It's the most wonderful (and often stressful!) time of the year!
Christmas! That wonderful time of year full of parties, presents, time with loved ones, lots of food and........STRESS!!!
Now before we go any further, I HAVE AN EARLY CHRISTMAS PRESENT FOR YOU TO HELP YOU GET A GRIP ON SOME OF THAT STRESS SO MAKE SURE YOU READ TO THE BOTTOM!!
If you are anything like me, by the time Christmas is over I am ready to crawl under my duvet cover and sleep for a WEEK!
Now don't get me wrong, I LOVE the festivities and look forward to it every year but all of the planning for the festive season doesn't come without it's challenges and THERE NEVER SEEMS TO BE ENOUGH TIME TO DO EVERYTHING!
Well a few years ago, I worked myself up into such a frenzy trying to plan the perfect Christmas that I ended up almost having a meltdown on Christmas Day! I'm a perfectionist by nature and being a health-conscious perfectionist just takes it up to another level! I was having the entire family over for dinner and I was DETERMINED to make sure I served the tastiest, healthiest Christmas dinner anyone had ever tasted! PLUS I wanted to make sure I had a wide variety of healthy but tasty snacks and treats I could put out for everyone to munch on during the rest of the day into the evening. Heck! I even decided I was going to get creative with my drink offerings and experimented with a few festive alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks in an attempt to WOW everyone with my entertaining skills! I was determined to be the "hostess with the mostest!" and I nearly burned myself out! It was a really fun day but after everyone else left, I hit the deck BURNT OUT!
I promised I would NEVER put that type of pressure on myself again! And one of the first things I did differently the next year was something I now do almost daily; especially when I am feeling the stress and overwhelm that often comes with my busy, perfectionist lifestyle!
I employ the art of mindfulness and meditation!
Believe me, it makes ALL the difference! Because how we handle stressful situations is a lot about mindset! Whether it's the stress of cooking a big, fancy Christmas dinner or just the overwhelm of day-to-day life that often gets on top of us, practicing mindfulness and meditation is a key strategy you should invest in learning well.
The fact is, science shows definite health benefits for people who use mindfulness and meditation.
Before we dive in, let’s just make sure we’re on the same page when we say “mindfulness” and “meditation.”
“Meditation” is the ancient practice of connecting the body and mind to become more self-aware and present. It’s often used to calm the mind, ease stress, and relax the body.
Practicing “mindfulness” is one of the most popular ways to meditate. It’s defined as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”
Mindfulness meditation is well studied in terms of its health benefits. I’m going to talk about a few of them below, and refer to it as “mindfulness” for the rest of the post.
The link between mindfulness and health is stress reduction
Have you heard the staggering statistics on how many doctors' visits are due to stress? Seventy-five to ninety percent!
So, if you ask me, it makes a ton of sense that anything that can reduce stress can reduce health issues too.
Mindfulness reduces inflammation, reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and improves sleep. All of these can have massive effects on your physical and mental health.
I'll briefly go over the research in three main areas: mood, weight, and gut health. But know that the research on the health benefits of mindfulness is branching into many other exciting new areas too.
Mindfulness for mood
The most immediate health benefit of mindfulness is improved mood.
In one study, people who took an 8-week mindfulness program had greater improvement in symptoms according to the “Hamilton Anxiety Scale.” They were compared with people who took a stress management program that did not include mindfulness. It seems that the mindfulness training was key to lowering symptoms.
Other studies show that mindfulness has similar effects as antidepressant medications for some people with mild to moderate symptoms of depression.
While mindfulness isn’t a full-fledged cure, it can certainly help to improve moods.
Mindfulness for weight
Studies show that people who use mind-body practices, including mindfulness, have lower BMIs (Body Mass Indices).
How can this be?
One way mindfulness is linked with lower weight is due to stress-reduction. Mindfulness can reduce stress-related and emotional overeating. It can also help reduce cravings and binge eating.
Another way it can work for weight is due to "mindful eating." Mindful eating is a "non-judgmental awareness of physical and emotional sensations associated with eating." It's the practice of being more aware of food and the eating process. It's listening more deeply to how hungry and full you actually are. It's not allowing yourself to be distracted with other things while you're eating, like what's on TV or your smartphone.
People with higher mindfulness scores also reported smaller serving sizes of energy-dense foods. So it seems that more mindful eating = less junk.
Mindfulness about food and eating can have some great benefits for your weight.
Mindfulness for gut health
Recent studies show a link between stress, stress hormones, and changes in gut microbes (your friendly bacteria and other critters that help your digestion). In theory, mindfulness-based stress reduction could be a way to help prevent negative changes in the gut's microbes.
Also, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) seems to be linked with both stress and problems with gut microbes. In one study, people with IBS who received mindfulness training showed greater reductions in IBS symptoms than the group who received standard medical care.
The research here is just starting to show us the important link between stress, gut health, and how mindfulness can help.
Science is confirming some amazing health benefits of the ancient practices of mindfulness and meditation. For moods, weight, gut health, and more.
Below are some of my favourite resources to help you discover the power of mindfulness and meditation.
How to Meditate video
How to Meditate in One Minute or Less Every Day
Headspace App (free 10-day trial)
Daily Meditation Podcast
Hay House Meditations Podcast
.....And as my final Christmas Gift to You! I am opening up my....
Santa's Stocking FULL OF FREEBIES! Click the stocking below and download as many of my helpful resources as you wish to help you take back control of your health in 2019!