Ho Ho Ho! The festive season is once again upon us! It’s that time of year when everybody is gearing-up towards a single goal – a perfect Christmas – where all your loved ones must happily come together. Log fires are roaring, mulled wine is steaming away, the chocolate is never ending and Nat King Cole is playing in the background like a soundtrack to your very own Christmas movie.

However, it’s now mid-December, and the never-ending parties and get-togethers are leading to food comas. The carols are becoming repetitive, and frustration is setting in as exercise and your structured daily routine takes the back seat.

Your mind is on autopilot, preoccupied with all the remaining tasks: the last minute shopping, Christmas lunch – even Boxing Day has its own agenda! Suddenly, instead of feeling joyfully excited, we feel anxiously out of control, awaiting the New Year to finally come around.

It doesn’t need to be this way. There is a really great tool locked inside that speedy mind that, with some guidance, is waiting to ground you.  It is one of the trendiest techniques you can master and it is totally free. MINDFULNESS.

Now don’t roll your eyes if you’re familiar with the term. You may have given it a go, decided it wasn’t for you, or, with a bit of luck, you’re a complete virgin! So what is the main idea behind Mindfulness and how do we do it? Simply put, mindfulness refers to a metaphysical state allowing us to be fully present. We become attentive to the moment; balanced between deeply engaged and completely peaceful. Mindfulness techniques teach us to be present, while calmly acknowledging and accepting our feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.

We’re not suggesting you master the art of teleportation, but we will offer you one technique we believe to be really useful in calming the mind. Research has shown that a large part of festive stress is a result of unconscious eating. In keeping with this theme, we have a fun exercise designed to encourage both conscious eating and general stillness in the mind.

To get started you’ll need a bag of grapes and a quiet place for five minutes. If you’re not a grape fan, that’s okay. Choose whatever food is lighting up those taste buds as you’re reading. Whether you are in bed or at work, sit up straight and consider the following five steps.

1)   Touch – What shape is the grape in your hand?

2)   Response – How does it respond to your manipulation?

3)   Smell – Associate one word with its smell.

4)   Feel – How does it feel in your mouth?

5)   Taste – How does it taste in your mouth, and what is the aftertaste?

Pretend you have never seen or heard of a grape before. As you begin you will notice more than its simple taste. Your mind will unravel its texture, weight and the way the grape responds to your actions. The point of the exercise is to concentrate all your attention on a single grape, one after the other, noticing every aspect of the fruit. By focusing on the present moment as it unfolds, your thought process becomes structured and linear. Energy otherwise spent during divided attention is conserved. When you have finished you will notice, as a result of focusing all your attention for just five minutes, your mind is clear.

This technique is a great intro into the world of mindfulness in general. The main idea behind it is to provide you with the tools necessary to press the ‘pause’ button every so-often. With regular practice, the process will become easier and will also help you really appreciate and enjoy all those individually rich flavours on your plate this Christmas.

We, at Brentwood Spinal Care Clinics, understand the difficulties in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, particularly in the holidays, but don’t wait for the New Year to create the ‘new you’. Our goal is to help you stay healthy and fit everyday of your life, and not just as a new year resolution. Mindfulness is an important part of our holistic approach to achieving this goal. If this technique sparked your interest, or you need help managing the extra stress, then we would love to see you and be a part of that journey towards reaching your full potential.