‘Tis the season of Black Fridays, Cyber Mondays, and “Shop ‘til you drop,” but that doesn’t mean you have to partake. No one can control what others do or say, let alone holiday commercialism, but we do have the power to choose how we react. Here are eight tips for bringing mindfulness to your holiday season:
1. Reflect on what the holidays really mean to you
Is this season about something bigger than gifts and sharing your time with others through volunteer work? Maybe it’s spending quality time with relatives you don’t see that often or having quiet and cozy times with immediate family or a few close friends. Embrace rituals that bring you and your loved ones pleasure and joy and consider letting go of family traditions that are no longer relevant or cause tension or sadness. Acknowledge your full range of emotions over the holidays, including the not so pleasant ones, and give yourself permission to feel them without judgment.
2. Minimize materialism
Try to maintain reasonable expectations about this time of year instead of setting yourself up for the perfect, photo-shopped image on a magazine cover. This might entail changing your perception about extravagant gift giving and instead choosing to make it more manageable and less materialistic. Think about taking your business to smaller vendors and local holiday boutiques instead of big box stores. Consider giving the gift of an experience -- a museum membership, restaurant gift card, tickets to the theatre, or even just the gift of time – volunteering at a food bank or preparing a nice meal for an elderly neighbor with local, seasonal ingredients. Our upcoming sustainable workshops in 2018 make great gifts, too!
3. Practice gratitude
This used to be called “Counting your blessings” and is more relevant than ever. Reflect on all you have to be grateful for, whether it’s a roof over your head and a warm bed to sleep in, healthy food and clean water, or friends and family who love you. Practice compassion and kindness with yourself as well as others. Keep perspective on what really matters.
4. Take care of you
It’s easy to burn yourself out catering to everyone else, especially if you are the primary caretaker of children or parents. Carve out time just for yourself, whether it’s taking a yoga class, reading even just a few pages from a good book before bedtime, meditating for five minutes, or drinking a cup of herbal tea and consciously relaxing each part of your body from the toes up.
Special foods are a big part of the season, and a long, mindful meal is a great way to appreciate it. A classic mindfulness exercise is to eat something like you're tasting it for the first time. Observe the color, texture, flavor, and sensation of chewing one bite at a time. Close your eyes, slow down, and savor the experience.
5. Get back to nature
Be sure to get enough natural light exposure to chase the blues away. If commercialism is getting you down, cut back on trips to the mall and gridlock parking and head to bike trails, open spaces, and parks. Just taking a solo walk around the block gets your heart pumping and gives you a fresh perspective on life. Hiking with your partner is a great way to check in with each other and catch up on quality couple time. Take in a planetarium show – it’s meditative and educational! With darkness falling earlier, appreciate the celestial skies while walking the dog. Cultivating a winter vegetable garden in our temperate climate always reaps benefits, and even tending container succulents is calming and pleasing to the senses.
6. Get back in touch with your inner child
Pull out those dusty board games like Trivial Pursuits, Scrabble, or Twister. Play charades. Make popcorn the old fashioned way and introduce family or friends to your favorite classic movies. Remember how fun it was to go bowling? For the more brave and fit, check out the ice rinks around town. Take your kids out for hot chocolate or frozen yogurt and drive through the neighborhood to marvel at the twinkly lights and decorations. Sing carols around the piano. Children tend to live in the moment and adults can too.
Instead of decorating your house to the nines, do the opposite. Winter is the perfect time to de-clutter. Simplify your life and pass on things you no longer need or use to those less fortunate. Even rearranging furniture can improve the flow of a household and decrease stress. Re-discover long lost treasures such as LPs languishing in your closet or garage. Music with positive associations can be a powerful antidote to the winter blues.
8. Above all, be in the moment
To keep yourself in a relaxed frame of mind, come up with a simple, self-comforting touchstone that brings you back to what really matters. Inspirational quotes on your fridge, a favorite song, a sentimental piece of jewelry, or a cherished photograph on your desk can remind you of what you value the most. Minimize distractions. Put away the phone. Turn off the TV. Tune into others with eye contact and active listening. Give yourself the gift of mindfulness.