It is certainly fall here in Seattle, and soon (or already, depending on who you ask) winter will be knocking on our doors. During the transition from fall to winter, our bodies not only experience a shift in the number of daylight hours, but also a movement toward groundedness. In many ways, this is expressed through food: more hot foods and meats in your daily diet, hearty soups, larger and heavier meals overall. This expression is a beautiful example of an innate desire to create balance between the internal and external worlds in and around us.
But without mindfulness during the holidays, this desire commonly turns into a habitual wandering from our path of true health: overindulgence and undernourishment lead to both physical and mental discomfort, and eventually excess weight. Aside from the resulting New Year’s resolution, this can also reaffirm – or trigger – negative thoughts and emotions toward ourselves, which only takes us out of the moment and further down the rabbit hole.
The key to avoiding this post-holiday health crisis or surprise weigh-in result, is not a matter of drastic dieting and exercise, nor an overzealous supplement regimen. Rather, we should turn our focus toward the lifestyle shifts that will keep us from tipping the proverbial scale: regular introspection, responding only to our most genuine needs, and remembering that despite what society constantly tells us, we aren’t in a hurry – at the dinner table OR on the road.
Get a head start on mindfulness this holiday season with the following five steps:
Before making your plate or downing that third mimosa, take a moment for a deep breath and a check-in. By asking yourself, “What am I actually hungry/thirsty for?” you may find that the genuine need which stands to be filled is not physical hunger or thirst at all. Are you bored and hungry/thirsty for an adventure? Are you in a moment of loneliness and needing emotional fulfillment? Or perhaps you’ve been stressed and that plate of food or glass of alcohol offers a euphoric relief. It’s more common than we realize for these feelings to become intertwined and mistaken for physical hunger or thirst. But the gift of taking this conscious moment is that our “foods/beverages” become far more fulfilling when in response to the true craving.
2. Express your gratitude
It’s not only easy, but it can feel downright blissful to dive into a bountiful and aromatic holiday buffet. But why not take a mindful dive? Pause to connect to your feelings of abundance or excitement, and offer your thanks for the experience. This practice creates a richer experience, serving as a reminder to appreciate and savor the meal more profoundly. The same goes for any other experience throughout the holiday season; be it spending time with family or friends, engaging in a long-held or brand new tradition, or simply picking up that pre-made meal for your holiday party at work and expressing your gratitude with a larger-than-normal smile.
3. Slow down
An effect of the moment you took to give thanks, to slow down, even put your fork down between bites, will further connect you to your meal, and to your body’s messages of satiety. And as you slowly begin to recognize and respect your body’s limits, you’ll watch and feel the benefits unfold around you. Making time during holiday gatherings to go around and personally invest in short conversations with each person is a really great way to make the event, and experience, last. And you may find that someone else there shares your passion for health and well-being!
4. Make a contribution
As the holiday table is usually mounted with heavier, perhaps not-so-healthy options, you can plan ahead and create an additional, more healthful option or two. Bring a dish that you know you can enjoy guilt free; it will take up space on your plate and help you avoid other items that your waistline is not so fond of. Have a non-profit you’ve been wanting to contribute to but couldn’t justify dropping the funds earlier in the year? Take some dough you would have spent on extra (i.e. unnecessary) gifts and apply it towards the organization of your choice instead. Chances are you’ll feel much better about giving money to a purpose rather than person, and ride those feel-good vibes on to other good choices.
5. Set your intention
In yoga, each day’s practice begins with an intention. We ask ourselves who we want to be in this experience today, right now, in this moment. You can transfer that energy to the table or any other activity and decide how you want to show up for yourself during each one. Remember that yoga is in the living of every moment, both on and beyond the mat.
Begin applying these five practices today, and dive into your holiday celebrations with greater confidence and overall success!