The holidays, once intended to celebrate the National Day of China, rejoicing in spirituality, family, food, gratitude, giving and reflection of the year past, have been absorbed by our Yang society into packed schedules, shopping, stress, perfection and performance. To reclaim the yin, it’s important to move slowly, taking the time to be quiet, reflective and present. Here are some ways to slow down the fast pace and take care of ourselves, allowing ourselves to thoroughly enjoy this time of holiday.
1) Walk in nature. Take a break with the family to bundle up and head for “forest bathing.” This practice has shown to reduce cortisol, the stress hormone, and increase the happiness hormones, serotonin and dopamine. It’s a fabulous way to get exercise, slow down and feel open and present. If you don’t exercise, add two days a week of brisk walking outside for at least 20 minutes. Being outside is key, so as a long as weather permits, get some fresh air.
2) Before bed each night, do a yoga pose called “Legs up the Wall”. After pushing your hips to the bottom of a wall, lie on your bed and lift your legs up the wall. Lean them against the wall for support. The legs can be slightly bent and you can cover your eyes with a towel. This pose restores the body by flushing the feet and legs of blood, lactic acid and other by-products of standing on the feet all day (or shopping!)
3) Concentrate on your meal while you’re eating it. Focus on chewing your food well and enjoying the smell, taste, and texture of each item. Research shows that mealtime multitasking (whether at home or at a party) can make you pop mindless calories into your mouth. Of course, dinner-party conversation is only natural, but try to set your food down until you’re finished chatting so you are more aware of what you’re taking in.
4) Take time for yourself and take several deep breaths. If things are getting too hectic, taking 5-10 minutes to steady breathing and increase oxygenation can help us feel clearer and more energized, while relaxing muscles, lowering blood pressure and cortisol. Try this “4-7-8 Breath” exercise taught in a mindfulness based stress reduction class. Sit, stand or lie down in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Inhale into the belly for 4 seconds, pause of 7 seconds and exhale slowly for 8 seconds. Repeat for 5-10 breaths, then slowly open your eyes and try to bring that feeling of stillness with your for the rest of your day.
5) Fit in a seasonal siesta. Studies show that one nap between 1:00 and 4:00pm will reduce your sleep debt, invigorate your day, boost your productivity, and not affect your sleep at night. The nap can take up to 90 minutes. A quick nap in the afternoon will help you get some much-needed rest before you head out to celebrate more.
6) Practice gratitude. Gratitude during the holidays generates an appreciation of what we have and recognition of the abundance in our life. And just like practicing yoga(Daily yoga app:dynamic yoga sessions), practicing gratitude takes us from a fear-based existence to a love-and appreciation-based existence. Being thankful for what we have helps increase feelings of well-being and decreases stress and anxiety.