Meditation is a powerful antidote to stress, not depending on who you are or your experiences. I chose five easy meditations today that are perfect for the busy seasons of life. No matter what’s going on or how long our to-do list has become, it’s enlightening to know that we can make space for life to be enjoyed.
“I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.” — Mary Oliver
Meditation typically incorporates slow, mindful breathing in order to calm jangled nerves and provide instant relief to a frazzled body. Taking deep breaths has been shown to temporarily tame high blood pressure, lower cortisol levels, engage our parasympathetic nervous system (often referred to as our “relaxation response”), and buffer stress.
For me, meditating on my breath has allowed me to better handle stress without automatically resorting to “fight or flight.”
If you’re looking for a simple yet powerful solution to stress during a busy holiday season, I recommend turning to your own breath. Though it sounds too simple to be effective, it’s powerful enough to thwart any doubt. The key is to actually do it.
To help us all find a little more comfort and peace during stressful times (or anytime, really), here are five easy meditations that incorporate deep abdominal breathing, visualization, soothing words, or some other method of soothing the mind, body, and soul.
Remember: Meditation doesn’t have to feel perfect to be effective. You do your best focusing on the feeling of inhaling and exhaling, but it can be challenging to do this for more than a minute or two, especially at the beginning of a practice. It’s okay if random or pressing thoughts distract you; just keep bringing your focus back to your breathing, or back to the focal point of the meditation (it could be a word, phrase, scenery, or something else).
Even one minute of focused breathing makes space. Think of these easy meditations as restorative pauses; we need them to keep moving forward, peacefully and productively.
5 Easy Meditations for a Cheerful and Calm Holiday Season
1. Five Senses Meditation
To start, just sit down for two minutes in the morning. Don’t get caught up in the “how” of this meditation; it’s a relaxed method, really.
Just and check in with how you’re feeling.
Check in with how you’re breathing. Are you breathing steady or with difficulty, deeply or shallow, with your belly or with your chest?
Check in with what you’re thinking. Don’t worry about clearing the mind of thoughts or wandering; just notice everything. Notice when you wander and see if you can “walk” your mind back to how you’re breathing. Don’t worry that you’re doing it wrong, either; just notice the thought of “I don’t think I’m doing this right.” Look at that, too. Be an onlooker. Stay with whatever arises.
- What you see: Notice the light or darkness of the space you occupy, the colors and shapes.
- What you feel: Reach out and touch what is in front of you or beside you. Notice the textures, materials, and temperature.
- What you hear: What sounds surround you? Focus only on their quality, without your opinion of them.
- What you taste: If you are eating or drinking, focus intently on the experience of what you are eating or drinking.
- What you smell: Again, trying not to form an opinion, become aware of the nuances of scent that occupy this space with you.
Spend about one minute on each of your senses; set a timer if you like, or just switch to the next sense when it feels good. Try to bring your whole presence into this 5-minute moment so that you can fully experience the sensation of being alive right here and now.
2. Tea Meditation: Inner Calm and Happiness
I found this lovely meditation from Gabriela Green, who shares her own tea meditations in an effort to spread the love—I’m a fan.
This meditation focuses on the “art” of enjoying a cup of tea; it’s an example of how we can make the experience of drinking tea into something much more than just sipping a hot beverage. During this meditation, the aim is to focus on the sensations that come along with each step in preparing and drinking tea. It’s a short read, and it might change your mind about how you take your tea breaks.Inner peace is my cup of tea. Click To Tweet
3. Exhale into the Corners
I read about this meditation somewhere, though I can’t recall from where. (If you know its original source, please do let me know.) This might be one of my favorite meditations that I’ve come across more recently, and it really is simple (oh, and I love it because it works).
This meditation is meant for when you’re inside because you’re breathing into the corners of a room, in a sense. If you’re not in a room, you can still practice this technique. For instance, if you’re outside near the woods, your corners could be a particular tree, a house, a big rock, or any other landmark.
- Take note of your surroundings, in particular, the corners and angles of a room or, if you’re outside, any distinct landmarks.
- Come into a comfortable position. Sitting, standing, or lying down can all work.
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth or nose.
- Visualize your surroundings now in your mind, eyes still closed, and take one big inhale through the nose, gathering the layout of the room.
- Direct the exhale into one corner of the room (or, for instance, the tree).
- On the inhale, breathe in along the edge of the room toward the next corner.
- Exhale into the next corner, and inhale again along the edge to another corner.
- Breathe in along the edges and breathe out into the corners until you’ve breathed into every corner of the room.
- Take one last, long inhale to regroup.
- Exhale audibly through your mouth as you open your eyes.
4. “I Get to Do.”
If you’re anything like me, you’re constantly running through a grocery list of things that need to be done during the day, week, month, or year. No, the list never ends but, no, we don’t need to be stressed out by it either. It’s all about perception, and I personally know this even when I fall into the mind trap of counting my to-dos with angst.
To help us both, here’s something we can do to switch up the self-talk and bring more peace to our outlook.
- Bring to mind all of the things you “have” to do today.
- Now, instead of using the phrase “I have to do…” immediately replace it with another phrase: “I get to do…”
- Scan through every activity, responsibility, chore, practice, habit, and even the fun things that you have the ability (and privilege) of doing.
- With everything that pops into your head, silently say to yourself, “I am grateful that I get to do this, that I CAN do this.”
- If you sincerely cannot muster gratefulness for a particular activity that no longer feels joyful or meaningful, alter the phrase, saying, “I acknowledge that I get to do this” or “Right now, I get to do this and I can figure out a way to let this go.”
5. Self-Compassion Meditation
Loving-kindness, also known as Metta, meditations are often used to direct compassion towards others by first wishing yourself well. You give yourself compassion, move outward to send compassion to those you love and know, offer loving-kindness to those who are not “in your circle,” and finally send love to all sentient beings on the planet and in the universe.
This meditation is just the opposite, starting with others and working its way inward, to help you generate feelings of compassion for yourself. If you ask me, I think a lot of people could use a self-compassion meditation practice like this (including me).
- Find a comfortable position. Though sitting is recommended, I still lie down for meditations since I sit much of the day for writing and my back could use some love. I say: Go with what’s comfortable for you right now, whether it’s standing, sitting, lying down, or walking.
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.
- Settle back into normal breathing. Take a minute to pay attention to your inhales and exhales, and “walk” your thoughts back to your breath when they wander.
- Bring to mind someone you love dearly. Concentrate on the loving connection you share and feel when you’re with them. Focus on these positive feelings.
- Silently say to this person, “May you be happy. May you be free. May you be at ease.”
- With each exhale, imagine that you’re sending love and warmth to this person.
- Now, imagine yourself sitting, standing, lying, or walking next to this person. The love and light emanating from your heart are still directed toward that person, and you say, “May you be happy. May you be free. May you be at ease.”
- As you imagine yourself in the presence of your loved one, you are both enveloped by the compassion that you’ve been radiating outward.
- Say silently, “May we be happy. May we be free. May we be at ease.”
- Which one of these easy meditations is on your radar?
- What’s one calming habit or ritual (sacred habit, of sorts) that buffers stress and helps you better enjoy the holidays?
Please share your thoughts, positive practices that bring you peace, meditation tips or experiences, and any helpful stories with me in the comments.
Give the gift of a peaceful mind; send these easy meditations to friends or family who’d appreciate a restful pause this season.
Give yourself the gift of a pause, and then just notice how that pause emanates out into the rest of your day.