The Magic of Mindfulness.

If you are looking for an effective way to stop the impact stress has on your life and well-being, mindfulness is your ticket!

But does the popularity of the word mindfulness intimidate you?

Please don’t let it!

Mindfulness, is simply the practice of being a non-judgmental observer of your thoughts and gently directing them back to the present moment. We all have the intrinsic capacity to change the focus our attention. 

Simple but not so easy to do.

Our mind hangs out in the present moment less than 50% of the time, as happiness researcher Dr. Killingsworth discovered through his postdoctoral research at Harvard University. As if that is not bad enough, his research also showed that a wandering mind leads to unhappiness in life. 

By practicing mindfulness, we can lessen the time we are lost in thoughts and be healthier and happier.

 In fact, over the last few decades, research from all around the world has proven that in addition to happiness, mindfulness leads to numerous physiological and psychological benefits, as well as peak performance.

With such strong evidence, why do less than 10% of us take advantage of this wonderful way of living?

A little over a decade ago, I was one of those people. 

I remember vividly when the book A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle was the book selection at my book club. I recall rolling my eyes hearing that this book was about “awakening to a new way of being and a new level of consciousness.”

I did not feel I had the time to “let a flower show me the way back home to my true self!”

All was seemingly going well in my life at the time. I was mostly unconscious of the great level of anxiety that I lived with, or accepted it as part of the price I had to pay to be successful. 

As it turned out, the seeds that were planted by that coincidental opening to mindful awareness grew into my lifesaving jacket shortly thereafter. When my unconscious state manifested in my life in the form of a series of unfortunate events, mindfulness became my beacon of light, my anchor, and my way home.

To this day, practicing mindfulness provides me with a safe place to find refuge in difficult times, keeps things in perspective, and helps me regain access to my evolved brain so that I can make wise decisions.

But how about you? What are your thoughts about mindfulness?

Are looking for ways to experience more balance and peace in your life?

Do you wish to enhance your ability to prevent work challenges from coming home with you at the end of the day? Would you like to become better at making intelligent use of your emotions?

What if I was to tell you that incorporating a mindfulness practice into your life will open the door to all of the above and many more inner strengths and states of being?

If you are anything like me, you may think that it sounds too good to be true, that you do not have time for it, or that you simply tried and cannot do it.

I would like to challenge your perceptions by sharing with you what I learned from the world’s most prominent mindfulness teachers about my points of resistance to mindfulness.

My goal is to inspire you to open the door to the ultimate form of freedom by welcoming mindfulness into your life.

“Mindfulness is a love affair with life and a possibility for healing.” John Kabat Zinn

1.    “The mindfulness hype is simply too good to be true.” 

It is hard to believe that mindfulness can transform our life. Even if the strong scientific evidence impresses us, we cannot conceptualize how incorporating even as little as five minutes of mindfulness meditation three times a week can increase our immune system cells or our happiness.

 Yet, even with all the scientific evidence aside, we know that our current way of being often does not feel good.  We appear to be stressed out and more addicted than ever; we have a hard time sleeping; we are overweight.

What we are not fully conscious of is that our mind’s attention—our thoughts—determine the way we feel, which leads to our actions that create our life experience. Everything in your life today is the result of your thought process. Your career, education, and your relationships are all the result of the decisions you made based on what you think.

The problem is that when we are thinking over and over about events that appeared threatening or made us feel defensive, we neurobiologically lose access to the intrinsic strengths we have to make good decisions.

The reason for this is that fear-based thoughts place us in survival mode. This is good when we are chased by a cougar, but not so good when we are ruminating over and over about a harsh criticism by our supervisor.

Here is why intercepting our thoughts has such a robust benefit on our wellbeing: 

When we are in survival mode, this little structure in our brain, called the amygdala, orchestrates our body’s response to threats.  Our body is flooded with stress hormones and literally shuts down our higher brain functions to allow energy to fuel all the systems required to survive in the face of a threat. 

Let’s face it, if you are being chased by a cougar, you really don’t need access to your innovation and critical thinking skills that allow you to discover a cure for a disease or develop an invention. You need to deal with the immediate threat of the cougar. So, instead, your energy is directed to the appropriate organs and functions that will allow you to fight, flee, or freeze.

However, the more we think about the harsh criticism we received from our supervisor, the more we live immersed in the chemistry of stress—sometimes for hours, days, or even years. Multiply that by several challenging events per day times the 70,000 estimated thoughts we have per day, and maybe you can begin to see why stress is now linked to more than 90% of today’s disease.

This is the power of our mind at work—inadvertently not allowing us to get out of our stress response when our unconscious thoughts perpetuate the need to protect our selves by perceived threats.

And allowing our unruly thoughts to keep our stress response over-activated long-term changes pretty significantly structures and functions in our brain that originally were intended to help us live the most amazing, healthy, and happy life. 

Research shows that it takes a minute and a half for a negative emotion to run through our neural circuitry. Yet by interpreting the situation as a threat, we let the negative emotions linger unconsciously, placing us in a compromised state for most of our daily lives. 

So, how does mindfulness help? Mindfulness helps us to make our thought patterns conscious. By sorting through our unconscious thoughts and emotions, we are able to become our own neurobiologists and regulate our inner response.

Mindfulness simply allows us to interrupt the stream of thinking about a situation that has activated our fear circuitry and return to our peaceful home base. By bringing awareness to the sensation of the fearful experience, and purposely returning to the present moment, we stop the release of cortisol. We can then redirect our energy to fuel the parts of our brain that are critical for our optimal performance. Further, through repetition of bringing mindful awareness to all that we do, we contribute to growing the parts of our brain that are linked to positive traits such as resilience, confidence, and self-control.

Although mindfulness cannot prevent us from experiencing negative emotions, it enhances our ability to take a break from the negative thoughts and emotions we experience and turn inward for a sense of peace and calm. From there, we can choose our response using the incredible strengths and inner capabilities that we have but that we can only access when we are calm and centered.

2.     “I don’t have time to do it.” 

It is true that time is a precious commodity these days. Technological advances once designed to improve our efficiency have resulted in a dysfunctional relationship with our devices, which we use to bring work and our to-do lists home, even on weekends or in bed at night! It is natural to present resistance to adding one more thing onto our already full plate. 

But how much time do you currently waste in either thinking about the past or worrying about the future? 

How much time do you lose waiting for others to do things for you so you can feel fulfilled? 

Based on the Harvard research mentioned in the beginning of this article, we waste about 50% of our time in the virtual reality of being lost in our thoughts.

Without conscious attention, which is what mindfulness is all about, our thoughts and the emotions they generate, run our life on auto-pilot.

Our thoughts determine how we respond to life. When our thoughts regularly revolve around fears and worries, we will experience anxiety.  

It takes a few minutes to connect with the mental content of our thoughts and the bodily sensations of our emotions. Even investing only five minutes every morning in a formal, mindfulness meditation practice will, over time, allow you to regain control of your mind’s focus. And then the real magic happens, when we bring our new capacity to modify the attention of our thoughts when real life situations take us off balance. 

We can then prevent the unnecessary activation of our stress response no matter how many stressors we have to deal with in life.  We simply deal with them from a space of wisdom and confidence that can only be found in the present moment. 

And what ends up happening is we have more time because:

—We stop living life waiting for something to happen. We’re more focused on our internal world as opposed to external rewards.  

—Our creativity and imagination flourishes because our mind is no longer cluttered by negative thoughts.  

—We are more resilient. A better regulated mind allows us to bounce back quicker from uncomfortable events such as negative criticism. 

3.     “I have tried to practice mindfulness, but I am just not good at it.” 

In our busy, hyper-connected world almost everything is associated with the need to perform. So, we expect we must perform mindfulness perfectly. 

However, mindfulness is this magical break from the never-ending race of meeting expectations.

It is a practice that does not require perfection.

Recognizing the point when our mind wanders is what the magic of mindfulness is all about. The practice is to shift from judging and condemning ourselves when our mind wanders, to recognizing that the moment when we recognize the wandering mind is the moment of power. 

We don’t have to be Zen masters to use life as our practice in nudging our thoughts back to the present moment, one thought at a time. Every time we intervene in reactive thinking and choose our response instead strengthens our ability to do so in the future. Additionally, research shows that gray matter increases in the pre-frontal region of our brain. This region of our brain, known as the executive functioning part of our brain, is what allows us to make sound decisions and access valuable data that we can use to bounce back quicker from adverse situations and improve our life experience.

Jack Kornfield, best-selling author and Vipassana teacher, has helped me simplify the concept of practicing mindfulness. Far from a mystical practice, it can be mastered by viewing our thoughts as a puppy that we are trying to train to stay. We tell the puppy “stay”; in a moment it wanders away; we call it back and tell it again to stay. We repeat this process over and over again. We don’t get angry at the puppy. It is simply learning how to stay in one place, just as our wandering mind is learning to stay in one present moment. 

Contrary to almost everything in life the benefits of mindfulness are reaped in our moment to moment experience without the need to arrive at a destination. Mindfulness opens us up to a new way of approaching life that shifts our default mode of getting distracted by old stories that our mind has hung onto and are not here right now. The present moment is where happiness, contentment, optimal performance, and life satisfaction can be found.

Final thoughts

Our thoughts are incredibly useful as they form the genesis of our emotions and lead to actions that create our reality.

However, often times, the power of our mind results in us becoming servants of our thoughts because of imaginary threats, which activate our stress response and deprive us of our inner capabilities, our creativity, and our natural capacity for resilience and happiness.

When we begin to bring mindful awareness to our thoughts and change the focus of our attention, we expand our perception in all areas of our life.

We realize that when we worry about a staff meeting, a presentation we have to give, or the potential of a relationship break-up, we allow our thoughts to take us to a virtual reality that is not here right now.

With mindfulness, we can begin to cultivate a better relationship with our thoughts. By practicing conscious awareness of our habitual thoughts that do not serve us, we can begin to become the compassionate observer. We can recognize that these fearful thoughts are just habits and become better and better at directing our attention to the present moment. 

Although there are plenty of reasons to shun this well-substantiated practice, many of our objections are also just thoughts!

The evidence of the benefits of practicing mindfulness is compelling. You can expect to improve your immune function, blood pressure regulation, and cardiovascular risk, as well as your mood, concentration, focus, problem-solving and self-regulation.

These benefits will improve your work performance, your relationships, and your sense of happiness.

When beginning to learn mindfulness meditation, it is often helpful to practice using a guided meditation. If you would like a guided practice to try, you can click on this link : to join the Myndzen community and receive a guided, mindfulness practice delivered to your inbox.

By joining a mindful community, you can access the resources, support, and accountability that can help you harness the power of your mind to create a more fulfilling life experience. 

How You Can Kick Stress in The Butt by Cultivating Resilience – A practical view.

Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by the amount of stress you are experiencing in your life that you feel you cannot control? The good news is you can control cultivating a skill that will enable you to bounce back to your optimal, balanced state when life knocks you down. This skill is resilience.

Resilience allows us to overcome stress and adversity without experiencing disruption in our optimal functioning, either psychologically or physically.

Unlike futile attempts to reduce stressors which we cannot control, resilience involves growing inner strengths that help us regulate our response to stressors. As a result, we are able to mitigate the development of unhealthy stress-coping mechanisms such as compassion fatigue, burnout, and/or mental illness.

If life’s ups and downs often take you off kilter or if you feel overwhelmed and stuck by what seem to be endless challenges and adversity, I invite you to explore different ways to boost your capacity for resilience. Research shows that resilience is invaluable in helping you increase physical, psychological, and mental health; improve performance; and enhance personal relationships.

The truth about stress

Stress affects almost 70% of us and is linked to more than 90% of today’s disease. We refer to stress as the epidemic of the century, and we blame it for feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and unhappy.

In actual fact, what we experience as stress is simply all the changes our body makes to rise to the challenges of life. The pressure we feel when we have to step up to these challenges and demands is because when we step up we temporarily leave our home base where we function and operate in balance. This home base is known as homeostasis and is the state when our body systems, such as our immune system, operate at their best. 

When we are dealing with the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, a horrible tragedy, or a manager who is ineffective and manages by fear, we disturb our optimal balance to keep up with these challenges.

Allostasis is the process by which our body attempts to return to our home base of homeostasis in the face of an actual or perceived environmental, or psychological stressor. Although our body’s systems promote survival in the short term when dealing with stressors, if stressors are prolonged over an extended period of time they can cause significant damage and lead to disease.

Allostatic load (McEwen and Stellar, 1993) describes the amount of changes the body has to make to adapt to stressors. The higher the amount is, the higher the potential of occurrence of damage to our bodies.

For example, acute stress promotes the release of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which in small quantities reduce inflammation in the body. However, chronic stress leads to high levels of cortisol, which ends up suppressing our immune function, which increases our susceptibility to disease.

Stress itself is not the actual problem. The real problem is that we operate under our stress response for way longer than what we were physiologically designed to do.

What is the reason that we are operating under our stress response for too long, and how can we bounce back from our stressed state to our balanced state?

Why resilience is the best response to stress

Some life challenges are more stressful than others. But whether we are dealing with the loss of a loved one, a divorce, a death, or some other adversity, pain and suffering in life is inevitable.

However, a hidden culprit seems to perpetuate our suffering and delays bouncing back to a place of balance. This culprit is our thoughts and perceptions about the situation, which often lead to behaviors that do not help. 

Consider your biggest stressors over this last month and why they felt so stressful. Ask yourself: Was it the situation itself that kept you up at night, or led you to relieve your negative feelings with unhealthy behaviors like having one too many glasses of wine to de-stress, or was it your thoughts about the situation?

When we get laid off, for example, it is not the single event of losing our job that increases the imbalance in our body and contributes to the heavy load of stressors. It is also our thoughts and all the energy we invest in considering and worrying about all the things that could go wrong: the possibility of losing our car, our home, our ability to survive. 

Resilience is therefore a choice to take back control of our thoughts and how we want to interpret life situations so that we return to our home base sooner. In this more balanced state our body is not flooded with stress hormones, we have access to our thinking brain, and our body systems are able to operate well to support us through the challenging situation. 

Existing research supports that resilience has been shown to increase physical emotional and mental wellbeing, performance and relational health. It also has been linked to improved finances, academic performance and lower incidence of mental health issues that typically develop under chronic exposure to stress. 

We all have the capacity to nudge our brain to take a new path to staying calm during difficult situations so we can avoid the negative consequences of being stressed out all the time. Resilient people suffer just as much as their non-resilient counterparts when they experience the death of a loved one. But they choose thoughts, behaviors, and actions that help them make intelligent use of their emotions to mitigate the long-term impact of chronic stress such as burnout or depression. 

Cultivating stress resilience in life is not a one-size-fits-all approach and it is a process that we must remain committed to. It is simple, but not easy, to guide our brain to recognizing the control we have over situations, even if they are devastating ones.

Here are some simple, everyday actions you can begin doing to enhance your resilience and change your response to stressors:

1.     Start your day on the right track.

Set your alarm a little early and give yourself the opportunity to start your day with a gratitude meditation. If you are not yet comfortable with meditation, you can give yourself the space to recount three things you truly feel grateful for before you even get out of bed in the morning. Your brain does not know the difference between your thoughts and reality, so setting a positive tone for your day will start you off in a state of balance.

2.    Challenge your stressors.

Stress is the non-specific response of the body to demands from the environment. Ninety-five percent of what we worry about never happens. What worries can you say no to today to decrease the demands you place on your body?

3.     Embrace your vulnerabilities and imperfections. 

Vulnerabilities are part of our common human connectedness. Resisting, hiding, and isolating are traits that are not rewarded by the environment and actually activate our stress response. If any of your characteristics sabotage the accomplishment of your desired outcomes, use them as an opportunity for personal development and change.

4.     Change your brain’s propensity to assume the worst by using positivity.

Have you noticed your tendency to assume the worst more times than not? This is because our brain evolved this way in order to keep us safe. By directing your attention to any positive aspects of a negative experience, you actually become an active participant in rewiring your brain for happiness.

5.     Just breathe.

Did you know that your very own breath has the power to calm your heart rate when life events disturb its balance? Your breath is the only bodily function that involves both voluntary and involuntary muscles and nerves. By resting your attention on your breath and observing it become deeper and more regular, you actually activate your parasympathetic response, which is your built-in antidote to your stress response.

6.     Connect.  

Human connection has been proven to be a potent stress reliever. A recent study showed diminished nervous-system-threat-response when we hold the hand of a loved one. At times of stress resist the tendency to isolate and reach out to someone you trust. 

7.    Be kind to yourself like you are to your best friend.

Self-criticism and self-judgment activate your stress response as much as being chased by a mountain lion. When you realize you are slipping down the slope of negative self-talk, shift your attention to five things you did well in the last 24 hours.

8.    Minimize unnecessary headaches. 

Little every day annoyances like looking for your car keys on your way to an appointment can add quite a bit of stress to your life. What small daily tasks can you organize to save yourself time and headaches?

9.    Nurture your beautiful body.

Instead of feeling frustrated with the lack of time to engage in a gym ritual, find every day ways that are within your control to nurture your body. Strive for balance and not perfection in finding ways you can nurture your body consistently. Dance like no one is watching. Add five positive actions to your nutrition or activity levels for every negative choice you make. 

10.  Nurture your beautiful mind.

Resist the habit of allowing negative information flow from the outside world to be  your focus and attention. Instead, feed your mind positive information. Listen to TED Talks, read a book, listen to a guided meditation, recount your blessings, or engage in voluntary work toward a cause you are passionate about. Much like enriching your garden with water and Miracle Grow, feeding your mind positive content will provide you with the necessary nutrients to cultivate a stress-resilient brain.

11.  Quiet your mind with meditation.

Meditation is the simple practice of directing your attention to what is here now and to not allow it to wander off to worries about the past and the future. This simple practice has been shown to produce a myriad of physiological and psychological benefits by robust scientific research. Just do it!  

12.  Develop a night-time ritual of celebrating your daily victories.       

We often lay awake at night focusing on things we could have done better. What if instead we get into the habit of acknowledging all the things we did well? Research shows that directing our mental activity to things that make us smile is a powerful way to use our mind to develop a happier brain. 

Final thoughts

Challenges and adversities are an inevitable part of our life, which we cannot realistically eliminate or reduce. And these challenges will often cause stress. However, we can cultivate resilience, a skill that allows us to cope with stressors in healthy ways by making intelligent use of our emotions to bounce back to a balanced state quickly and avoid maladaptive coping. 

Although resilience is a skill we do not develop overnight, making small changes that re-set the tone on how we view life’s hurdles allows us to experience the joy of our power to change our response to life situations. This is possible even during extremely stressful and devastating times.

By incorporating practices that can address the myriad of stress issues within our control, we can improve our ability to cope with stressful situations and maintain our optimal functioning.  We can increase physical, psychological, and mental health; improve performance; and greatly enhance personal relationships.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. 

How do you cultivate resilience? What challenges you on this path? Your views, insights, and experiences are valuable in creating a better world by making stress resilience sustainable and practical for all of us.

I also offer a one-page resource you can use to increase your resilience via making intelligent use of your emotions. You can join the Myndzen community and have this sent to your inbox by clicking on this link: 

By joining the Myndzen community, you will also be notified as soon as additional resilience resources become available this year from Myndzen.

Tips to Make the Holidays Less stressful. (And more Merry & Bright)

We typically refer to the holiday season as the most wonderful time of the year. 

But is that true for you? If it is, I am happy for you.

But if it’s not, you are definitely not alone!

Statistically-speaking, it appears that for a good three months, including the time before and after the holidays, our stress level is at its worst for the majority of us.

Further, seasonal depression abounds during the holiday season. Many additional financial strains, extra work demands for end-of-the-year deadlines, and dealings with family members challenge our ability to stay positive, present and calm.

Not to mention, many of us have to rise to the occasion of having a “wonderful life” when our reality is not congruent with the commercials and holiday shows that bombard us. Many of us are divorced, single parents.  Some of us live thousands of miles away from home. And others are adjusting to life without loved ones who are no longer here.

Between the extra expenses, gifts, travel, decorations, dinner parties, loneliness, distractions of our normal routine, long lines, loss, divorces, extra traffic, dealing with family, and oh-so-many expectations are you surprised we suffer from holiday stress?

It does not matter whether the holiday is Hanukah, Christmas, or Diwali. The extra load the holidays place on our already-full plates often exceeds our capacity to rise to the occasion without taking our bodies out of whack.

However, there is a magical gift to be found in the holidays and in the rest of our life. If the script that was passed on to us is causing us exhaustion, anxiety, pressure, and strain, it is 100% within our control to change it!

We are the creators of our reality and we can re-write any part of our story to make it more balanced, sustainable, jolly, and bright!

Here are nineteen suggestions to consider in re-writing your holiday story, in order to savor the festivities without burning out.

Upgrade your mindset

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1.    How we celebrate Christmas as we grow older can change.

The holiday tale you were handed as part of your family history includes a myriad of family traditions that perhaps are not realistic today. 

If you want to write a new holiday story that fits your current reality, you can start by choosing a new theme. Then you can determine the plot, the protagonists, the roles, and the dialogue that work for you. Here are some suggestions for a new story with a happier ending:

2. Set your own standards, expectations, and what “good enough” looks like for you. Don’t try to keep up with traditions that are unrealistic based on your life’s circumstances.

3. Focus only on what you can control. 

4. Enjoy the journey without being distracted by worries about the result.

5. Strive for balance as opposed to perfection.

6. Explore ways you can turn to-do list items into opportunities for connection. My lovely friend Steph role-modeled this beautifully when she hosted a Friendsgiving soiree this year. Everybody contributed to a lovely meal, and part of the joy was decorating her Christmas tree together. What a great way to enjoy the moment and take the decorating chore off her to-do list!

Prioritize and plan ahead

7.    Set a budget without being afraid of being a Scrooge.

You may know of the character, Scrooge, from the story The Christmas Carol. He was miserly and selfish. But you can set limits and still be generous.

After all, how generous we are with our time, energy, and money hinges on the love and thought we place into things and not the quantity.

What if you avoid over-spending, as well as the overwhelming lines and exhaustion of holiday shopping, by creating gifts for your dearest ones? 

You can spend time with your children decorating useful everyday things, like coffee mugs for example. Or you can play some holiday music by the fire while reviewing your photos from the past year. Select your favorite photos of adventures you shared with family and friends. You can then order prints of those photos, place them in frames, and turn them into wonderful gifts.

8.    Don’t let the Grinch steal your Christmas.

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You may remember the Grinch,  Dr. Seuss’s mean-tempered character, who was so irritated by the holiday festivities that he decided to destroy Christmas.

When you lose yourself in an attempt to please everyone and surpass everybody else’s expectations, guess what happens! You burnout. The typical symptoms of burnout— exhaustion, irritability, insomnia, and ineffectiveness—can turn the nicest of us into the Grinch! What good is staying up all night to prepare the perfect holiday gathering if you are so snappish and irritable that you cannot enjoy it?

Do you remember the last time you gave up sleep, wholesome nutrition, or your little healthful rituals to rise to the unrealistic expectations of your family, friends, or work?

How did that feel in your body and spirit? 

The truth is, it is impossible to be the perfect mother, daughter, cook, and executive all at the same time. It is imperative that we take control of our priorities by being mindful of what is important to our well-being!  

To avoid burning out this holiday season, incorporate the following when setting your holiday priorities. 

9. Put yourself on top of your priority list! 

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10. Plan ahead how you will spend your time, your money, and your energy. 

11. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

12. Nurture your body.

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Don’t let the holiday over-burden your need for rest in between sprints. A short 15-minute walk can be a great way to de-stress. There is a great sense of peace in the sound of the wind whistling through the trees and the extra blood pumping through your blood when you gift yourself with a few minutes of activity in nature. Not to mention, research has revealed that even short amounts of daily exercise activate the same brain circuits as anti-depressants do.  

13. Nurture your mind. If extra contact with relatives, which takes you out of your zen, is on the menu during the holidays, purposely infuse positive activities in between visiting with them. This can include committing to a guided meditation before you go to sleep, listening to an uplifting podcast on the way to work, or simply planning to spend more time with people who uplift your spirits.

14.  Enjoy the moment. Resist the urge to let your mind wander to stressful thoughts. Although this is easier said than done, training your attention to stay in the present moment is an incredible practice. Its benefits go beyond being a popular fad. Keeping your attention in the now has many physiological and psychological benefits. Some of those benefits are blood pressure reduction, increased optimism, and even growth in regions of your brain that are associated with inner strengths, like improved concentration and problem-solving.

Dare to be you and do things differently

15.    Let Rudolph show you the joy of being different .

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Do you remember the story of Rudolph, one of Santa’s reindeer, who was shunned by the other reindeer because he had a bright, red nose? But then the light of his nose saved Christmas as he guided Santa’s sleigh on a foggy night. 

The stress to conform can increase during the holidays. Once upon a time we lived in small communities with family structures that had defined roles and plenty of support available. Today, the pace of life is very different with many single-parent households, moms in executive roles, and family members geographically spread around the nation or the world.

High demands are placed on us during the holidays.  It takes courage to defy the familial norms and traditions. Choosing how you want your life to be during the holiday season means you have the opportunity to create new traditions that are aligned with who you are today.

Here are some additional things to keep in mind as you become a holiday tradition pioneer:

16. Align traditions with your interests.

What traditions are linked to what gives you joy? For example, I discovered that volunteering for a cause I am passionate about is a fantastic new holiday tradition with many benefits. It gives me the opportunity to savor my connectedness to the whole, spend wholesome time with my daughter, and deepen my sense of gratitude for our blessings. 

17. Master the art of saying no. We have associated a negative connotation to saying no to things that take us off-kilter. But whether you kindly decline to attend one more holiday affair or to host your negative relative for ten days, consider what you are saying yes to when you say no. Perhaps you are saying yes to peace of mind, centeredness, and a better night’s sleep!


18.    Choose the definition of the greatest gift.

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Beyond over-indulging, over-spending, forced family time, and endless to-do lists, the spirit of the holidays is really about pausing and opening the door to love.

The greatest gift we can all give to ourselves, our families, and the world we live in is taking back the reins of what is 100% within our control. We can choose all the ingredients and the small steps to take to create the life and the holiday season we love.

During this time, give yourself the space to reflect on what you need to continue, to stop, and to start doing in the coming year. You can use the following prompts to reflect.

o  What activities, choices, and people brought you happiness this last year?

o  How does your current self-care ritual feel? How do you nurture your body and soul? What more do you need?

o  What are some of the biggest pearls of wisdom you gathered this year and what would you like to do differently in the new year?

By pausing, reflecting, and choosing what you will do to move toward what you truly love, you can not only design a peaceful holiday, but a more satisfying life. 


19.    Remember what a wonderful life looks like to you.

Our busy lives, in and out of the holiday season, don’t always provide us with the opportunity to reflect on what truly makes life wonderful.

I know from personal experience how draining, stressful, and unfulfilling losing ourselves in all the things we “should be” doing can be.

Meeting a never-ending list of others’ expectations and standards obscures the wonder of life and deprives us of the joy that we all deserve.

But we can use this holiday season as the catalyst for positive change.

We can:

  • Decide which parts of our history we want to bring forth into the present moment.
  • Dare to incorporate new traditions that serve us well.
  • Elevate our self-care and honor our limits.
  • Prioritize and plan how we use our energy to honor what is important to us.

And then, the miracle happens. A door opens to a truly wonderful life. We feel calmer, more grounded, and can shed a tear for a special someone we miss yet smile at the glistening shine of a fresh snowflake.

And that is when we not only enjoy the festivities in the present moment, but we become a beacon of light for our families, our colleagues, and the collective whole.

May you have a wonderful, joyful, and peaceful holiday season!