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Mindful Cafe: Stay in the moment this holiday season

‘Tis the season of connecting and entertaining when many of us are busy with events and activities. When so many people are over thinking their every holiday move, we all need a small dose of mindful tools to bring us back to what matters.

One major worry lingering for many is having to be around people they don’t like during holiday festivities.

When socializing with difficult people, our minds love to occupy us with judgments that turn our mood salty.

Rather than letting annoying guests ruin your time try this tool: Take your mind on a walk. Let those spiteful internal dialogues take a walk out in the cold for a moment while you stay inside.

Thought tense is another simple activity you can try out. Set down the paper (or handheld device) and take a minute to let your thoughts wander wherever they may go. Notice what happens. Your thoughts travel to three possible destinations: the past, the present or the future.

If you were to tally the sum of how often your thoughts lived in those three categories, most would find a greater amount of tally marks in the past and future boxes than in the present. This holiday try to notice where your mind is living and practice bringing it back to the present moment.

Another small way to get present is by practicing Ground Down. For those stressful meetings or moments of pressure when you feel you can’t slow down, just ground down.

Find a chair to sit, and bring your attention to your feet. Push all your weight into your feet, and without standing up, let your toes, heel and ball of your feet come into contact with the earth. Ground yourself down and connect to that moment noticing that you are just a person in a chair and your thoughts haven’t carried you away.

For those wanting to connect in the present moment with kids try the Ha Ha activity. Have your family lie down on the floor one at a time where the second person rests their head on the first person’s belly and the third person’s head on the second person’s belly and so on until everyone is lying down.

The activity starts with everyone in silence. At this point, have the first person say “ha,” the second person “ha ha,” and so on adding an extra “ha” each person after.

The objective is to try to stay present as a group in the moment getting through a round without actually laughing. The best gift in this one is that you will find your family in laughter whether they win or lose the activity.

No matter where your plans take you this holiday, be cautious not to let your mind travel in another direction taking you away from your values. Give yourself the gift of being present.

Stephanie Willis is president of Willis Counseling & Consulting, a private group therapy practice in Naperville and Chicago. She can be reached at www.williscc.com and 630-481-6463.

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