It may surprise you, but mindfulness over the holidays can bring you joy all year long

Cute babiesGuest post by John Turrell, Wellness Coordinator, Greater Portland Branch, YMCA of Southern Maine.

The holidays are a wonderful time to renew and grow relationships with friends and family. And to enjoy and celebrate food.

The trouble is, holidays can also be a time of stress. In our relationships with friends and family and with food. Mindfulness can be the pathway to reducing stress and increasing joy.

Mindfulness is a conscious effort to be completely present. To set aside worries and expectations, thoughts and emotions and to be fully aware of the current moment.

The practice of mindfulness is rooted in ancient traditions. It was originally conceived as a way to ease suffering and cultivate compassion. Today, it is considered as relevant as it was thousands of years ago. Since it can apply to anyone, no particular religious or cultural belief system is required to practice it.

For most people, the relationships of friends and family offer the deepest source of meaning in life. Yet in our normal daily lives, attention tends to be directed toward our work, appointments, running errands, organizing our various family member activities, taking care of the house, watching TV, or spending time on the internet. During our daily routines acquaintances and strangers often receive more attention than family members and close friends.

We can use the holidays to bring mindfulness to our closest relationships. To help find new meaning and wonder in the ones we love and strengthen the bonds we have with them. By simply becoming more aware of the meaning our loved ones provide us, we are likely to invest more energy in nurturing these relationships and ourselves.

An overabundance of food is a major part of the holidays. Much of the traditional food served is healthy, but unhealthy sweets and beverages are also a major part of the holiday traditions. They’re hard to resist. We load up on the calories and gain weight and end up feeling guilty and depressed. We usually don’t overeat to satisfy our hunger and nourish our bodies — it’s simply a holiday tradition.

We need food to nourish a healthy body and mind. We can be mindful of its purpose by tuning in to how it feels when we are hungry and when we are full. Try eating only when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full. Slowly taste each bite. Be aware of textures, tastes and smells. Mindful eating can give us plenty of pleasure without ending the holidays feeling overweight, guilty and depressed.

Try practicing mindfulness during the entire holiday season. Experience increased awareness and joy with your friends, family and food. When the holiday season ends, continue practicing mindfulness the entire new year for a more peaceful and joyful life.

Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane was the health reporter on WCSH 6. Before that, a radiation therapist at Maine Medical Center and after, Manager of Marketing/PR at Mercy Hospital. Now she writes the award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.