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Ahh. Take a slow, deep breath…winter is here. Everywhere around you the natural world is withdrawing, going dormant, and embracing a long, dark, season of slumber. There is a particular stillness that characterizes winter, and with it comes a subtle invitation to redirect our own energies.
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A simple and unassuming manner of life doesn’t exactly describe what tends to happen during the holidays, does it? With the holidays coming into sight, we wanted to take a pause to ponder the true spirit of the season. What do most people look forward to during the holidays? Spending time with friends and family, reflecting on the recent past, looking towards future goals, and perhaps evaluating our own spiritual endeavors. But the hustle and bustle that accompanies these activities seem to bring more chaos than we bargained for. Traveling, cooking elaborate meals, buying gifts for everyone on the list, and dealing with holiday crowds—these seem to be the activities that end up taking most of our time.
“I believe that a simple and unassuming manner of life is best for everyone, best both for the body and the mind.”
A survey by the American Psychological Association shows that 44% of women and 31% of men feel an increased level of stress during the holidays, with the biggest stressor being lack of time.1 Both women and men (51% and 49% respectively) feel a responsibility to make sure everyone in their family is happy during the holidays. The same survey also showed that people are not likely to take part in activities to help relieve the stress and support healthy living during this same time. What can you do to prepare yourself, so that your attention and energy really are focused on what is most important to you during the upcoming holidays?
The first and most important step is to balance the mind, giving it direction and centering. If your mind is able to find calm and peace, the external chaos takes a back seat, and you are able to proactively seek out opportunities for the things you desire—relationships, reflection, and spiritual connection.
“Happiness is not being pained in body or troubled in mind.”
Ayurveda recognizes a happy, blissful state of mind as a requisite component of good health.2 Ayurveda also recognizes the inseparable union of body, mind, and spirit as the core of well-being. So if happiness and good health are part of what you are seeking during the holidays, for yourself and your loved ones, consider starting with the things that will produce true joy in your mental and emotional being. To prepare the mind for this state of happiness or bliss requires some effort on your part. The fruit of your effort makes each moment much richer and more enjoyable.
“To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one's family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one's own mind.”
We suggest some of the following tips:
- Maintain a centering routine: Regardless of what is on your plate for the day, or how much traveling you are doing, or who is coming over for dinner, be sure to take time out for a grounding routine. This can be meditation, yoga, journaling, prayer, or whatever brings some space to your day to replenish your mental and emotional well-being. The benefits of quiet time can not be underestimated. As Albert Einstein said, “The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”
- Incorporate a daily self massage with warm oil. You can start or end your day with this self-nourishing activity, followed by a warm bath or shower. This break grounds both the physical and mental being.
- Infuse your thoughts with inspiration. Read or listen to the works of those that provide meaning and depth to how you view and navigate the world.
- Get proper rest and sleep.3 Proper rest allows you to recover from both the physical and mental stress, and it gives you the ability to think more clearly during the day. For the occasional night when you find yourself having difficulty sleeping, massage the soles of your feet and your scalp with warm sesame oil, or try a gentle herbal supplement like I Sleep Soundly.
- Set an intention. For every activity that you are a part of during the holidays, set an intention as to what you would like to see manifest. Make the intention something that you are able to make an effort towards. (In other words, don’t expect another person’s actions or mentality to change.) And then leave space for the divine dance to move you in whatever way it pleases.
- Bring your attention to the present moment. Any time you find yourself overwhelmed by all that is to be done, just focus on what can be done in this moment, and how this moment connects to the spirit of the holidays. If you find that what you are doing right now doesn’t contribute to what you want to get out of your celebration of the holidays, consider changing directions.
- Support your system with herbs that help maintain balance in the season. We look to Stress Ease or Tranquil Mind and Focus liquid extract for those times that your mind is having difficulty focusing on what is important, and Chyavanprash to keep your immune system boosted through the stress of not only the holidays, but also the winter weather.
If you find that some of these tips bring you more joy, peace, and cheer during the holidays, see if you can find ways to gift them to those that you love and interact with in the next few months.
“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”
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2 Sharma, P.V. Susruta-Samhita. Volume 1, Sutrasthana. 15:41, P. 173.