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Mindfulness in the Times of Merriment

8 months ago / by Sweta Vikram
Image credits: Shutterstock

The festive season is here! Between Navratri, Dussehra, Karva Chauth, Diwali, and other holidays, October and beyond are busy months for many Indians. At every gathering, there is that one person who pops a pill before drinking alcohol, because heartburn is real along with the inability to walk away from booze (for many folks). I have heard people announce a list of food allergies at the start of the party but then they indulge when the item is in front of them. “I will go home and take some meds,” they say. Instead of avoiding foods that don’t agree with them, they’d rather put chemicals in their bodies and risk their health. All this circus in the name of “festivities.”

We have all grown up with that one uncle who ate too much during the holidays and either burped or farted in public without any apologies. That one person who couldn’t hold his drink and said something obnoxious. How often have you overeaten because you didn’t want to offend the host? Raise your hand if you have a friend who takes a large sip of wine or a bite of cake and says, “Today is the last day for meetha. After Christmas. Now after NYE, I’m going back on a diet. Or at least a green juice detox.” Anyone else remember their mom, aunts, or even mom-in-law being all annoyed and fiery with the amount of work they had to put into preparing for the holidays? I once witnessed a friend throw up on the streets (I held her hair and brought her a bottle of water) because she was party hopping while eating full meals in each house. Her body just gave up on her.

I love people, gatherings, cooking, and celebrating life. Festivals break the monotony of everyday and brighten up the usual, cold, fall days in the northeast. My mom also taught me that being able to celebrate life is such a privilege on so many levels. It means that your health, finances, and personal life co-operated that year. I didn’t understand the depth of her point of view until I fell ill in 2018 and spent every festival starting September chained to my couch. My body was a bag of bones. I gathered the courage to attend a Diwali gathering at my cousin’s because I felt guilty that my husband was missing out because of my sudden illness. But I was so frail that I got exhausted from just stepping out of the car. I heard fireworks and sensed people moving around like dervishes, but I was too feeble to even lift my head to see them.

Despite missing all the festivities in 2018, Holi and Diwali in 2019 weren’t about making it up for lost times. You shouldn’t treat your body and mind with disregard just because of the holidays or you missed celebrating it one year. Enjoyment and happiness shouldn’t translate into mindless consumption of food, drinks, or conversations. The autopilot mode will come to bite you eventually. There is a rise in lifestyle diseases. You know mindless behavior is a big contributor, no?

This holiday season, be better than your destructive habits and don’t bow to social pressures. Here is how you can practice mindfulness and take better care of yourself and your loved ones:

1. Pause and make time for stillness in all the noise. The morning after or at the end of the party, take 20-30 minutes to sit in silence and relax your nervous system.

2. Remain mindful of your commitments. You don’t have to attend every gathering or party just because you have an invite. Be discerning. Be cautious. Be protective of your mental peace.

3. Don’t compare, complain, and criticize. Desis tend to compare and brag. Don’t fall into the trap. Your agitation is detrimental to your physical and mental well-being.

4. Be compassionate to others. Social media posts don’t tell us the truth about people’s lives. Don’t make assumptions about situations and interactions when you walk into a room.

5. Befriend mindful consumption. Pay attention to the difference between enjoying yummy treats versus overdoing them or using food as an emotional tool.

6. Make time for those who matter. Don’t forget who and what’s important amidst the madness of the holidays.

7. Continue to move your body daily. I don’t mean this for a way to burn calories. Working out empowers our mental health and releases happy hormones. Desi gatherings can be triggering for many people.

8. Don’t forget to hold space for your creative pursuits. They can be good stressbusters.

9. Don’t ignore the value of good sleeping habits and sleep hygiene. Understand that erratic sleep hours and sleep deprivation are the root cause of several diseases. We heal, and our brain and body replenish, when we sleep. You absolutely shouldn’t spend Q4 neglecting one of the most important pillars of health.

10. If you don’t have a meditation practice, now is the time to start one. “There is nothing so disobedient as an undisciplined mind, and there is nothing so obedient as a disciplined mind.”

Celebrations should be rooted in mindfulness. I don’t believe that saying a YES constantly, stuffing our bellies, socializing to the point of exhaustion, or spending several hours in the kitchen cooking is the only way to show love and care. What good is all the pomp and show if you don’t have your health? What you do every day matters.

In our times, it is radical to choose to sit still and be silent, to resist an identity of busyness, ceaseless motion, and noise, and to reclaim our sanity and humanity by coming home to ourselves.” ~ Sumi Loundon Kim

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