The holidays can be a magical time, offering up a feast for our senses. We look forward to the sight of snow on the ground and sparkling decorations, the scent of pine needles and cookies baking, the taste of mulled wine and grandma’s pies, the sound of holiday music and children laughing, and the feeling of love and goodwill that flows freely between family and friends! Even the sixth sense kicks into high gear as treasured memories and traditions make you feel closer to those who have passed over. But with all the good things the season has to offer, you still might find yourself approaching the holidays with a touch of dread to damper that enthusiasm. How can you keep the lists, expenses and social obligations – not to mention those inevitable family conflicts and resentments – from getting in the way of the magic and love of the season?
What’s the secret to a happy holiday? After years spent speaking to the Spirit people – who have the advantage of looking back on their earthly lives with perfect hindsight – I know the answer. Embrace mindfulness and gratitude and treasure every moment!
Mindfulness can be just the “reset button” you need during the holiday season. When you’re mindful, you’re fully invested in the present moment – not dwelling on the past or fretting about the future. You’re experiencing the “now” with all of your senses. So if you start to feel overwhelmed, burdened or tempted to dredge up old family drama – stop and take a breath. Forget about your to-do list, suspend your judgment, and focus on what’s happening RIGHT NOW. Spirit will tell you that this moment will never happen again – so make the most of it.
If this advice seems easier said than done, here are a few tips to help you treasure every moment of the holiday season:
- Manage your expectations. Create a list of holiday activities and traditions that are meaningful to you and make them a priority. For me, no matter how busy I get, it’s not the holidays without a few evenings spent in front of a roaring fire, enjoying a glass of wine and board games with friends. On the other hand, don’t pressure yourself to have a Martha Stewart holiday if that’s a stretch for you (and it’s a big stretch for most of us!). The holidays are not a competitive sport – so set your expectations realistically, and do what makes you happy!
- Use all five (or six) senses to savor holiday tasks. Instead of rushing from one chore to another, engage your senses to really experience them. For example, when shopping for a gift, take time to think about the person you are buying for, and what they mean to you. Enjoy the experience of shopping, and be grateful that you have the means to give a present to someone you care about.
- Take time to meditate, pray or simply “be.” The secret to a mindful life is to quiet your mind and appreciate the present moment. It’s easy to forget that when your to-do list has doubled! Put quiet time on your calendar – the small investment in yourself will pay dividends in the form of stress reduction.
- Appreciate your family and friends – and let them know how you feel! The holidays are all about expressing love. Take time to write a personal note in your holiday cards, or use social media to send out messages of love and gratitude for the people who enrich your life.
- Perform holiday acts of kindness. Let everyone in your life benefit from your “attitude of gratitude”. Bring the homeless man you walk by each day a cup of coffee, or a pair of warm gloves. Give the barista who makes your latte an extra few dollars, and a smile. While you’re doing it, appreciate the fact that your little act has brightened someone’s day
Doctor Seuss said, “Sometimes you will never know the value of something, until it becomes a memory.” Starting right now, incorporate a few, or all, of my mindfulness tips into your life. Vow to appreciate every moment before it becomes a memory. Just imagine how that shift in your thinking will help you to enjoy the next 6 weeks – and the rest of your life.