5 Tips for a (More) Mindful Holiday Season
The holiday season is here! Between twinkling lights, festive meals, and spending time with loved ones, this time of year can bring much warmth, joy, and love. But, with it can also come stresses like finding just the right gifts, preparing the house for company, cooking holiday meals, or perhaps even managing difficult conversations around the dinner table. Mindfulness—or bringing your attention fully into the present moment—can help alleviate some of this stress, so you can experience more happiness yourself as you seek to bring holiday joy to others.
Here are 5 tips for bringing a more mindful approach to your holidays:
- Take a breath—If your holidays are feeling hectic or overwhelming, give yourself the gift of a mindful pause. Take a few minutes just to focus on your breathing, noticing where you feel sensations in your body as you inhale and as you exhale. Even a minute or two of this can provide much-needed rest and help you reset.
- Let go of perfection—The more we strive for perfection—finding the perfect gift, making the perfect dish, readying the perfect home—the more stress we may bring upon ourselves. While we may strive to do our best, expecting perfection and then ruminating in self-criticism when something is not perfect is not realistic or healthy. See if you can accept—and even embrace—imperfection as part of being human.
- Savor the small moments—The holidays are a wonderful time for savoring small moments that bring you positive emotions. Let yourself linger on the flavors in your gingerbread latte a little longer, sing your favorite holiday song even if you know you’re off tune, or play another game with your kids instead of rushing to clean up. You may be surprised at how much this can help offset the stressful moments!
- Listen mindfully when conversations get tough—Does your family sometimes encounter tense moments around the holidays? Mindful listening can go a long way to easing some of the tension and preventing escalating conversations from getting too far out of hand.
- First, notice the moment you begin to feel that spark of frustration, anger, or resentment while in a conversation.
- Pause and just pay attention to what this feels like in your body without responding in any way.
- Take a mindful breath or two if it’s helpful for you and see if you can bring your attention fully to what is being said, without getting caught up in your own thoughts and opinions.
- Use your empathy: how did this person come to believe this or come to behave in this way?
- Consider asking questions to better understand their perspective and lived experience, rather than simply volleying back with a clever or hurtful reply.
- Reflect on gratefulness—Even in the midst of all of the holiday stresses and tense moments, we can often discover many things we are grateful for in our daily life. Research has shown that reflecting on our gratitude can help alleviate everyday stress. Try taking a few minutes to bring to mind some things you’re grateful for when you wake up in the morning or before you go to sleep at night. They can be big or small things—just be sure to notice what it feels like in your body when you feel this sense of gratitude, as it can bring you a surge of positive emotions!
The YMCA of Greater Houston offers many ways to learn more about mindfulness and bring more positive emotions into your daily life. Join a group class, like our weekly ZOOM Mindfulness Meditation on Tuesdays at 6:30PM for YMCA facility members. Visit the YMCA of Greater Houston’s website for more information or to join the Y today.
Finally, the holidays can be a very difficult time for some people. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, know that help is available. Visit the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline for a list of resources. For immediate help 24 hours a day, call or text 988.
About the Author
Wendy Saunders is a Certified Teacher and Facilitator through Emory University in CBCT® (Cognitively-Based Compassion Training) and SEE Learning®, a K-12 educational program designed to build social, emotional, and ethical competencies through attention training, compassion cultivation, and trauma-informed resiliency skills. Wendy is also a facilitator of the Community Resiliency Model (CRM) ®, a program of the Trauma Resource Institute, the Founder of Compassionate Leader, LLC, and has worked with thousands of people in business, non-profit, education, and healthcare organizations across the country and internationally to cultivate mindfulness, compassion, resilience, and leadership skills.