Stress Relief for the Holidays: 4 Ways to Let Go and Ohm All Day Long

We’ve all heard that practicing meditation is key to creating a stress-free life. It can increase happiness and has been to shown to improve concentration, benefit health, and even slow the aging process. Along with exercise, healthy eating, and getting enough sleep, it’s basically one of the best things we can do to live a healthier lifestyle. So why isn’t everyone doing it? Probably because most of us think meditation is a daunting task that requires laser focus and loads of time. And they’re also not really sure how to do it even if they could fit it into their schedules because, realistically, there are very few “How to Meditate” classes being offered at the local gym.

  1. The truth is, you don’t have to be Buddha levitating over a mountaintop in order to reap the benefits of meditation. It really can be an easy and effective way to find more joy in your life and doesn’t need to take up a lot of time. Try incorporating the following 4 simple practices into your daily routine to increase your peace and help you enjoy the upcoming holidays.Is someone driving you crazy? Your boss, teenager, or noisy neighbor? Instead of taking their actions personally, try imagining that person surrounded by a big ball of white light. Once you can see that, send loving thoughts their way. Remember that, just like you, they are only doing the best that they know how to do with the information that they have at this time. Envision them in a glowing sphere and send love their way until you feel lighter. Smile, let them go, and get on with your day.
  2. A great way to stop overwhelm in its tracks is by practicing a mini-grounding session: stand up and kick off your shoes, place your feet firmly on the ground, close your eyes, and imagine that the bottom of your feet have roots. Now picture those roots growing down into the ground. Keep the visual going until you’ve hit China or you’re breathing deeply and ready to get back to the task at hand.
  3. When your stress levels are at their highest, try the Tibetan Buddhist sky-gazing meditation. Find someplace where you can see the sky and sit down. If you can’t see the actual sky from where you are, pull up a picture of it on your computer. Keep your gaze on the sky or monitor while taking long, deep breaths. Fully concentrate on your breath: watch your exhaled breath sail into the clear, blue sky. Follow your breath in and out, noticing how it dissolves into the blue space in front of you. Continue until you feel calm.
  4. If you find yourself distracted and unable to focus, try this: get into a seated position and concentrate on your breath. Think of a word that either brings to mind serenity or one that you would like to embody, such as “peace,” “love,” “bliss,” etc. As you inhale, say the word “I” to yourself. On the exhale, say “am” and whatever the word was that you chose. I (inhale) (exhale) am love. I (inhale) (exhale) am peace. I (inhale) (exhale) am enough. If your minds starts to wander, simply bring it back to your silent mantra without judgement and continue until you feel ready to take on the rest of your day.

Namaste.

The Adult Coloring Craze

Mindfulness. Relaxation. Stress relief. Although according to research any structured, rhythmic activity can help you achieve these things, adult coloring seems to be the latest and greatest way to get there. And it’s no wonder: coloring is inexpensive, requires zero drawing skills, reminds of us of childhood, and is fun in a simple way.

I loved to color when I was a kid. In fact, my great uncle Orville Ganes was a professional cartoonist and one of my prouder childhood moments was when he penned a cartoon of my grandfather, his brother, riding a jalopy and asked me to color it in because he “heard a rumor” that I was “really talented” at it. I was 8 and beyond thrilled. Unfortunately, one of my more embarrassing childhood moments came about five minutes later when I accidentally colored outside of a line on that drawing because my sweaty fingers were a bit too eager to prove my “talent.” Sigh.

Despite this mild snag in my artistic career, I continued to secretly consider myself an expert colorer (apparently that’s not a word, but I’m using it anyway). In fact, I remember buying coloring books and crayons in college and spending a few weeknights on my dorm room floor, avoiding studying for finals by deciding if Ariel should become a brunette or keep the ginger locks Disney gave her.

Although I always feel the urge for markers whenever I see a black and white image, after college I don’t recall any coloring activity until my niece came along. And then about a year or so ago, out of nowhere it seemed, adult coloring books started appearing all over the place. Given my past love affair with coloring, it’s surprising it took me so long to jump on the bandwagon. Or maybe not, considering I’ve always been rather suspicious of hype. In any case, I finally broke down and revisited my former passion.

I bought a couple of books, the biggest box of crayons I could find, some thin-tipped markers, and went to town. As you can imagine, adult coloring books differ from their kid counterparts in that they generally contain more mature images: intricate patterns, fine details, less whimsical subject matters. Think less Prince Charming’s crude blocky castle and more his grandmother’s Zen garden drawn with a thousand hypnotic components.

After a week of almost nightly practice, I can honestly say I’m not as drawn (pun very much intended) to it as I once was, but I also realized my relationship with coloring reiterates what I’ve learned about myself over the years.

  1. My patience levels are always being tested: These new patterns take forever to complete, which makes it relaxing, time consuming, and oh-so frustrating all at the same time.
  2. I’m stubborn when determined: It isn’t easy staying inside the lines and I still care when I slip.
  3. I’m a visionary: I can’t believe Crayola still isn’t making enough colors to satisfy me and when are they going to invent a marker that doesn’t dry out after a few uses?
  4. I have excellent self-confidence: Even now, after all these years, I am still a coloring rock star.