Why mindfulness is much more than just a buzzword
You don’t need a flower crown to practice mindfulness
I used to think yoga and mindfulness weren’t for me. I was a high-performance athlete who took great pride in workouts that pushed me to the limit. The light and gentle yoga stuff couldn’t possibly satisfy me – and I certainly couldn’t see how mindfulness would improve my life. I liked operating at a million miles a minute and nobody could stop me. Except me.
THE YEAR IT CAME CRASHING DOWN
Fast-forward to 2017, my wedding year. Between wedding planning, being a part of several other weddings and balancing work, I thought I was managing my stress well until my body said, “no more.” And, so began my ongoing battle with mysterious, autoimmune ailments and at least one chronic illness diagnosis.
Being shook to your core has benefits. You see, fall 2017 was not only the beginning of my marriage to the love of my life, but it was also the beginning of a new relationship with myself – and that buzz word, mindfulness. After scouring the internet and speaking to my traditional and non-traditional medicine supports, one thing became clear: a plan of attack couldn’t just include their help, I needed to help myself. A lifestyle change was in order, and it had to happen immediately.
I made sweeping changes and still hold true to most of them. As my health improved over time, I’ve been able to be less strict in my approach. That said, through all of this, I’ve discovered a few life hacks – all of which center around mindfulness – that make the busiest of times (like the holidays) more enjoyable. That’s the funny thing about being mindful: you get more out of doing less.
Mindful life hacks for the holidays
1. MINDFUL FOOD AND DRINK – I’ve modified what I eat and drink to maximize my health. The simple principle though, is mindfulness about how my body feels before and after I consume food or drink. Over time, I’ve removed (or minimized) the things that don’t agree with me and prioritized the ones that make my body feel good. This means I can feel well and enjoy the festive parties I’m at while also maximizing my next day. Taking the emphasis off food and drink at parties and family get-togethers has made me focus on why I’m there: to be with the people I love. I also have the energy to move and enjoy my life, which brings me to my next point.
2. MINDFUL MOVEMENT – The holidays are a busy time, but there are loads of reasons to prioritize daily movement. Working at ParticipACTION and experiencing health challenges has made me look at physical activity in a different light. It’s no longer a “to-do” so I can fit into that cute dress for an upcoming holiday party, it’s a way for me to unwind. And, so I can be a better partner. My mood and state of mind depends on me doing something active, and I no longer put the pressure on myself for that to be a crazy workout at the gym. My daily walk or hike with my dog, Hugo, is an example of more mindful movement. Instead of letting my thoughts race, I practice focusing on my breathing and the nature that surrounds me. It helps, and I promise you, the research supports me on this one.
3. MINDFUL ME TIME – Finally, the holidays are rampant with cabin fever. I used to gear up for December knowing I was going to overdo food, drink and social time. By December 27th, I’d be a fraction of myself and on the brink of combustion. This physically isn’t an option for me anymore, but my strategy can help just about anyone. Be mindful of your schedule and how you feel and book some “you time” in. Are you staying at someone else’s digs for a few days over the holidays? Find a local hiking trail, gym or “grounding” exercise class like yoga or tai chi. Give yourself an hour away from it all to sweat.
Practicing mindfulness is not some hippie counterculture. When combined with the benefits of movement, it can actually give you super-powers. It’s simply about taking a deep breath and spending some time with yourself and the moment. Although I found the skill out of necessity, it can be a great choice – and a tactic to help your holidays be a little merrier.