With the holiday season officially upon us, we can expect our annual dose of holiday stress and anxiety. We might have yoga show passes and new yoga toys on our wish list, but the gift we could really use right now is mental clarity.

The good news is mindfulness and meditation are great ways to cope with holiday stress. Trust us, you’ll find December more manageable when you have less depression, less anxiety, better sleep, improved decision making, and more energy.

You don’t need a lot of time, practice, or experience to start seeing the benefits of meditation. In fact, here are some things you can do TODAY to improve your practice.

1. Download an App

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Technology can be one of the main culprits of disconnection and a cluttered mind. But it’s not all bad! Technology can also be a great tool to make things like meditation more accessible for those who need help getting started or continuing a practice.

Here’s some recommended apps designed specifically for the overwhelmed mind. And you can start using most of these for FREE:

Headspace ― A popular meditation app with Ten Days of Meditation FREE
Calm ― Calm gives you access to a number different meditation programs for both individuals and businesses to improve sleep, happiness, gratitude, and other emotions
Stop, Breathe & Think ― A FREE app that gives you guided meditation based on your emotions
Omvana by Mindvalley ― Access to hundreds of ambient music and meditation tracks to enhance your practice. You can get started for FREE.
Buddhify ― Costs about as much as a cup of coffee and gives you guided meditations for emotions and daily activities

2. Start a Group

 

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Group activities are proven to be an effective way to build a habit. Group meditation brings a new energy to the table, creates more accountability, and gives beginners an easier way into the practice.

Friends, family, people at work, people in your yoga class, or anyone you see on a regular basis can make great meditation partners. Set aside a few minutes once a week to share a mindful moment together―you might find support is just the thing you need to keep a regular practice!

3. Join a Group

 

If you can’t round up a group on your own, there are plenty of organizations that offer free and affordable meditation sessions. Let us know in the comments if we missed any sessions and we can add them to the list.

In Toronto:

Meditation Toronto ― offers FREE group meditations all over the city. Check out their map to find the next one closest to you.
Kadampa Meditation Centre ― a Buddhist temple in Little Italy that offers $5 meditation classes (or free classes with a membership)
Toronto Zen Centre ― beginners can receive a FREE first month to help introduce them to meditation
Shambhala Toronto ― offers various workshops and a FREE weekly workshop (donations appreciated) for beginners
True Peace Toronto ― this group meets for FREE meditation sessions Mondays at U of T and Fridays at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre at Bloor and Spadina.

In the rest of Ontario:

Lotus Meditation ― provides FREE group meditations in Kitchener, Waterloo and Brantford
London Mindfulness Community ― holds FREE weekly group meditations at Moksha Yoga in downtown London
Simply Meditation ― offers a FREE monthly group meditation at the downtown Ottawa public Library
Mindfulness Hamilton ― offers a FREE meditation class on alternating Tuesdays and Thursdays; you can also purchase a $25 annual membership to get access to more mindfulness events
Meditation in Niagara ― offers $10 classes with locations in St. Catharines and Niagara Falls.

4. Do More Frequent Smaller Meditations

 

There’s no reason to overcomplicate things. You don’t even need to block out huge chunks of time to have a more effective practice. The moment you focus on your breath, your brain automatically slows itself down and you become more relaxed. This guide from Mind Body Green gives a simple, three-step meditation you can do right now.

This five-minute video from Martin Boroson will teach you how to do an effective one-minute meditation any place or any time of day.

 

Little meditations between larger sessions can help build a practice and build consistent mindfulness. Take a minute out of your day and receive benefits that last a lifetime.

5. Sign Up for a Workshop

 

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If you’ve read the blog this far, clearly you are committed to learning more about meditation. Come by the Yoga Conference in 2017, where we have classes from to give more insight into integrating your meditation and yoga practices. If you can’t wait until then, many of the locations listed above also offer advanced meditation workshops year round to improve your practice. Breathe and enjoy your practice, you’re well on your way to a happier and more stress free life.