When it comes to Christmas, are you a lover or a hater?
Quite polarising isn't it? Some people feel light and full of joy at this time of year, thriving on all the festive engagements, and yet there is an entire posse of other people who can feel anything ranging from mild irritation, all the way through to stress, overwhelm and a consuming sense of isolation.
We've just returned from two weeks in Sydney, studying with the fabulous and ever inspiring Benjamin J Harvey from Authentic Education. Our course was right in the heart of the CBD, bedazzled with sparkling lights, grand Christmas decorations, and the buzz of travellers and locals. And yet, against this back drop of bustling connection, in the five short days of our program, we heard the terrible news that two poor souls decided to end their lives by jumping in front of commuter trains bound for the city.
I can certainly relate to a feeling of pressure around this time of year. I love the opportunity to see family and friends, waxing lyrical on the year that has been, but sometimes in December it just feels like there is no SPACE...
No space in my diary...
No space in my belly (oh lord, don't get me started on the 'platter-itis' that afflicts the Eltons... we just can't stop!)
No space in my brain, as I try to tick off all my end of year tasks and to-dos before business closes for the year...
No space under my bed! (don't tell anyone my pressie hiding spot!)
It's not a great way to feel. A whole month feeling busy, full, and like money, time and energy are slipping through your fingers can really start to take it's toll. Sleep gets disturbed, fuses get shorter, tummies get bloated and brains can get foggy.
It's times like these when I want to give a grateful fist bump to the universe for placing the wisdom of yoga, mindfulness and positive psychology on my path. If you can relate to anything that I have described above, then I'd love to share our top three 'Happiness Hacks', to help you enjoy more health and harmony these holidays.
1.) CONSCIOUS CONSUMPTION
This applies to both food and media. If you are already feeling a bit 'stuffed' and can relate to feeling a 'lack of space' that I described above, then it might be time to flex your conscious consumption muscles.
When my platter-itis is getting the better of me and I start rocking a killer first trimester bump, my go-to hack is the 'one plate' strategy. Rather than hovering right next to the cheese (best place at any table am I right?) and eating continuously until the end of the function, I choose to fill a plate with my selected deliciousness, and that is it. No seconds, no refills!
The 'one-plate' strategy can also apply to main meals like Christmas lunch. I know, bold statement, don't hate me!
My other tip when it comes to food is to stop channeling your inner cow, and quit the grazing. With multiple family engagements on the one day, I have been know to graze virtually non-stop for over 8hours. The result is not pretty. If regulating 'what' you eat at Christmas is as uncomfortable as a silver necklace on a vampire, then shift your focus to 'WHEN' you are eating. Try and give your guts a solid 3-4hrs between meals so that it has a chance to process and assimilate all the yumminess you are giving it.
As for media... if you don't already have an app on your phone to track your use, hit the play store pronto. I use 'Quality Time' to tell me how many times I have unlocked my phone and how many minutes (*cough*..hours.. *ahem*) I have spent on various apps or social media platforms. There is a great saying in business, 'You can't manage what you don't measure'. So, if you are wanting to dial back the distracto-meter readings of your life these holidays, begin by getting conscious of what you are feeding your body AND your mind.
2.) ELEVATE YOUR FOCUS
In coaching, we often use the following phrase,
'Whatever you focus on, you feel'
In a yogic paradigm, we might spin this a little differently, as, 'Wherever your attention goes, your energy flows'. So dear Ryoka, these holidays, if things starts to feel a little chaotic or cray-cray, or if you're finding yourself feeling a little bit down, try and use this happiness hack of shifting and elevating your focus.
The truth is, it's always possible to find something to focus on that is NOT working. Something that sucks, something that feels unfair or like a challenge. However, it is ALSO always possible to find something that IS working, something that IS in your favour or supporting you. You are the boss. Only YOU can control what you choose to focus on.
You can elevate your focus to higher, more uplifting, energising and aligning thoughts and feelings by asking yourself powerful questions. Here are some of my favourites:
Yeah I know, 'Good one Ryoka! How original coming from a yoga teacher?'
Seriously though... apart from getting people to drink more water, if Mum and I could get people to embrace ONE healthful habit, it would be to practice deep, diaphragmatic breathing!
Biology explains that as you slow down your breathing, and begin to create depth and evenness in the flow of your breath, on the level of your autonomic nervous system, you begin to activate your parasympathetic pathways. What this means, if I translate my geek speak, is that you get out of the stressed, adrenalised 'fight and flight' patterns and pathways, and back to the calm, relaxed zone of 'rest and digest', where homeostasis (AKA physical and mental balance) is your homeboy. Zing! That's what we're aiming for :)
So how do you get there? At our one-day Ripple Retreats we get people to imagine that they have a beautiful big balloon inside of their chest and abdomen that expands and contracts as they breathe in and out. Why don't you give it a go right now?
Relax your eyes, face, and body, and begin to breathe deeply and slowly through your nose as you count to four or five on your in-breath, (pause for just a moment) and then follow it up with a slow exhalation through your nose, also for a count of four or five...
As you breathe IN and silently count, imagine that the balloon inside of you is gently expanding. Feel your belly move outwards as the centre of your chest rises and your ribs float up and out to the sides. As you exhale, feel the breath leaving your body, creating space and a sense of softness as the belly flattens towards the spine and your chest, ribs and shoulders settle downwards.Close your eyes and try that now, for 5 breaths.
How do you feel? Relaxed? Sleepy? Awesome!! That's your body and nervous system coming back into balance! You can use this little happiness hack whenever you feel a sense of anxiety or overwhelm creeping in over the holidays.
Better yet, you can use this diaphragmatic breathing as a preventative by punctuating your day and keeping yourself poised, present and at peace. Why not try 5 breaths on waking... on the toilet... at traffic lights... before meals... prior to family gatherings... in bed before sleeping...
We look forward to hearing how you go!
A little gift for you...
It's hard for us to reign it in and stop at only THREE happiness hacks, but let's be honest, it's Christmas EVE and you've got better things to do than read a thesis from us! :)
The great news is though, that our creative juices have been on overdrive since returning from Sydney and we've created a very special gift to help you transition into your New Year feeling clear, calm and inspired about your amazing life.
This time last year we were flying out to India to guide our beautiful group through a two-week Yoga Adventure.
Unfortunately, you can't always see in the New Year from the heart of an Ashram, feeling poised, present and ever so Zen... So we've created the next best thing just for you and our beloved community of Ripple makers!
'REFLECT, RELEASE & RENEW'- combines guided meditations with a self-reflection journal to help you anchor and extract the goodness and gratitude from the year that has been, as you clarify and create a compelling vision for your year ahead.
It is completely free, shared from our hearts, and can be downloaded and followed from the comfort of your own home between Wednesday 27th December and January 5th.
Click on the link below and we will send you direct access to the download page once the resources are loaded and live on Wednesday 27th:
Wishing you a wonderful holiday period dear Ryoka. May it be full of moments that make you smile, and may your body and spirit have a chance to rest and recharge.
We'll see you in your inbox on the 27th so that you can begin your 'Reflect, Release & Renew' process. Don't forget to sign-up above now :)
Until the next time we connect, may ripples of health, happiness and inner peace flow to you and through you!
Love and blessings!
Ryoka and Debbie Elton