Ask a room full of people what they like most about this time of year and you're bound to hear a wide range of interesting answers. But ask a room full of people what they dislike most about this time of year and you'll likely hear variations on three themes:
- Cold weather.
- Small talk about the aforementioned cold weather with relatives who might as well be total strangers because you see them once a year.
- Holiday travel in the aforementioned cold weather to see your aforementioned might-as-well-be-strangers relatives.
Sound about right? Unfortunately, 2016 is supposed to be a record-breaking year when it comes to holiday travel: According to AAA, more than 103 million Americans will travel — be it by car, bus, train, plane, or even ship — over the next couple weeks.
If you're one of the 103 million, you've probably already accepted the likelihood that you'll go crazy at some point during your trip. But we have an alternative we hope you'll consider: a little meditation practice that can be done just about anywhere (yes, even the TSA line).
How Meditation Can Help Ease Holiday Travel Anxiety and Stress
You've likely heard about the mental and physical benefits of meditation already. Not only can meditation help to lower stress and anxiety levels by improving focus, increasing self-awareness, and reducing negative emotions, but research suggests meditating can also help manage symptoms associated with many medical conditions, such as asthma, cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, pain, and sleep problems, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The Perfect Conditions for Travel Meditation
Finding a completely quiet, calm space during holiday travel is, well, unlikely. So don't worry too much about your location; whether you're in an airplane or riding in a bus or car, meditation on the move is possible. (Just don't meditate and drive!)
"You can easily meditate on the road, but just make sure you're not surrounded by too many distractions," Rinzler says. "I recommend gently shutting your eyes and tuning into the natural cycle of the breath to get more grounded and present."
Some companies are actually trying to make that even easier; for example, Buick recently introduced their QuietTuning Technology, which reduces, blocks, and absorbs noise to help you find your inner calm. But if you don't have a Buick, don't worry. Snag some noise-canceling headphones and download a free app (like this one from TMSOFT) to block out the crying baby on the airplane or the lady who thinks everyone on the bus wants to listen to her rockin' holiday playlist.
How to Meditate While Traveling
Calm your mind and body with this easy-to-follow technique from Rinzler.
- Feel the weight of your body on the ground.
- Lift up gently through your spine.
- Relax the muscles in your neck, shoulders, and back.
- Close your eyes or rest your gaze about three feet ahead of you on the ground.
- Connect fully with the natural cycle of your breath.
- When you drift off into thought, simply acknowledge that by gently and silently saying "Thinking" to yourself.
- Return your attention to your breath, allowing it to anchor you in the present moment.
After going through this process, you'll feel a sense of calm that's useful for easing holiday anxiety. Rinzler recommends meditating for at least 10 minutes a day to start seeing a difference.
How to Know If You're Meditating Correctly
Don't think you're doing it right? Don't obsess over it. Practice makes perfect, even in meditation.
"Through the simple practice of being with the breath and watching your thoughts float across the landscape of your mind, you're becoming more familiar with them," Rinzler says. "The more familiar you become with the various ways you get hooked by negative thoughts, the habitual patterns that keep you running from the present moment, and the nonstop chatter going on in your head, the more familiar you become with the essence of who you are altogether."
And those negative thoughts that keep running through your head? Don't let them get to you.
"Negative thoughts will still come up, but we won't be as lured in and hooked by them," Rizler adds. "We're more able to return to a state of ease and calm. Meditation is not about feeling good all the time, but about learning to embrace all of who we are."
So what are you waiting for? It's time to give yourself the best gift of all: Peace of mind.