Be More Present and Connected This Holiday Season

Malena Ally, MSW, Staff Therapist

A lot of us tend to rush through the holiday season in a whirlwind of shopping, parties, food comas, and stress. But it is important to use this precious time to connect with family and friends, as well as to re-charge for the New Year.

Here are 3 simple ways you can be more present this holiday season:

  1. Practice mindfulness: This means that you slow down and become aware of what you are doing in the present moment. Stop rushing to get one thing done, so you can hurry to the next. For example, during dinner you can practice tasting each bite of your meal and looking at those around you. When you walk the dog, do not rush, but walk with an awareness of your steps and steady breathing. Hugging with mindfulness is my favorite: Take three slow, deep breaths when you hug your loved one and be aware that you are present and happy.
  2. Laugh: Our facial expressions trigger feelings within us, as well as within other people. A good belly laugh – even if it’s fake – can trigger a rush of endorphins that leave you feeling cheery for hours. When you wake up in the morning, try lying on your back with your hands placed on your belly and let out any kind of laugh you can think of – the more creative, the better! If you don’t have 5 minutes to lie down for a laugh, simply smile while you are driving to work. This is a fun exercise to try as a family and research endorses the health benefits of laughing.
  3. Meditation: Meditation can be as simple as sitting quietly and focusing on your breathing. My favorite way to meditate is to color mandalas – circular, symmetrical designs that are used in various cultures for spiritual and healing purposes. You can look online for mandala coloring pages or create your own. Focusing on coloring a mandala can help you to slow down and bring your attention to the present. I have found that pre-teens and teens especially like to use this technique.

All of these strategies can help to reduce stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, soothe tension and pain, and improve your immune system, among other benefits. However, one of the most important rewards is the connection you will gain with your loved ones.

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