During the holidays, fitness advice typically follows a predictable path. Tips for avoiding “excess pounds” before Thanksgiving lead to “indulging sensibly” at Christmas and wrap up with New Year’s resolutions “that stick”.
Of course, all of this is well and good and I have personally advocated for these very subjects through the years, but there is more to maintaining your health during the holiday season than simply watching what you eat.
When it comes to wellbeing, there is no greater gift than the present.
When I say “the present”, I don’t mean pretty packages wrapped in paper. I mean “the present moment”, the “here and now”, and “what’s happening.” When we’re stressed, anxious, or worried, it’s typically because we are hung up on the past or lost in the future. We’ve inadvertently lost touch with what is really going on around us and are feeling helpless, overwhelmed, or resentful.
Compared to this stressed out state, one that is all too common during the holidays, the present is a place of peace, power, and awareness. Here we are able to be inspired and to see opportunity. But, in spite of all these benefits, being present can be a challenge. Fortunately, there are tried and true ways that you can give yourself this greatest of gifts.
Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Place one or both hands over your abdomen and begin to breathe. You want to feel your stomach rise as you inhale and fall as you exhale. Slow down your breath and make it smooth. Count out ten deep breaths. You will notice that with each breath you become more relaxed and by the end of the 10 count, you will feel calm and collected.
It doesn’t matter whether it is a mindfulness practice like Yoga or Tai Chi, or just a pick-up game of football or a run around the block. Physical movement, particularly of the vigorous and challenging variety, puts the focus on your body and puts you back into the flow.
Meditation is simply the intentional focusing of the mind. One simple way to start is to select a mantra or personal slogan, visualizing and repeating it silently or out loud. It could be something as simple as “I am” or “Om”, or an affirmation like “Peace and prosperity surround me.” An ideal time to meditate is following the breathing exercise described above. Even a few minutes of meditation can have a profound effect.
Getting outside for some “green time” has been scientifically proven to have a calming effect. Ideally, you want to find a place where there is little evidence of human activity, avoiding busy roads or overly populated parks. Find a local trail and take a walk immersed in nature. It will be a welcome reprieve that will leave you feeling refreshed, energized, and, of course, present.