Take a step into relaxation this holiday season

The Interfaith Center, located in UMass Boston’s McCormack Hall.

With busy lives and hectic schedules, many people don’t have the ability to take for themselves, especially during the holiday season. With holiday shopping and family gatherings, it's hard to find the time and space to do so. However, Reverend Valeria Schmidt of the Interfaith Center believes that it is important to take even the smallest amount of time for grounding oneself each and every day. She was willing to sit down to share some tips with readers on how to incorporate mindful living into daily routines. 

Rev. Schmidt shared that she also had a busy mindset until she took a “mindfulness-based stress reduction” course through UMass Memorial Medical Center in the '70s. The course lasted three months with daily meditations of up to 90 minutes. Because of this intensive training, she quickly picked up the habit and has practiced it ever since. Now, she practices 20 minutes of contemplative prayer every morning, because she realized how vital this practice is. 

Readers don’t need to wake up extra early to get this practice in. Rev. Schmidt suggests something as simple as making and savoring a hot drink. The drink can be up to the person’s personal liking, whether that be tea, coffee or hot cocoa. Furthermore, comforting holiday scents, like vanilla, clove and allspice can be utilized for relaxation. This can be accomplished through candles or by boiling the spices to fill a whole room with the scent.

Baking a holiday treat can also promote relaxation. Take time away from electronics to bake and savor a treat, or share it with family and friends! Going outside can also help, especially during mid-day, to lift negative spirits. Try bundling up and taking a walk to practice mindfulness. Focus on sounds, sights, smells and sensations while walking. 

Listening to holiday music, depending on your mood, can help keep a positive attitude as well. Put on relaxing holiday tunes if you’re feeling anxious and more upbeat ones if you’re feeling down. A comforting holiday movie can also calm anxiety, because they are often nostalgic and predictable. 

Stepping away from electronics is a great way to practice mindfulness and relieve anxieties that stem from a presence on social media. Take that quiet time to read a book, color, do arts and crafts, journal, make music, sing or even just look out a window. Any of these activities can help calm the mind and bring peace. 

Mindfulness can also be practiced more traditionally through meditation. This practice is super accessible now with countless apps, podcasts, YouTube videos and websites with tutorials. Guided meditation is great for beginners because all someone has to do is play the audio and follow along. As they progress and practice more regularly, meditators can begin to meditate in silence or with calming music in the background. 

Rev. Schmidt describes mindfulness as a very personal journey. Not everything will work for everyone, so take the time to figure out what works. She also encourages students not to give up, because there are thousands of resources available to practice. Some will notice the effects immediately, but it’s a common misconception that meditation works this way for everyone. Effects sometimes show up after many weeks of building the habit. 

Overall, mindfulness is about savoring the moment and living in the present, whether that's through traditional meditation or by focusing on the task at hand and acting with intention. Rev. Schmidt would like students to know that she is here to help them on their journey through mindfulness. She can also help students connect to their faith communities. She runs a meditation workshop on Tuesdays at 12:15 p.m. during the semester. 

Visit the Interfaith Center to find a calm and peaceful place on campus, found in McCormack on the 3rd floor by following the signs. If the door is locked, call 617-287-7799 for someone to open it. 

To those struggling with stress or mental health, contact the UMass Boston Counseling Services at 617-287-5690. After hours, call 855-634-4135 which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To those who would like to contact Rev. Schmidt, her email is valeria.schmidt@umb.edu.

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