While the approaching holidays are associated with family, food, and festivity, it can also be an anxiety provoking season: a poll by the American Psychological Association found that 31 percent of men and 44 percent of women experience higher stress this time of year. That said, a variety of coping mechanisms are available, including mindfulness practice, which takes little time and no money.
Mindfulness — a state of relaxed, focused awareness of the present — can be cultivated through techniques like short, daily meditation sessions. Practicing mindfulness could come in especially handy this time of year, as shown by scientific researchers who have documented its benefits. Here are a few ways that working it into your routine may help you make the most of the season.
It’d be nice if we could all go to sleep with visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads — but what if your to-do list is crowding them out and keeping you awake? A good night’s sleep will help you make the most of your holidays. Studies like this one from the Journal of the American Medical Association show meditation can help you get the sleep you need.
Speaking of lists, Santa’s not the only one making one and checking it twice. A study from the University of California at Santa Barbara found that through mindfulness practice, students could train their brains to enhance memory, focus, and attention — just the skills you need to stay on top of your list.
You’d be hard-pressed to make it through the New Year without going on at least one good cookie binge. And that’s okay! Tasty food and festive drinks bring people together this time of year. But if you’re worried about overdoing it, consider this: A small but growing body of research suggests that mindfulness can help us keep a handle on food cravings, and savor and enjoy food more while we’re eating it.
Even the extroverts among us can run low on social energy this time of year, so mindfulness can help you feel compassion and empathy when you need it the most. In one study, establishing a practice of brief meditations was associated with a big increase in compassionate behavior to strangers. In another, researchers could actually see more activity in the brain regions associated with empathy in experienced and new meditators alike. Mindfulness may even help when it comes to intimate relationships.
When it comes to favorite traditions, like pulling off the big feast, or showing your loved ones you care, it can be hard to manage everyone’s expectations, including your own. One of the most important parts of mindfulness practice is an ability to accept the present as it is, rather than as we wish it to be. Through mindfulness, we can also relieve ourselves of much of the stress of our ‘role expectations’. Accordingly, studies have revealed correlations between practicing mindfulness and improved self-compassion and self-satisfaction.
While the above studies were not specifically researching Lumosity's mindfulness program, we have adapted many of the tested techniques to our version of easy-to-learn mindfulness exercises. Our five-minute sessions are a great way to begin your mindfulness journey, or deepen your practice.
Incorporating mindfulness into your routine can help you not just survive, but thrive through the holidays. So we’re unlocking more mindfulness sessions for November and December for all registered users.