The holidays are a joyful time of year to be sure, but they are also one of the most stressful. It can seem like there’s no end to the list of things to do: put up decorations, shop, attend parties, travel.
Unfortunately, studies have shown that up to 80 percent of all illness has some stress component to it.
But if you practice meditation, even for just a few minutes a day, you’ll find that your stress level plummets. It’s easy to learn and doesn’t take a lot of time, so it’s worth a try.
There are formal and informal ways to meditate. For our purposes here, I am going to include my favorite meditation practices. They are all very common and quite easy to learn.
1) Get Comfortable
The most important thing is to be comfortable. I recommend that you either sit up straight in a chair—you may need to put a pillow behind you so that you don’t slouch—or sit on a folded blanket or chair cushion on the floor. You can also prop yourself up against a wall. Unless you regularly practice meditation or perhaps yoga, I don’t recommend sitting in a cross-legged position directly on the floor. Most people have weak back and hip muscles and will find it difficult to sit for even a couple of minutes like this.
It is also perfectly acceptable to lie down, although the danger here is that you’ll fall asleep, which is not a form of meditation! So go ahead and try it and if you find yourself starting to nod off then sit up.
Although you can meditate anywhere under any conditions, it is best to start in a quiet room. Turn off your cell phone, the television, the radio, and anything else that might make noise or otherwise disturb you. Close the door.
2) Decide on a Focus
Because of the tendency for the mind to wander and distract us, one trick to make meditating easier is to focus on something.
Let’s start with the breath, since there are several excellent breath-centered meditation techniques. One of the most common is to mentally say “inhale” as you inhale and “exhale” as you exhale. That’s it!
Another is to mentally say “in” on the inhale and “out” on the exhale.
Don’t be surprised if you find your mind wandering anyway. Just let these thoughts pass like clouds. I usually tell my thoughts that they’ll have to come back when I’m done meditating in five or ten minutes, and then I gently return to my focus. Some days will be easier than others. Don’t worry about it too much. The more you practice, the easier it will become.
Start with five minutes of meditation practice a day. It doesn’t really matter when you practice, but it will be easier if you try and do it at the same time every day. Try to increase your practice to at least ten minutes a day. Once in the morning and once in the evening is best, but if all you can do is once a day, then that is definitely better than nothing.
Soon you will notice an inner calm and peace arising during your meditation practice. Ideally, this is how we want to feel all day long: calm and peaceful regardless of what external circumstances we find ourselves dealing with.
Of course, that’s even harder than it sounds, and it sounds pretty hard. But even a few minutes a day will clear your mind and relieve stress so that soon you’ll be feeling more grounded, more calm, and more healthy.
With practice you’ll find what works best for you. Happy holidays!