Ram Dass famously said, “If you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week with your family.”
It’s that time of the year again, when all of the hard work and practice that we’ve been doing all year is put to the test. Whether we’re actually spending time with our families––or we’re not––this can be a time when emotions might feel raw, tempers can be high, and our highest self might need a little bit of extra love.
Here are 5 practices that take just one minute (yes, really!) that can help you ground down, release tension, and become more centered. Every single one of these tips can be done anywhere, costs nothing, and can repeated over and over again. Even if we’re not able to engage in our usual routines during the busy holiday season, we can certainly find one minute in our day to reconnect. Here’s how:
1. Hand + Ears Centering Practice
This practice is especially effective if you’re feeling frazzled or scattered; it can be very grounding and centering. Sneak off to a place where you can be left alone for a moment–even the bathroom works! When we reconnect to our own center, we can approach situations from a place that is more true to how we want to be in the world.
Go somewhere that you can be undisturbed for just a minute. Rub your palms together until they start to feel warm. Close your eyes, gently cover your ears with your hands, and take a few deep breaths while you concentrate on the feeling of your warm hands on your ears. After a few slow cycles of breath, open your eyes and rejoin your day.
2. Triple Three Practice
This technique can help to reconnect you to the present moment and is particularly powerful for when our minds start spinning out. If we’re worried, anxious, or overwhelmed, this practice can cut through the difficult emotions and bring us back to the present moment. And, after all, present moment awareness is a super power.
Take a deep breath commit to spending the next moment simply noticing, without judgment. Look around the room, and count to yourself three things that you see. Name them: first, second, and third. Tune into the sounds in the room around you and notice three things that you hear. And finally, turning inward, notice three things you feel, which can be physical, emotional, or energetic–whatever comes to mind is fine. Take another deep breath, knowing that you are present in this moment in time; that you are here in this place with these nine things. (If you do find yourself judging during this practice, notice that, allow the possibility of some humor about it, and let it go.)
3. Extend Your Out-Breath
While seemingly simple, I think this is the most powerful practice in my book. By taking direct control of our breathing, we can tap into our parasympathetic nervous system, which sends a direct message of relaxation to our brain. This can help to immediately reduce feelings of anxiety by lowering blood pressure and heart rate. I use this technique every single day. And it can be done in any situation–no one will know you’re doing it! Perfect for the holiday dinner table.
Whatever your breathing is like, notice it. It might be fast or slow, smooth or ragged, deep or shallow. Any state of breathing is okay; we’re just starting by observing. After a few breaths, focus on making your exhale a little bit longer than your inhale. As you continue to breathe, continue to extend the out-breath as deeply as feels naturally comfortable right now; no need to force anything. Do ten of so breath cycles with this focus, and then let your breath go back to it’s natural cycle.
4. Self Affection Moment
It’s so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of the holidays, whether we’re juggling holiday parties, sitting home alone feeling difficult emotions about our family–or both! At times like these, we might find ourselves feeling disembodied; rushing from place to place, and relying on adrenaline, momentum, or avoidance to get us through. This practice is about taking a moment to reconnect to your beautiful body and remind yourself that although you are a spiritual being, you are living in a human body and that body is worthy of your care and attention. This is another practice that can be done privately or in the company of other people–and if you do this around others, you might find them following your lead!
Grab some beautifully scented lotion or massage oil. Rub it gently and affectionately on your hands and lower arms. Move slowly and pay close attention to what feels good, leaning into that. When you find spots of tension, rub more deeply in whatever way feels right. Our hands are full of acupressure spots, and by caressing those areas of tension, we are sending healing throughout our whole body. Do this practice mindfully, with attention to how it feels.
5. Hand Over Heart
Our hearts have a very strong electromagnetic field (its electrical activity is what an electrocardiogram measures) and many ancient traditions believe that the heart chakra is where things like empathy, love, and compassion emanate from. On many levels, our life force comes from our hearts–and taking a moment to tune into this beautiful energy can allow us to strengthen our connection to both our physical bodies and to our highest spiritual selves.
Privately, if you can, close your eyes and gently place both of your hands over your heart. Take ten or so very deep, very slow breaths while you tune into the energetic field around your heart. As you take each breath, notice how it feels: Is there a temperature to the energy around your heart? A texture? Any movement? Do you feel any emotions when you tune into this space? Everything you notice or don’t notice is completely welcome; we’re simply tuning in to the power of what already is. After a moment slowly open your eyes and allow any connection to that energy to stay with you.
When we take a mindful moment–really, even just a minute!–to reconnect to our body, soul, and spirit, we are not only doing a kindness to ourselves, we are doing the world a favor by showing up as our highest self. The holidays can be beautiful and full of love and gratitude, but they can be a tough time, too. Even when we aren’t able to maintain our usual routines and practices, we can maintain connections to our heart and soul. These five practices offer and opportunity to do just that!