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Most of the time, people find this time of the year super stressful. There are holiday parties to attend, a healthy lifestyle to maintain, and a ton of holiday shenanigans to partake in. All of this makes it easy to get stuck on autopilot, oftentimes causing you to forget to make time to center yourself and find stillness in the moment.
For me, finding your calm ultimately means finding your center or getting back to a place of mindfulness. There are many misconceptions to what mindfulness truly is and many believe that it is meditation or clearing your thoughts. As a matter of fact, mindfulness or finding your calm is an act of awareness and being present. It’s not aimed at becoming more relaxed, but rather being immersed in the moment. I typically start my day by finding a peaceful and quiet place to sit. Sometimes this is in my house, but if it’s too chaotic at home then I find a quiet place to sit at the gym before I start my workout.
Here are 5 simple things you can do to practice mindfulness to help you find your calm:
The most under used exercise to calm ourselves is often our breath. Start by taking three easy and gentle breaths through your nose filling in both your anterior and posterior lungs. We often take deep breaths and fill the lungs, puffing the chest, but we forget to breathe into our backs and between our shoulder blades. When you practice taking a deep breath in, and filling the back of the lungs, you spread the shoulder blades, releasing tension and stress in the neck. This is a common place where people hold their stress. Take 3 deep breaths into through your nose and out through your mouth, exhaling deep and long just like your inhale.
2. Go for a walk outdoors.
As simple as this sounds, this might be the most challenging for people to do. A leisurely walk can be just as effective as a hard, sweat-dripping workout. The key to this walk is to focus on being mindful in the moment. Connect yourself to the outdoors, take in fresh air, and get your legs moving.
3. Disconnect to reconnect.
We spend most of our waking hours staring at screens. Shutting your mind off by putting away your phone for brief moments of the day can help center you in that moment. I like to set my phone on “do not disturb” in moments where I need to be fully focused and fully present. This keeps me from getting distracted in my workouts, and allows me to be present when spending time with friends and family
4. Dance like no one’s watching.
Put on your soundtrack of the day and dance. Lately, my favorite jam has been “Love on Top” by Beyonce. There’s something about this song that brings up my mood, lightens up the stress in the situation, and gets me back in the groove of whatever I’m doing. After a few minutes of jamming out, you just can’t help but smile.
As I’ve gotten busier and busier in both life and working out, I’ve forgotten the importance of stretching. Not only can you tackle exercise number 1 and 3 by stretching, but it’s so good for your muscles too. A simple downward dog or Warrior II can be such a great way to release tension in the back, stretch the chest and hips. It’s perfect if you spend a lot of time in front of your computer like I do.
The most important thing to remember is that finding your calm is about finding your calm. Each person is unique and what makes one person calm might bring a little stress and chaos into another’s life. Find exercises that work best for you, experiment, and play. Most importantly don’t stress, it’s just life.