Practising Holiday Mindfulness

BY: LAUREN UHDE

Let’s make this holiday season unforgettable, heart wrenchingly beautiful, and full of connection.

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Another holiday season is upon us it and in it’s in our power to make it the most memorable one yet. We have a choice to make. We can end the holidays exhausted, stretched to our limits from running around, and in need of a true break. Or, we can choose to be mindful and allow ourselves to truly spread holiday cheer, finding fulfillment in all we do.

So let’s choose fulfillment. Let’s choose love. To love ourselves, everyone we meet and to truly be grateful. We want connection. We want to rediscover the depths of important relationships and maybe even build some new ones. We want to feel renewed, energized, satisfied and happy. Let’s gift ourselves this holiday season by taking action and making these wants a reality.

A holiday season touched by greatness is one that’s executed with intention. Put intention behind your actions with these four mindfulness tips that will help you get the most out of your time. How can mindfulness help? Mindfulness helps us be more present and aware through our activities. It helps us slow down to make sure we don’t miss the beauty of what is right in front of us. It shines a light on how we are feeling, helps us to stop acting automatically and start taking deliberate action.

To help you get the most out of these mindfulness tips, first I’ll explain how to do the mindfulness activity and then I’ll tell you why it matters.

Having a solid ‘why’ is a key to making changes.

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Tip #1: Mindful Breathing

How: Pause throughout your day to take three to five deep breaths. Really watch and feel your breath. Feel the air flow in your noise, noticing its cool touch. Feel it move through your body, down into your belly. Feel your abdomen rise with each in breath. Feel your belly lower as you exhale through your mouth, noticing how the air is warm as it leaves your body. Watch this cycle three to five times, paying attention to how the breath feels in your body.

Notice the changing sensations. This whole process takes no more than a minute.

Why: Watching our breath is an incredible way to feel the stress and tension melt away. It is extremely calming and brings our attention to the most basic need in our life – breathing. It helps us appreciate being alive. It slows the mind, even just for a minute. This practice can revolutionize our holidays. Whenever we feel the stress rising, we can gift ourselves this minute to help us regain control over our thoughts and emotions. This simple minute gives us the opportunity to remember the joy that’s rightfully ours over the holidays. We’ll be ready to spread the cheer with these mini minute meditations.

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Tip #2: Mindful Listening

How: Give the person you are talking to your full attention. Instead of thinking what to say next, stop and really listen. Pay attention to their tone, emotions, and thoughts. Watch their gestures. Ask meaningful questions.

Why: Meaningful conversations build meaningful relationships. Holidays are a time for family and friends. While visiting with the people we care about we risk falling into the trap of having the same surface conversation over and over. We get ready to share our side of ‘what’s new’ or are running over a response while we half listen. Active, mindful listening gives us an opportunity to fully hear what others have to say. Our responses become deeper, our connection grows because everyone loves to truly feel heard. Whether a conversation is short or long, mindful listening makes each one more meaningful. The more we practice this technique the easier it becomes and the more we learn about our loved ones as questions we once never thought to ask start to flow. Dive deep, truly connect.

Tip #3: Mindful Eating

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How: From the moment you grab your empty plate pay attention. How does the food smell in the room around you? Survey the choices that you have in front of you.

What do you actually want to eat and how much is the right amount for you? Mindfully portion out your food knowing you can always go back for more. Before you start eating take a second to look at your plate, feeling grateful, recognizing all of the work that went into getting that food to your plate (people who cooked the food, farmers, stores, nature). Eat and chew consciously. Enjoy and really taste every bite. Listen to your body and give it more food when it wants more, less when it wants less.

Why: During the holidays we have a tendency to overeat in ways that make us feel sluggish and sometimes even bad about ourselves. This holiday season let’s bring mindfulness to our eating habits. We can still enjoy all of our holiday food, indulging in ways we may not normally do but do so consciously. Paying attention to the food we are eating can bring us so much joy as tastes, smells, and textures of food are heightened. We can walk away from the table feeling good about what we’ve eaten, knowing that each bite was a memorable experience. Eating mindfully helps us build a healthy connection with food and supports us in nourishing our bodies for optimal health.

Tip #4: Mindful Appreciation

How: Set an intention at the start of your day that you will make a point to notice and truly appreciate the good, big and small, throughout your day. Be mindful as you go move through your day, giving a smile to all the things that often get taken for granted or go unnoticed. Before bed, set one minute aside to mindfully appreciate 5 or more things in your life (from the day or your life in general).

For example: I appreciate that the cashier at the grocery store gave me a big smile this afternoon.

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Why: Paying attention throughout the day helps us really start to notice how much there is to be grateful for. The nighttime appreciation practice helps us go to bed on a strong note, priming us to wake up in a more appreciative state. This will supercharge our holiday cheer, making sure we don’t miss the beauty that is right in front of us. Mindful appreciation as a habit can change the way we see the world!

The Impact of Mindfulness over the Holidays:

When we put these practices together, the holiday season shines with meaningful moments. Mindful breathing helps us stay centered and take precious time for ourselves. Mindful listening helps us connect with everyone we meet on a deeper level. Mindful eating helps us feel nourished and helps us stay healthy. Mindful appreciation helps us feel blessed for all we have.

These mindfulness tips are great all year around.

Test them out during the holidays and watch love radiate and shine through your world!


Lauren’s passion in life is helping people discover the true joy of self-love. She is a Reiki Master, Holistic Nutritionist (CNP) and Life Coach. She is the Head Mindfulness Coach for Cocoon Health and Fitness, an organization with a mission to awaken the power of self-love through fitness, nutrition, and mindful living by creating awareness and connection to the whole self, body, mind and spirit. Learn more at cocoonhealth.ca. Follow her on Instagram and  Facebook

Planned structure: why it’s important post-ABI + 8 tips getting started

BY: CELIA M

One of the many things we lose during recovery from an ABI is structure in our day-to-day routines.

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PHOTO: RESILIENTISTA.COM

While rehab and specialist appointments may maintain a facsimile of structure to your day or week, what are you doing with the rest of your time?  Have you fallen into a routine of sleeping the morning away, followed by an afternoon marathon of talk shows, soaps and game shows? Does your wardrobe consist of pajamas or sweat pants? By supper time do you start thinking about all the ‘things’ you should have done – only now you are beyond tired, and you remember you didn’t really eat anything (does a chocolate and left over pizza count?), and you’re now counting down the time until you move from your sofa to your bed – only to start the cycle again tomorrow? Unless of course there is a medical appointment you need to attend.

This type of day I call unplanned structurein the early days of recovery you went from bed to medical/rehab appointments and back to bed, because that’s all your body and brain could handle. Over time, this became unplanned structure, as it was easier to do nothing than to think and make a decision about how you were going to carry out an activity, which may take more planning now than before you acquired a brain injury.

Know, I’m not judging. I‘ve lived this, but I’m here to let you in on a little secret – planned structure is key to getting back to adding more fun and enjoyment into your day.

For many people the word structure can conjure up visons of rigidity, being controlled, or being stuck in a boring routine. But structure can be a very powerful tool to help you get back to functioning on a regular basis and enjoying life. When you have structure in your life you know ‘what’s next’, which enables you to get on with your day. As ABI-survivors we can use up valuable energy trying to figure out what to do next. We might not do anything because we can’t decide or figure out what to do.

In the early years of recovery from ABI, I too was against structure, just ask my rehab girl Catherine. My reasoning was that I couldn’t predict what my energy level was going to be on any given day, so why plan anything? This left me doing nothing most of the time.

I also wanted to feel like I had control over my own day. Boy, was I wrong! When I finally gave planning structure a try – with the caveat that it was OK to re-schedule an activity if I didn’t have the energy for it (without guilt, or feeling like a failure) – it was such a liberating feeling!

Planned structure became my ticket to freedom, independence and a sense of accomplishment. Knowing what came next in my day helped reduce my daily struggle with anxiety and stress. I made sure there was always built in rest time between activities, and the more I repeated an activity on a regular basis the more it became a habit. My brain started to automatically know ‘what’s next’, and before I knew it I was doing my morning grooming without having to stop and think about it.

I’m not going to sugar coat it – it takes time, and some things will continue to need to be written down (that is a post for another day) but, know that each small step (no matter how trivial and small it may seem) will get you to where you want to be, living life to its fullest no matter what your new abilities may be.

When our food, exercise and sleep patterns are consistent our body and brain function better. This makes it possible to enjoy not only the tasks we need to do but to enjoy activities we like and try new activities too.

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PHOTO:  QUOTE BY SHARIFAH NOR

Benefits of structure

  • You know ‘what’s next’ and don’t waste energy thinking about what to do next
  • You habituate a new task or behavior
  • Automates activities in your day
  • You feel more in control being able to enjoy  your day and your life

Eight tips that helped me add planned structure into my day that included activities to make my day and life more enjoyable

  • A regular wake up time
  • Morning rituals to prepare for the day ahead (showering, dressing, breakfast etc.)
  • Fitness activities (walking, stretching, gym, yoga etc.)
  • Meal times
  • Leisure time (hobbies, ‘you’ time, a nap, etc.)
  • Time with family and friends
  • Evening rituals to prepare your mind and body for rest (unplug from computers, television 1-2 hours before your bedtime;  read a book, have a bath, meditate/pray, etc.)
  • A regular bedtime

NOTE: there will be times where you will need to add your daily structured planned activities around your medical / rehab needs, and there will be times that you will be able to add your medical rehab appointments around the things you enjoy in life. With patience and time you will find balance between the two – this is when the magic of planned structure happens.

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PHOTO: RESILIENTISTA.COM

Bonus Tips

  • Allow for flexibility, especially on days you find your energy supply low
  • Its ok to add/remove activities as your likes change
  • Seek the help of a rehab team member, friend/family member, or psychologist in creating your daily structured plan if you are not sure how to get started.

Today, I have more enjoyment in my days and life in general because; I have created a daily structured plan that works for me.  I encourage you to give adding structure to your day a chance. And let’s not tell Catherine that she was right about structure, that will be our little secret. ☺

Celia is an ABI survivor who is dedicated to helping others move forward in their journey and live the life they dream of. She is the founder of the internationally read blog High Heeled Life – inspiration for living a luxurious and balanced life; featured author in Soulful Relationships part of the best-selling series Adventures in Manifesting; a Peer Mentor with BIST; a regular speaker for Canadian Blood Services – Speakers Bureau; Self-care advocate; Lifestyle writer/blogger.  In 2016 Celia launched the website Resilientista to inspire women to put themselves in their day, practice self-care on the daily and live their version of a High Heeled Life. Learn more about Celia and be inspired: visit http://www.HighHeeledLife.com or http://www.Resilientista.com

We love Celia! You can catch her at our next Community  Meeting on October 24th, where she’ll help us put inspiration into action at an Inspiration Board workshop