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As the popular Christmas tune reminds us, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year”—assuming that running around like a chicken (partridge?) with its head cut off equates to “Wonderful.”

Even with this seasonal mayhem, I confess that I’m the person who secretly plays Christmas music over my earbuds while working out in November. But I also admit that once Thanksgiving hits, life can feel like a rollercoaster racing toward December 25th at a record pace. It’s as if we’re suddenly contestants on a manic game show and must complete an inordinate amount of tasks in order to not be disqualified (and/or disappoint friends and family members who might be counting on us to make their season bright—no matter which winter-inspired holidays we observe).

As someone who extolls the virtues of being present and taking time for one’s self (something that was essential to my taking off 250 pounds of excess weight and keeping it off), I often need reminders to stay mentally present more than anyone during this time of year. This was recently proven yet again when recently attending a friend’s Christmas get together.

This wasn’t a work-related occasion. Nor was it a huge party that had the potential to leave one feeling lost or inconsequential. This truly was a simple gathering among close friends with the sole purpose of enjoying twinkling lights and good company. There was also amazing food and drink (count me in for that—even if it would require some extra time on the treadmill to offset the extra calories).

It was the following morning (while working out at the gym) that I started thinking about this small party that occurred the night before—realizing that I hadn’t actually been fully present (mentally) at the event. Sure, I was there. And I ate, drank and made merry. I talked to friends and even inquired sincerely as to what was currently going on in their lives. But I also remember going over my “December to-do lists” in my head while talking and listening.

Similarly, I was concerned about what time I would get to bed since I knew I had a busy schedule the following day. I was also thinking about the foster kitten I had at home. And a million other things that I had going on—even though it would have been perfectly fine to set all of that mental anguish aside for a few hours so that I could have been fully present at said get together. Instead, I was in a sort of “no man’s land”—neither fully in my head or fully enjoying the time with my friends.

Realizing this initially left me feeling sad. And then, remembering that shame is no one’s ally, I decided to use the realization to make me glad. Mainly because this realization could help me recognize that as much as I want to be present (“in the moment” as it were), that I can be as guilty as anyone else when it comes to getting distracted by an overfull agenda.

By not being fully present with friends (in a lovely setting with amazing food and drink), I wasn’t allowing myself to be in the moment and enjoy the respite from life’s busy-ness. Had I accomplished being there 100%, I might have even woken up with a clearer head the morning after—better able to handle all of the important tasks that needed to be taken care of.

These helpful reminders make this an appropriate moment to re-introduce the old adage that “Less (thinking) is more.” Sure, we all have a lot to do. And yes, there never seems to be enough time in our days (during the holiday rush or at other times of the year) to fully embrace all that’s going on. But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to be fully present during all aspects of life (yes, even when at the grocery store or dry cleaners—and especially when participating in what has the potential to be an enjoyable event). Living in the now is a gift we can give ourselves again and again (making it an acceptable re-gift).

Try inserting quiet moments into your day to help bring yourself back to the here and now. I attempt to make a habit of this when getting in and getting out of my car. For others, my car check-in might translate to checking in with yourself on a bus or while on the subway—or maybe when you sit down at or get up from your workstation. No matter where you decide to do it, take a quiet moment, just a few seconds really, and breathe in and out several times. Close your eyes if you can. And as you breathe in, think “In.” And as you breathe out, think “Out.”

Breathing in and out just 3 to 5 times sequentially can bring your mind and body back in sync—and, therefore, your entire self back to the here and now. This mental state is where we all want to be in order to achieve peace of mind—not to mention be our most productive and to get the most out of every aspect of life.

It’s when embodying presence in every aspect of our lives that the popular Christmas tune referenced earlier has the potential to become reality—truly making it the most wonderful time of the year (no matter what time of year the calendar says it is).

Photo Credit: Obesity Goodbye

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