Mindfulness may be the perfect answer to holiday excess and stress

Winter in Montana can be brutal. The short days, gray, snowy skies, and cold weather can work together to cut you off from healthy habits. Shopping, excesses in food and drink, an difficult family situations can add enormous stress on top of that for both the body and mind. 

For many decades now, the Buddhist teachings on mindfulness have been transformed into a secularized, Western context, bringing countless benefits ranging from chronic pain relief and addiction relapse prevention to general increased wellness in individuals. 

The heart of mindfulness practice is living fully in the present moment. That means that:

  • if you're at work, your mind is at work, not thinking about the slippery roads or your mother-in-law's impending visit.
  • If you're with family, your mind and attention is with your family.
  • If you're planning out your holiday shopping list, your mind is fully there, not constantly distracted.

There is a misconception that "being present" means one cannot think about the past or future. You can! It just means that you do so in an intentional manner. This takes practice. Our society drives us toward constant multi-tasking, and the health and attention costs are increasingly well-documented. Multi-tasking slows us down. It makes us unhappy. 

An antidote to this is mindfulness practice. As mentioned above, the list of benefits from mindfulness practice continues to grow, and today it is being discussed by academics in terms of our behaviors as consumers - an ideal topic this time of year:

“We believe that mindfulness—with its many benefits being increasingly corroborated through an array of scholarly approaches—is reaching a tipping point of being accepted, like physical exercise, as an essential element of well-being.”

“If we are looking for a paradigm shift toward a more mindful consumption culture, it behooves all change agents—academics, marketing practitioners, consumers, and policy makers—to develop their own proficiency for mindfulness to equip themselves for more successfully confronting, with lucidity and compassion, the complex and imposing problems of today’s world.”

Think about living these next few weeks - and the year ahead - with lucidity and compassion.

The study suggests that mindfulness can help in a number of specific areas of our lives:

  1. Financial well-being: cultivating the ability to make decisions in alignment with our deeper values and passing up "impulse buys" that make us happy in the very short term but add to financial stress over the long run.
  2. Decreased overall materialism: cultivating inner joy and well-being reduces pressures to spend money based on societal norms or ideals, one also develops the ability to enjoy the cleverness of marketing tactics instead of reacting to them.
  3. Family: turning away from the massive over-stimulus of holiday shopping means more time to turn toward people we love
  4. The environment: thinking deeply about the products we buy, we can ask about the processes that produced it, the packaging, the whole cost to our planet. Quick, easy, cheap items become less appealing when we think in this way. Instead we search for locally made, quality, and long-lasting items. These cost more in general in the short-run, but benefit the earth and, more often than not, last many many times longer than their cheaper counterparts - in the end saving us money.
  5. Social wellness: practicing mindfulness in our hectic shopping adventures will make us more compassionate for ourselves and all of those other people out there who are often deeply stressed out and mindless in their consumption. Be kind in the jam-packed parking lots and in the store aisles. So many others out there are under tremendous stress and it does us, them, and the world no good to get angry toward them.

So be kind to yourself. Make mindfulness part of your winter tradition this year.

Mindful Montana, a recently created company devoted to teaching mindfulness and loving-kindness practices in the Helena community, will offer a 4-week Introduction to Mindfulness course starting January 8th. This course is kindly co-sponsored by MerlinCCC, a philosophy-based non-profit located in Reeder's Alley. If you're ready to give mindfulness a try, for yourself and those around you, see the MerlinCCC website for more information and to register.

We will also offer several more courses, workshops, and seminars throughout 2017. If you can't make it to the January course, you can still get a 2017 Mindfulness Pass: good for one course or workshop (a $79-119 value) for $75 now or two for $130.

The fine print: 2017 Mindfulness Passes will be good for the full year and will be redeemable at at least five (5) courses/workshops during the year. Passes can be bought for yourself or as a gift, but they are non-transferable and cannot be canceled or returned for cash value. They are a commitment to practice. Once purchased, an email will be sent to you with instructions and a paper "gift certificate" can be mailed to you and/or the gift recipient.