Creating European-Inspired Mindful Moments
When I’m traveling, especially in Europe, I find it easier to be mindful, to be in the moment and fully present. Perhaps it’s because everything around me is new and different. My attention is transfixed on the beauty of nature, the magnificence of the architecture and the murmur of other languages. Having left my worries at home, my thoughts and concerns no longer linger in the past, nor fixate on the future. I am fully present in this magical moment.
I’m sure you’ve had a similar experience. Yet, we don't have to travel to another continent to experience these mindful moments. We can incorporate moments reminiscent of our European travel experiences into our everyday lives. Mindfulness has many health benefits including reducing stress and improving focus. So, the more mindful moments we have throughout our day, the more we can quiet an overactive brain and accomplish what is truly important in our lives. Think of it as mini vacations for your mind.
Here’s four ways to create mindful, European-inspired moments:
Put the kettle on
The English believe tea makes everything better. At the very least, taking a tea break makes you slow down and perform the ritual of tea. Running the water, turning on the kettle, reaching for a cup, placing the bag or tea strainer in a cup and pouring the hot water. Rituals are a form of meditation, like chanting a mantra, you are repeating a familiar pattern, which naturally quiets the mind and makes one more mindful.
Give yourself the gift of tea. Visit a local tea shop and treat yourself to some of the finest teas, whether it’s black, green, oolong or herbal. Invest in an electric water kettle — a staple in Europe. I gave up on whistling tea kettles long ago because they often stop whistling, burn dry or build up residue on the bottom. I much prefer the energy-efficient electric kettle I've been using for years. It's mostly glass with some BPA-free plastic and has an auto shutoff. While you’re out buying tea, stop at a bakery and pick out a sweet or savory treat.
Come home and put the kettle on, seep your tea for the appropriate amount of time, sit down and savor every moment. Enjoy the warmth of the cup between your hands. Breathe in the spicy fragrance of chai or the floral sweetness of a green jasmine. Appreciate the ability to slow down. As the warm liquid reaches your chest, let your body relax as you enjoy the view of your garden, bringing more mindfulness to every moment.
Sit at a coffee shop and people watch
Nothing gets me more out of my own head, than watching other people. It’s a very Parisian thing to do. Treat yourself to a morning or afternoon in your favorite café — preferably outdoors. Pretend you’re in France or any other European city. Savor every sip of your latte or what your favorite beverage happens to be. Then enjoy the show. It’s a marvelous mindful indulgence and you deserve it.
Make a fire in your fireplace or wood burner
There’s something so cozy and comforting about a European home. Whether it’s a tiny cottage or a chateau, life in the kitchen, dining room and/or living room centers around the hearth.
Pour yourself a glass of wine and truly enjoy the fire, the warm, the lapping flames. A fire is mesmerizing: the crackle of the kindling, the slight smell of smoke, the fames dancing around the wood. It certainly puts you in the moment. I think you’ll find it much more relaxing than watching an hour of television. If you don’t have a fireplace or wood burner, you can enjoy the same sounds and ambiance on your television by playing a fireplace video available on YouTube.com And without the smoke.
Immerse yourself in the glow of holiday lights
Decorating the outside of your home with a multitude of lights during the Christmas season is not as common in Europe as it is in the US, although it is growing in popularity in some countries. However, holiday light displays, especially in cities and around their outdoor Christmas markets, are very popular. In Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm neighborhood, around 650 illuminated trees turn the streets into a sea of light. And two million LED lights sparkle along 30 of Vienna's shopping streets.
In December in the US, you don’t have to travel far to enjoy a holiday lights. I like to walk around the neighborhood at dusk when all the neighbors’ decorations begin to sparkle. My mind is focused only on the glistening beauty of the lights and the magic of the season. Driving through neighborhoods and enjoying the light show has been a Christmas tradition since I was a child. It's also fun to explore your local city or town to view elaborate window displays and festive decorations adoring every streetlamp. Or attend a special light show event, like the ZooLights in Portland, Oregon.
The holidays can be a hectic time, but slowing down to enjoy this annual tradition is the perfect way to be mindful and fully present at this magical time.
Wishing you and the world a happy, healthy, peaceful and loving holiday season.
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