Why is it that during this joyful, festive time of year so many people are feeling anxious, depressed or depleted? All that gift giving and holiday cheer can be exhausting. There is pressure to be happy and full of joy. So when we don’t feel like being in the holiday spirit (or we may feel downright depressed), we become upset with ourselves and ask, “What is wrong with me?” First, there is nothing wrong with you. Throw away any judgment or feeling of disappointment in yourself. You feel the way you feel, and that is OK. It is an exhausting time of year. There is cooking to do, presents to wrap, gifts to give, roads to travel. You may also feel lonely or sad. In addition, there are always those complicated family dynamics to contend with, which are often even more intense this time of year. So, remind yourself that it is OK to feel whatever you feel.
Second, whether you are a regular meditator or have never tried meditation before, try this simple holiday meditation. It doesn’t take long and I know you will feel a little better after giving it a try. The great part about this meditation is that you can use it over and over again throughout the holiday season, as needed (no prescription required).
Find a quiet spot. Allow yourself to escape for a short time from the commotion. Sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor, with your back straight OR lie down comfortably on your back in a resting position. Gently close your eyes.
Breathe deeply, in through your nose, then release that air back out through your nose. Simply follow your breath in through your nose, filling up your lungs and abdomen, allowing your belly and chest to expand. As you exhale, follow your breath back out through your lungs, your abdomen contracting, as the air flows out your nose. As you inhale, think of letting in a sense of calm, quiet, and stillness. As you exhale, release all of the tension in your body, and any anxiety or sadness you are feeling. With each exhale, simply let go. As you continue your breathing, exhale for a slightly longer time than you inhale. For example, inhale for two counts, then exhale for four counts. You can use any number you want, just try to make your exhales longer than your inhales. Fully release all of the air you are holding on to. After doing this several times, you will begin to feel more relaxed, calm and peaceful.
After you have done some breathing and are in a nice rhythm, continue your slow, steady breathing while you think about five things you are grateful for. These can be almost anything. Just take the time to remind yourself of a few incredible gifts, big or small, that you have in your life. For example, you may be grateful for allowing yourself to take this much needed time out from the holiday madness. I will give you the first five things that pop into my head.
#1 - I am grateful for my breath. As I breathe in and breathe out, I am so thankful that I can breathe freely, that my body works in a miraculous rhythm, naturally and rhythmically. I am grateful for my breath.
#2 - I am grateful for my children. I am incredibly lucky to have three beautiful, healthy, loving children who bring great joy to my life. I am grateful for my children.
#3 – I am grateful for my husband. I am so thankful to have a supportive husband who loves me unconditionally every day. I am grateful for my husband.
#4 – I am grateful for my own wellness warrior, my mother. My mother spent all of last year fighting lymphoma. Every day she faced very difficult physical and emotional challenges with incredible strength, optimism and courage. Through the most difficult circumstances, she was an example of the importance of being present in each moment, taking each day as it came, one moment at a time, and, sometimes, one breath at a time. I am grateful for my mother.
#5 – I am grateful for my friends. I have so many people in my life that love and care about me. I am truly blessed to have them in life. I am grateful for my friends.
Smile and continue to breathe. After taking the time to think about a few things you are grateful for, return to your breath. Try smiling by simply turning the very ends of your mouth upwards, to allow some happiness in. “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” (Thich Nhat Hanh) Focus on your breath, on that feeling of gratitude and on letting go. Take this time for yourself. Be present, let go and simply breathe this holiday season!