Have a Very, Merry Mindful Holiday

mindful mind full holidaysGuest Blogger: Patti Holland, Certified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Teacher, Center for Mindfulness, University of Massachusetts Medical School

The holiday season is upon us! This time of year offers so much … as does every moment really. For many people, this can be a festive time spent with family and friends. For some, however, this can be a time of heightened loneliness. And for most of us, what is intended as a time of joy and celebration can quickly become one of overwhelm and stress. We may go between thoughts of too much (to do, to cook, too many people in this house!) or too little (money, time, patience, no one in the house). We may find ourselves riding one wave of emotion after another. Excitement gives way to exhaustion, joy gives way to sadness.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We can take a different approach. We can be more present in each moment as it unfolds. We can do less in an effort to fill the moments. We can experience peace, joy, and connection amidst the hustle and bustle and when alone.

Here are some ways that you can invite mindfulness into your day during this time, some tips to step out of autopilot and overwhelm and into the present moment.

Start Your Day With a Moment of Mindfulness

  • When you first wake up, before leaping out of bed, take a few minutes and do a brief body scan practice. Direct and guide your attention from the tips of your toes to the crown of your head. Offering our full attention is a radical act of generosity. Here, with the body scan, we offer to ourselves this kind and considerate attention.
  • Savor that first cup of coffee or tea. Consider not pairing it with a side of the news if reading the newspaper is what you typically do while drinking your coffee. Feel the warmth of the cup in your hands, take in the aroma of the coffee or tea, taste as you sip … don’t gulp.
  • Let brushing your teeth bring you right into the moment. Invite curiosity to this daily activity, and see what you notice and discover! What do the bristles feel like as they move back and forth across the teeth?

Turn Waiting Into a Welcomed Moment of Mindfulness

  • As you sit in traffic or stand in line to check out, you can focus attention on your breath. Bring a gentle attentiveness to your breath. Feel the rhythm and flow of the breath. Allow the breath to support you and soothe any frayed nerves.
  • Bring your attention to your body. For example, feel your feet on the floor as you wait in line to mail your holiday cards and packages. What is the actual experience of standing really like? What sensations do you feel in the body, and where? Play a little. Shift your weight from side to side. What do you feel in the body as you do this?
  • Become aware of the common human moments all around you instead of being tossed about in a sea of thoughts. Simply notice these without internal commentary – a parent and child interaction, someone picking out a gift, a brief exchange between cashier and customer.

Come to Your Senses – Experience the Present Moment

  • Take in the sights of the holidays. Notice the decorations as you are out and about – the colorful lights, the glitter and gift wrap, the interesting balloon characters camped out on lawns. No judgments, please!
  • Listen to the sound of crunching snow underfoot … or the silence of snow gently falling from the sky.
  • Taste and savor each bite of the holiday meal. Smell the turkey as it roasts, the apple pie as it bakes and the piney scent of a tree.

Cultivate Gratitude and Kindness

  • Wind down each night by listing two to three things for which you are grateful. It doesn’t have to be anything big or fancy. I’m routinely grateful for the fact that I’m still breathing, even when everything else in my life seems to be less than I’d like it to be.
  • Notice something you honestly admire about a coworker, acquaintance, or neighbor, and share your appreciation with this person.
  • Be an agent of kindness, and offer one random act of kindness each day. Buy a cup of coffee for the next person in line, let someone else have that prime parking space close to the door, invite someone who seems to be struggling more than you go first, and smile at someone without any expectation for a response.

Discover and experience wonder in each moment. May you have a very merry, mindful holiday!

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