Dr. Brach explains that meditation does not have to take longer than a few minutes.

Even devoting just a couple minutes can be enough to help you relax. If you do not have the physical space to sit in peace, taking deep breathes and focusing on the feeling of those breathes can help you realize benefits even amidst the hustle and bustle of holiday preparation.

Finally, it is important to remember that the holiday season is not a happy time for everyone, and the Mayo Clinic has released some tips for dealing with this phenomenon. Remember to reach out to others and acknowledge that it is acceptable, and common, to feel stressed and depressed around this time.

For more information on mindfulness and meditation, see our past blogs here and here.

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