Written by: Jude Johnson
The holiday season is a time for celebration; however, for many it may also bring added financial pressures and the reminder that we have failed at accomplishing the goals we set for ourselves at the start of the year.
If you are feeling financial pressure surrounding gift giving, have conversations with your loved ones about what you can afford and come up with a plan. Regardless of budget, reflect on the time you have spent with your loved ones and think about the reasons WHY you are giving gifts. If you do not have money to spend on gifts this season, consider writing letters of gratitude or providing coupons for kind deeds to those you love. Above all, remember what matters most are not the things we buy, but the love we share. Do you remember what you received last year? How about two years ago? I love what Maya Angelo says: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Remember to be kind to yourself in the process, rather than being overly critical and judgmental. It is not helpful to focus on what you are unable to afford or what you failed to do throughout the year. Yet, it is helpful to be kind. In order to give to others, we must first give to ourselves. Make time for preparing healthy meals, go for a walks, play games, listen to music, take a yoga class or try meditation as a way of caring for yourself.
As 2018 approaches, many of us are evaluating our health and fantasizing about how we want our lives to look and feel in the coming year. We have goals of being fit, calm and happy and the New Year is a time to celebrate our new beginnings.
Research shows that 54% of people fail to commit to their resolutions past six months. Why do so many of us have trouble applying what we know will be helpful in our lives? Maybe it’s because we are telling ourselves that we just need to get through the holidays first, and then we’ll be ready for change. Procrastination is one of the main obstacles to starting a new habit. Putting things off allows us to stay comfortable with the familiar and continues the narrative of, “I will start tomorrow, next week, next month” and before you know it, the year has come and gone. The best time to start anything is the present moment. As Ben Franklin said, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”
Setting a goal to begin a meditation practice or to be more mindful may change your life for the better. Mindfulness and meditation can be instrumental in reducing stress, burnout and fatigue. Some of the primary benefits of mindfulness observed through the research are greater focus and concentration, as well as an increased resilience from challenging events. Developing a mindfulness practice may help us become more creative and perform more effectively in our lives.
One of the core foundations of mindfulness is that we are not striving to get anywhere in particular. It is a bit ironic to set a goal to be more mindful, when mindfulness is more about being who you are than it is about doing anything in particular. However, if we don’t set goals or have a plan to accompany our vision, then we are likely going to continue our usual habits and routines.
Maybe you are ready to start now but don’t know where to begin. The first step could be reading this article. The next step could be downloading a free meditation app like Insight Timer. This app provides guided meditations, logs your meditation activity and provides a sense of community with over 3 million fellow mediators. For those of us who do not fare well with technology, it may be helpful to make a commitment of your time and money by taking a meditation class like Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Taking MBSR can provide some accountability and a sense of community. Participants understand that they are making a commitment to practicing mindfulness outside of class and that when they return the following week, they will be asked about their mindfulness practice and be given guidance from a teacher.
If you want to start a meditation practice, but are not ready for a large time commitment, you can start by committing to a regular time to practice each day. If you have little or no experience in meditation, start out with brief meditations. Maybe commit to 1-10 minutes a day. Try just committing to 1 minute a day and then if you go longer, you are exceeding your expectations which reduces the chances that you will feel like a failure. For many of us, we set the bar too high. We over commit and then quickly give up. Many people give up on meditation because they think they are doing it wrong. They believe they are thinking too much or that they should be able to clear their mind during meditation. Meditation is not about stopping thoughts or experiences; it is rather about learning to relate to those experiences as a kind and friendly observer.
Please enjoy the holidays as you are mindful of what matters most in your life. Whatever your goals are for the coming year, write them down, share them with loved ones and make a commitment to start today. “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” Theodore Roosevelt