Monthly Archives: December 2019

Enjoy the Holidays More With Mindfulness

An article from Child Mind Institute by Jill Emanuele, PhD​​

As soon as the Halloween costumes have been tucked away, and the candy is disappearing, suddenly we realize that the holidays are coming….FAST. Thoughts of presents, turkeys, cards, relatives, parties, and shopping begin to dizzyingly swirl in our heads. And so the holiday rush begins, and we often find ourselves becoming champion multitaskers.

But in the rush to get everything accomplished, we often lose our connection with the present moment — how we feel, what we’re thinking. We become so future-focused that we sometimes miss out on the little things that make life beautiful as it is — a compliment from a stranger, a warm smile from a child, a beautiful sunset. And we find ourselves pausing on Thanksgiving Day to remind ourselves of what we are thankful for, when in fact the reminders are there each and every day for the noticing.

Contrary to common belief, one effective way to cope with the holiday madness is to SLOW DOWN and take a little time each day to cultivate and practice mindfulness. Perhaps you’ve heard about this concept, which is rooted in Zen Buddhism, and has recently become more popular in Western society. Research has demonstrated that practicing mindfulness is associated with improvements in well-being, physical and mental health, relationship satisfaction, and attentional focus. In addition, the practice of mindfulness has been shown to help reduce stress and associated negative emotions such as anxiety and sadness.

So, what is mindfulness? Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, internationally known for his work in bringing mindfulness into Western medicine and society, defines the concept as “awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a sustained, particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally”. When we practice mindfulness, we are focusing our full attention on the moment as it is, letting go of the past and future-directed thoughts, and allowing all of our senses to experience this moment, right now.

You may be asking, “Okay, so on a practical level, how can I be mindful?” In reality, there are infinite opportunities to practice mindfulness during each day. Here are some suggestions to get started:


Find a quiet place for just a few minutes (I sometimes recommend the bathroom, as for some people this is the only quiet spot!). Get yourself into a comfortable sitting position with your feet flat on the floor. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing only. Do this for a few minutes. Listen to the sound of your breath and notice how your body feels during this time. When thoughts of other moments come racing into your mind, acknowledge them and let them go by as if they are on a conveyor belt, and refocus your attention on your breath again. Do this over and over.


Spend a few minutes each day writing down five things you are thankful for that day.


When you are walking outside, focus on one of your senses. For example, for vision, notice the colors of objects around you or for hearing, listen to the sounds around you and label them nonjudgmentally (eg “That building is gray,” or “I hear a horn honking”).


Get the kids involved! One favorite thing I like to recommend is good old fashioned bubble blowing. Make a game out of it and instruct them (and yourself) to silently watch the bubbles float around the room. Resist the urge to pop the bubbles and see where they go.

By taking a few minutes each day to be mindful, perhaps even more than once a day, we can give ourselves the space to get in touch with ourselves, to fully experience the meaningful moments that often pass us by, and to take time to practice gratitude for what we have in our lives. This way, by the time Thanksgiving arrives, we will not be scrambling to think about what we are thankful for! Instead, we can experience gratitude daily, reduce our stress, and be more in touch with the little things that make all the difference.

Full Article:

Enjoy the Holidays More With Mindfulness

 BY Jill Emanuele, PhD

Emanuele, Jill M. “Enjoy the Holidays More With Mindfulness.” Child Mind Institute, 2019,

Marketing and Design Corrdinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates


The holidays can be stressful, but they don't have to be. I chose this article because it not only gives great tips on how to stay mindful during this hectic time, but also how to involve others around you. Take a deep breath, plant your feet, and be thankful. Wishing you peace and joy this holiday season.

How to Practice Mindfulness to Stress Less During the Holidays

An excerpt from Next Avenue by Barb DePree, M.D.

Life is messy and sometimes chaotic. At no time is this more true than during the holidays.

All the demands of the holidays — the shopping, cooking, partying and gathering — will simply be heaped on top of our already overflowing schedule. We know that the price we pay will inevitably be snappishness, exhaustion, maybe the scratching of old scabs and regurgitation of old hurt.

Stress Changes Your Brain

First — because I am a doctor — the biological landscape: The amygdala is a specific part of your brain programmed to respond to stress. This nut-shaped structure deep in the primal area of your brain is intended to quickly mobilize your body’s resources to respond to a threat. You breathe faster to pump more oxygen into your blood; your heart beats faster; adrenaline floods your system; vision narrows and attention focuses. All good stuff for an emergency.

Unfortunately, your brain and body respond to stress in the exact same way regardless of its cause. That may be trouble at work, financial strain, that last gift that’s out of stock, tension among family members — you know, modern life plus holidays. Chronic stress keeps your body on “high alert,” in emergency mode. Neither the body nor the mind is equipped to handle chronic stress.

You can practice mindfulness while you’re rolling out pie crust, wrapping gifts, or brushing your teeth.

Not only is there physical toxicity in chronic stress, it trains the brain in a kind of biofeedback loop. By continually reinforcing certain neural pathways, the amygdala actually grows measurably larger.

The neural pathways that you reinforce tend to become the default, habitual way that you respond to life’s challenges. You lose the ability to more easily respond with higher-brain functions, like cultivating a sense of well-being or contentment.

Rewiring the Circuits through Mindfulness

Conversely, meditation, prayer and positive thinking activate the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus areas in the brain. Over time, when people do those things regularly, the neural pathways become stronger and those parts of the brain become larger.

“You shape [your brain] by your thoughts and behaviors,” said Jo Marchant, author of Cure: a Journey Into the Science of Mind Over Body, in an interview on National Public Radio.

Back, then, to mindfulness: It’s a straightforward concept. It’s developing the ability to pay attention to the moment — not to zone out, but to develop a facility of focused attention, without judgment or emotion, on the present.

Mindfulness was a Buddhist concept. But in 1979, Jon Kabat-Zinn, a scientist and professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, adapted and developed it into a formal eight-week program for patients “who weren’t being helped” by traditional medicine. His program incorporates meditation, mindfulness exercises and yoga.

More Healing, Less Pain

The results were impressive. Patients experienced less pain, and they healed faster. The practice relieved stress and improved the immune response. The concept of mindfulness meditation quickly seeped into the broader zeitgeist. Kabat-Zinn has since authored a number of books on the subject.

It’s one thing to read about a spiritual practice, helpful as it may be, and entirely another actually to incorporate it into daily life, especially in the midst of holiday frenzy. The essence of mindfulness, however, is simple and almost intuitive.

Best of all, it takes almost no time. You can practice mindfulness while you’re rolling out pie crust, wrapping gifts or brushing your teeth. It brings us back to the moment, which, after all, is the only moment we really have.

“Life is available in the here and now, and it is our true home,”

- Thich Nhat Hanh -
Buddhist Monk
Globally Famous Spokesperson for Mindfulness Meditation.

Focusing on Breath

Mindfulness practice doesn’t take effort, and it doesn’t take time. It just requires a focusing of thought and awareness. The basic meditation is to focus on your breath: Just paying attention to breathing in and breathing out. Your breath doesn’t have to be long or short. You just have to follow your in-breath and your out-breath.

You can think, Breathing in, I’m aware of my body; breathing out, I release tension in my body. You mentally pay attention to any parts of your body that are tensed — your lips, your neck, your back — and consciously relax that part. When you wait in line or stop for a light, you have a bit of time to practice this focus and release. And then smile, says Nhat Hanh.

This principle can be applied to whatever you’re doing: cooking, cleaning, taking a shower, taking a walk. You bring your attention lightly but completely to the activity you’re engaged in.

You don’t think about the next thing you have to do or the fight you had with your spouse this morning. Those thoughts are like the clouds crossing a bright, blue sky. You observe them without emotion or judgment and let them go, returning to your focus on your breath or your walk or the pie crust.

Choosing to React Differently

As you practice mindfulness, you may become conscious of the moment before you react to something. When you are aware of that moment, the moment before you react, then you have a choice about how you will react, whether in anger or kindness, fear or trust, passion or forbearance. If you’re aware, then you have a choice.

“Between stimulus and response there’s a space, in that space lies our power to choose our response, in our response lies our growth and our freedom”

- Victor Frankl -
Holocaust Survivor
Author, Man’s Search for Meaning

I’m thinking that if ever there was a good tool for avoiding those uncomfortable confrontations during the holidays, this might be it. If you’re aware of the moment of stimulus, when your brother makes a snarky remark about your son’s tattoos, for example, then you are given a moment of choice about how you’ll respond. And a moment to breathe in, breathe out without tension or judgment.

Even though it’s effortless, developing this practice isn’t easy. I guess that’s why it’s called a “practice.” I do know that improvement, however incremental, helps me to live with gratitude and gracefulness.

And during the holidays, I simply can’t get enough of either.

As Nhat Hanh wrote: “The real miracle is not to fly or walk on fire. The real miracle is to walk on the Earth, and you can perform that miracle at any time. Just bring your mind home to your body, become alive, and perform the miracle of walking on Earth.”

Amen to that.

Full Article:

How to Practice Mindfulness to Stress Less During the Holidays

 BY Barb DePree, M.D.

DePree, Barb. “Practice Mindfulness, Lower Stress Over the Holidays.” Next Avenue, 16 Dec. 2016,

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates


The holidays can be a wonderful time, but it can also be incredibly stressful. I feel that it is important to take some time to think about what your mind and body needs in order to fully appreciate the time we have with friends and family.

Kristin Neff: The Three Components of Self-Compassion

The world's leading researcher of self-compassion and founder of the Mindful Self-Compassion program explains the core features of self-compassion.

Kristin Neff, Ph.D., is an associate professor in human development and culture at the University of Texas, Austin, and the author of Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself (William Morrow, 2011) and co-author of The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook (Guilford, 2018).

Neff, Kristin. “Kristin Neff: Profile.” Greater Good, 2019,

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates


 I chose this video because self-compassion is something that is often overlooked, and more difficult than one would think. Breaking it down into three components makes it not only easier to understand, but obtainable as well.