Between deadlines at the office, shopping for the perfect gifts, baking up a holiday cookie storm, and much more … holiday stress is real!
While the holidays are filled with laughter and fun, stress can creep in from having so much to do.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed this holiday season, you might want to give meditation a try! In this blog post, we break down what meditation is plus the many health benefits of mediation … an excellent beginner’s guide!
What meditation is
According to some archaeologists, meditation is thought to have been practiced as early as 5,000 BC. Meditation is most commonly associated with the Buddhist religion, but it also has religious ties to ancient Egypt and China, as well as Judaism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism.
During meditation, you focus your entire attention on an object, thought, or activity, such as your breath. When done consistently, you are able to reach a state of mental calm, stillness, and relaxation.
Health benefits of meditation
If you find yourself getting frequently worked up over big and small stressors, that’s totally normal! However, while life gets stressful, it’s totally okay to experiment with coping methods to reduce that stress and increase your level of well being and contentment.
There are many health benefits to regularly practicing meditation.
We totally get it–the feeling of being SO stressed you can’t possibly fathom calming down. Been there, done that! But if you can find the time and patience to incorporate a meditation practice, it can be a way to reduce stress and find your zen.
Mental and physical stress cause increased levels of cortisol, which is the stress hormone. Cortisol results in harmful side effects of stress, including the release of cytokines, which are inflammatory chemicals. This can cause disrupted sleep, increased depression and anxiety, higher blood pressure, and cloudy thinking.
Meditation improves these stress-related symptoms by calming the body’s cortisol levels.
People with anxiety have excessive worry and fear about everyday situations, which can manifest itself as dread about certain situations. Examples include interactions at work, fear of illness, or overprotectiveness of children.
There’s science to support the link between meditation and anxiety reduction! According to Psychology Today, anxiety is a cognitive state that causes people to have an inability to regulate emotional responses to perceived threats. Mindfulness meditation strengthens your cognitive ability to regulate those emotions.
Pretty cool, huh?!
Ever spend nights tossing and turning, unable to turn off your busy mind from a hectic day? This is common, and meditation can help fight insomnia and improve your sleep!
Meditating before bed helps relax your body and brain, which helps make it easier to quiet distracting thoughts that keep your mind buzzing. Meditation increases natural melatonin levels, which results in a more restful night’s sleep.
Those unfamiliar with meditation may think that all types of meditation consist of sitting on a cushion while breathing deeply. And you might think, “wow, that sounds boring!”
But never fear! There are SO many types of meditation to fit the needs of every person.
For those unsure what type of meditation is right for you, YouTube has lots of free content available for you to try out several different meditations to see what resonates most.
Mindfulness originates from the Buddhist religion and is a common form of meditation. During mindfulness meditation, you focus on an object, like the chair you’re sitting on, or bodily sensations, like the breath.
As thoughts come to mind, you simply observe them and don’t let them take hold of you.
Have you ever gone on a walk in nature and felt a sense of calm? Or perhaps you’re more of a green thumb and find your happy place in the garden?
There are tons of different forms of movement meditation, which is a form of meditation that guides you toward a deeper connection to your body through repetitive, calming movements.
Here’s a simple walking meditation you can try to see if movement meditation is for you.
Visualization / future manifestation meditation
With the new year right around the corner, holidays are a time of goal-setting for the upcoming year. But it can also be a little overwhelming to think about what your future holds!
Visualization meditation is a practice that involves imagining a scene and using your senses to add as much detail as you can. Another form this meditation takes is imagining yourself succeeding at a particular goal, which can help you find clarity and focus.
If you’re feeling a little snappy during the holiday season, a loving-kindness meditation can help you recenter. This type of meditation helps you embody feelings of acceptance, warmth, and compassion toward others and lessen stressful feelings.
It’s also ideal for releasing long-harbored feelings of resentment.
How to effectively meditate
While meditation may seem easy in theory, in practice, it’s anything but! Sitting quietly with your own thoughts when there is so much else on your plate can sometimes feel impossible. However, here are a few ideas to get the most out of your daily meditation practice.
Pick a quiet space
It’s tough to focus when there’s distractions like construction noise, children running around, and the television blaring. But when it comes to your meditation space, having a quiet spot where you can truly focus on your meditation practice is key.
When there’s no quiet (it happens!), try using noise cancelling headphones to find your own zen. :)
Meditate during the same time every day
Morning or night? Night or morning? It doesn’t matter! You can meditate whenever it fits best in your schedule.
Some people choose to meditate toward the beginning of their day when they have the whole day ahead of them. Others prefer to meditate right before bed to promote deeper and more peaceful sleep.
Consistency and creating a meditation schedule is important in maintaining a healthy practice. During the busy holiday season, just squeeze your meditation in whenever you can to find a little oasis of calm.
Post meditation ritual
In order to make the most out of your meditation, you may find it helpful to also have a little post-meditation ritual, too!
Try having a warm, soothing drink or snack after your meditation every day! Warm chamomile tea can be a calming beverage.
Proper Good oatmeals or soups are a warm snack that can also be enjoyed after your meditation! To continue the feeling of zen, try mindfully breathing in the delicious aroma of the food. Try to identify each flavor you smell, such as coconut, pepper, etc..
When staying zen during the holidays seems like an uphill battle, we hope you’ll bookmark this blog post and reference it anytime you’re feeling stressed!
Meditation is a great tool to supplement your healthy meals and workouts in promoting overall wellness and mental health.