The holiday season, for many, is marked by a flurry of furious activity like racing to stores, wrapping presents, checking to-do lists, cooking, cleaning and finally, inevitably, physical and mental exhaustion. Too much. Holiday spirit zapped. Time for some deep breaths and quiet time.

The holiday season, for many, is marked by a flurry of furious activity like racing to stores, wrapping presents, checking to-do lists, cooking, cleaning and finally, inevitably, physical and mental exhaustion. Too much. Holiday spirit zapped. Time for some deep breaths and quiet time.

Quiet time and health, what do you know? T or F?

1.  Slow brain waves are activated.

2.  Heart rate stays the same.  

3.  Blood flow to the skin increases.

We do it to ourselves.  Gifts must be perfect and perfectly wrapped. Traditional foods must be just like Grandma would make. The house impeccably clean for visitors. But, there is a toll on the road to the Currier and Ives lifestyle. We pay in increased anxiety, sleeplessness, depression and low self-esteem – this nagging sense that we just didn’t do enough or in the right way. Our brains churning out negative, toxic thoughts about how we can just survive the season. Many of us enter the new year tired and mentally spent.

How can we set the stage for sustained renewal this last week of 2011 and enter 2012 emotionally healthier?  Well, we can start by giving our collective selves a break.  Literally. It may be clichéd but taking a few minutes every few hours to engage in quiet prayer or meditation has immediate and positive effects on self-esteem, the immune system and the pleasure centers of the brain. We become calmer and more at peace.  

This seemingly small act, of disengaging from the chaos of the day, even for a brief time, pays immediate dividends. We become more focused on the important issues of the day and less distracted by the background noise of everyday life, which is amplified during the holidays. We become more purposeful, confident and calm.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines peace as a state of tranquility or quiet freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts. Those who take even a few minutes to remove themselves from their immediate environment for prayer or meditation often discover they feel renewed, empowered and more at peace.  

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States has defined prayer as an active process of communicating with and appealing to a higher spiritual power. NCCAM funds research on the effects of prayer and meditation which is reported to reduce stress, decrease blood pressure, slow breathing, reduce heart rate, slow brain wave activity and increase creativity (www.nccam.nih.gov).   

Consider taking a few minutes every few hours every day this week to remove yourself emotionally from the affairs of the day for quiet time, for “me time.” At your desk, a rest room, your car, find a place. Make it a daily habit. You might just discover the solace and tranquility you yearned for this season and carry it into 2012 renewed, more purposeful and more centered on the important aspects of your life – the makings of a Happy (Peaceful) “New You” Year!

Answers:

1. T;  2. F;  3. T