5 simple mindfulness practices for the holidays

This year, I was introduced to a local non-profit called Mindful SEAD through my new job as a community manager. The wonderful leaders have since accepted me as an "honorary member," and I've subsequently learned more about mindfulness—paying attention in a meaningful way. I've been fortunate to learn and participate in some of their webinars, which have helped inspire me to incorporate more mindfulness practices into my day-to-day routines.

The best part about taking a moment to breathe, listen, or pay attention, is that it takes minimal effort and time to do so. So here are 5 simple ways to practice mindfulness during the "most wonderful" (and, honestly, busiest) time of the year.

1. Put down your phone and listen. Can you separate each sound that you're hearing, even the white noise that left your awareness long ago? Listen for the hum of the fridge, the heat kicking on, ticking clocks, the sound of passing cars or steps of foot traffic. 

Which sound interests you most? Pinpoint it, and consider why it's the most interesting. Is it a car noise that could have its place in a sci-fi movie? Or does it change depths and pitches in a fascinating way, like the sound of steamed milk in a coffee shop? Let your creative mind play with this sound for a moment.

2. Take a moment to notice your breath. Is it shallow and fast? Take a breath as if you're going to submerge your head in the bathtub: slowly breath in for two seconds, hold for four, and then slowly release. Repeat as many times as you like, or until you feel yourself in a more relaxed state.

3. Pause to look at your fingerprints. No one else's fingers look exactly like yours. These highly used digits are one of the many calling cards to your unique identity in this vast universe. Even identical twins don't share this physical marker. What do you love about your unique fingerprint? What makes yours, you?

4. Place both hands over your heart. Feel your heartbeat, steady, resiliently vortexing the blood, each contraction creating an electro-magnetic field large enough to extend outside of your body. Now, think of it as the container for your love and emotions. What does it feel like for your heart to be "full"? Reflect on a memory that creates that positive feeling of fullness. 

Next, extend your hands above your head pointing towards the stars. What would it feel like to live in a world where everyone felt this fullness in their heart? Let your hands resonate with what that reality could feel like. Then, slowly bring them back and place them on your heart, embracing the collective fullness.

5. Finally, practice feeling gratitude towards a stranger. Maybe you're waiting in line at a store or people-watching in a cafe. Find someone to look at (briefly, not creepily) and take time to marvel at this stranger (or strangers) who coexists in this world with you. This person, who has parents or loved ones, who may have kids or pets, who may play a role in benefiting and adding to the wellbeing of his friends and family members, is unique, like you. No one else will live their life. They are like a beautiful snowflake, their unique design adding to the greater pattern of humanity.

As they go to leave, send your blessing with them. Be thankful that you are able to share this planet with them, even if your paths don't cross again.


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