Mindfulness happens in moments

You don’t need to find new time in your schedule to practice this well-being booster.

The end of the year brings a lot. Celebrations. Travel. Shopping. Hosting. During a time of seemingly never-ending gatherings and to-do lists, it can also bring a lot of stress.

The meaning of mindfulness

“Mindfulness” is a term that’s gaining popularity as a key component in total wellness. But what does it mean? defines mindfulness as, “A technique in which one focuses one’s full attention only on the present, experiencing thoughts, feelings and sensations—but not judging them.”

Lindsy Wilkerson, a Group Fitness & Yoga Instructor at the River Valley YMCA simplifies this definition and says it means being open to each moment of life with awareness.

Mindfulness can make a positive impact

A special health report from Harvard Health Publications finds that mindfulness can improve overall well-being, physical health and mental health. Mindfulness can help you:

  • Relieve stress
  • Improve sleep
  • Reduce chronic pain
  • Feel satisfied and engaged with your life
  • Increase capacity to deal with adverse events
  • Maintain deeper connections with others

What mindfulness looks like

The great thing about mindfulness is that it doesn’t require any extra time in your day. You don’t need to set aside dedicated time to be mindful—you just need to work on focusing yourself on the present while you do the things you already do.

Lindsy thinks of mindfulness as “meditation in action” to stay in the moment, wherever you are.

Focusing yourself includes noticing sensations and feelings, acknowledging them without judgement (and not trying to change them), and then letting them pass:

  • Body sensations such as an itch or tingling 
  • Sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches
  • Emotions—try naming them as they come

Small ways to work mindfulness into holiday madness

As a former corporate litigator, Lindsy acknowledges that practicing mindfulness is hard, but when “you spend time worrying about a past you cannot change or a future you cannot control, you’re missing life.”

Although mindfulness can be challenging at first, you can start small. “You wouldn’t run a marathon without working up to it—mindfulness is the same,” she says.

As the year-end hustle and bustle ramps up, try these ideas to start or expand your mindfulness practice:

  • Everyone breathes, so try focusing on the sensation of breath—whether you’re working or working out.
  • Do a quick scan of your body, starting with your feet and working your way up. How do you feel right now?
  • While walking, try to appreciate where you are, rather than where you’re trying to go. What colors, smells and sounds do you experience?
  • Tackle household chores in the present. While folding laundry or doing the dishes, consider the sensory experiences of temperature and texture. 
  • While eating, pay attention to the feelings and sensations you have while fueling your body.

Although mindfulness can be a part of everyday activities, it doesn’t have to stop there. You can employ these same techniques during other mind-body activities, like tai chi, Pilates and yoga. Find these mind-body classes at your local Y.