So yep, December is finally here. Although you’d be forgiven for thinking it arrived three months ago with Noddy Holder’s gleeful bellow of “It’s Chriiiiiiistmas!” having taken over radio airwaves from September.
In the run-up to Christmas it can be easy to get lost in your head. What do I buy everyone? How will I have time to go shopping? Who’s going to pick up Aunt Maureen on the 24th? All the planning and worrying can mean you forget to actually enjoy what you’re doing; to be present in the moment, rather than stuck in your head. To pay attention to all the things you’ve been looking forward to rather than allowing it to pass by in a blur.
Fear not though, help is at hand in the form of mindfulness. Mindfulness teaches you to live in the moment, taking notice of what’s happening around you and in your head, enabling you to better cope with stress and enjoy life more. It will stop you only living for the future (“If I can just make it to the weekend everything will be okay”) or dwelling on the past (“this is just like last year – nothing changes”) so life – the life you’re actually living, rather than the one you wish you were living or are planning on living – doesn’t pass you by. It’s perhaps unsurprising then that mindfulness is proven to reduce anxiety, stress and depression because you’re actually present in what you’re doing. You’re letting yourself simply be.
As a simple introduction to mindfulness try two strategies over the next week. While you’re doing them engage all your senses – sight, sound, taste, touch and smell. Focus completely on what you’re doing and when other thoughts try to butt in (which they will), don’t get angry, just acknowledge them and then turn your mind back to the task. Try it for two minutes (or more if you’re enjoying it).
- Become more aware of the world around you. The next time you’re walking from A to B, instead of checking your phone or watching your feet look around you and employ all your senses:
- What sounds can you hear? Cars, birds, people talking or laughing, horns, airplanes etc.
- What can you see? What are the buildings like: old, new, beautiful, ugly? Is there graffiti on them? What are the people wearing? What colours are the leaves on the trees?
- What can you feel? Is the air cold or warm? Is it raining?
- What can you smell? Grass? Food? Flowers? Rubbish?
You can do this strategy anytime any place – it’s particularly good at Christmas time when there are decorations and twinkling lights to admire, carols and festive cheer to tune into, and the smell of mulled wine or mince pies tickling your nostrils.
- During your festive nights out (or just during day-to-day life) start really listening to people. When you’re caught up in your own head often you either miss what others say or just wait for your turn to speak. You’re behaving as if what’s going on in your head is more important than what they’re saying. If you’re constantly forgetting what people have said, (“Oh, you’re going on holiday tomorrow?” “Since when did you apply for a new job?”), you’re simply not listening properly. Start paying attention and you’ll be surprised by how much you learn and how much more interesting everyone suddenly seems!
Next time you find yourself rushing ahead and blitzing through days, weeks, months and even years (“how is it Monday already?” “What shall we do for Christmas 2015?”), put these strategies into practice to ensure you’re more present in your own life – and have a truly memorable and merry Christmas!
This Book Will Make You Mindful is out on January 15th 2015.