Practicing Mindfulness Could Ease Holiday Stress

Person holding sparkler against background of lightsMindfulness—the process of slowing down thoughts, remaining in the moment, and observing one’s surroundings without judgment—could reduce problematic automatic behaviors, according to an article published in the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing. Many of these behaviors, such as overspending and overconsumption of food and alcohol, are common during the holiday season. The article suggests these behaviors are due to mindlessness and negative feelings.

How Mindfulness Can Change Behavior

The article merges a review of previous literature with a conceptual model of how mindfulness might improve people’s thoughts and behavior. The researchers say many negative holiday behaviors are automatic and unthinking attempts to reduce negative feelings. For example, consumers might overspend to distract themselves from family stress.

Mindfulness can increase awareness and insight. This enables those who practice mindfulness to better understand the sources of their negative emotions, empowering them to adopt healthier coping mechanisms. Ongoing mindfulness practices can help people see themselves and their suffering as impermanent, weakening their attachment to unhealthy habits.

The study concludes by pointing to the need for future research on the effects of mindfulness on behavior. The study’s authors say integrating mindfulness techniques into society could also influence choices and behavior surrounding consumption.

Cultivating Mindfulness During the Holidays

Mindfulness is a mental state that requires no special skills or training. Its sole goal is to increase awareness of the present moment. People who practice mindfulness aim to observe their thoughts, feelings, and surroundings in each moment.

The study suggests people who would like to practice being more mindful should pay close attention to physical sensations, external stimuli, and emotions. Rather than fixating on these experiences, simply observe them without judgment.

The Foundation for a Mindful Society offers five exercises for increasing mindfulness:

  1. Mindfully breathe, remaining conscious of when you are inhaling and exhaling. Identify each breath as either a breath in or a breath out.
  2. Continue practicing mindful breathing by remaining continuously aware of each breath for its duration.
  3. While mindfully breathing, become aware of your body. Remind yourself you are inhaling or exhaling and are aware of your body with each breath.
  4. Steadily release the tension in each area of your body while sitting, standing, or lying in a comfortable position.
  5. Practice “walking meditation” by being fully present with each breath and step. Remind yourself each movement connects yourself to the beauty of life and the world.


  1. Bahl, S., Milne, G. R., Ross, S. M., Mick, D. G., Grier, S. A., Chugani, S. K., . . . Boesen-Mariani, S. (2016). Mindfulness: Its transformative potential for consumer, societal, and environmental well-being. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 35(2), 198-210. doi:10.1509/jppm.15.139
  2. Nhat Hanh, T. (2010, August 23). Five steps to mindfulness. Foundation for a Mindful Society. Retrieved from
  3. New research provides ways to reduce holiday excess. (2016, December 10). Retrieved from

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  • Leave a Comment
  • meredith i

    December 23rd, 2016 at 8:45 AM

    really it can help with any stress, not just that which is holiday related

  • Carl E.

    December 24th, 2016 at 12:20 AM

    Relaxing is essential for heart health, especially during stressful periods in our lives. But it is very often not as easy to relax as we would like. Relaxation takes practice like a sport or other talent. Many of my psychotherapy clients come to me with stress, anger and anxiety issues. I highly recommend this Mastery over Stress mp3 by Jon Shore at this website to many of my clients: Just download it and listen to it while sitting in a chair. It works well for all for them and will probably work for you as well if you practice with it for at least a week. It is worth trying. It will teach you how to deal with stress and anger and get rid of stress anywhere and anytime by taking a deep breath. Having a trigger you can use anytime is very important. Practicing every day is also important so that the trigger is available to you whenever you need it. It only takes 12 – 15 minutes to use each day. I recommend my clients practice these stress reduction exercises as if their lives depend upon it.

  • Julia

    December 26th, 2016 at 2:14 PM

    oh well didn’t quite find this n time for the holidays but I think that I can use it in every day life so here’s my new New Years resolution!

  • tess

    December 27th, 2016 at 12:01 PM

    It is nice to find something that can help take your mind off of things when you mostly need to relax.

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