No doubt about it: the holidays can be stressful. Your regular “to do” list expands to decorating your house, shopping for gifts, wrapping those gifts, worrying that the recipients will not like the gifts, cooking special dishes and visiting with friends and relatives – which may involve traveling in inclement weather and arguing about politics.

There’s a lot going on. This is a good time to practice mindfulness, which can help you cope with stress at the holidays or any time.

Mindfulness, according to is “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”

We all have it, but we don’t all access it. Note: it’s more readily available to us when we practice on a daily basis. 

“Whenever you bring awareness to what you’re directly experiencing via your senses, or to your state of mind via your thoughts and emotions, you’re being mindful. And there’s growing research showing that when you train your brain to be mindful, you’re actually remodeling the physical structure of your brain.”

But how to practice mindfulness? offers these tips:

  1. Set aside some time. You don’t need a meditation cushion or bench, or any sort of special equipment to access your mindfulness skills—but you do need to set aside some time and space.
  2. Observe the present moment as it is. The aim of mindfulness is not quieting the mind, or attempting to achieve a state of eternal calm. The goal is simple: we’re aiming to pay attention to the present moment, without judgement. Easier said than done, we know.
  3. Let your judgements roll by. When we notice judgements arise during our practice, we can make a mental note of them, and let them pass.
  4. Return to observing the present moment as it is. Our minds often get carried away in thought. That’s why mindfulness is the practice of returning, again and again, to the present moment.
  5. Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself for whatever thoughts crop up, just practice recognizing when your mind has wandered off, and gently bring it back.

Seems too simple, but that’s it. The experts say if you just keep going it, “results will accrue.”

Click here to visit the website, which has more information to help you, like a guide to meditation and a video, “You are not your thoughts.”

Oh- and don’t mention politics at Christmas dinner.