For most people, the holidays are a busy time of year. They can also bring about lots of pressure and conflicting emotions. A commitment to have mindful holidays can reduce internal stress and anxiety so that you can actually relax and enjoy each moment of the season that only comes around once a year.
If you read much in personal development circles, you will find that mindfulness is a buzz term right now. Mindfulness means to be aware of your surroundings and to make a conscious effort to live in the moment. That means not worrying about your to-do list, your family, work, or anything else. Just be fully present where you are. Notice the little things that you usually are only vaguely aware of.
What is a Mindful Holiday?
So often we get caught up in making the holidays “perfect.” We want all the decorations in just the right places, the perfect playlist, the perfect presents, the perfect wrapping, and the list goes on and on. There is no such thing as absolutely perfect.
Mindful holidays are ones in which you make time for yourself to slow down and savor it. Soak in the RIIIP of wrapping paper. Cherish the happy excited shouts of the kids. Take pictures and videos, but don’t stress over getting the perfect shot. Instead, pay attention to what is going on around you. Notice the little details that you usually take for granted.
Don’t think about what you have to do next week, the places that you have to go, or anything else that could be distracting you. Be right there in the moment in both mind and body. Laugh and dance along with the kids. Let go of your worries and frustrations for a little while. That’s how you have mindful holidays.
What Areas Can You Practice Mindfulness for the Holidays?
Mindfulness is a great practice to start any time. The holidays are so busy, though, I think it’s especially important to breathe it in. They seem here and gone so quickly. There are several areas that you can practice mindfulness for the holidays.
Mindful Holiday Gift Giving
There are several ways to have mindful holidays when it comes to gift-giving. They include:
- Mindful spending – We all know that we should stick to a budget when gift-giving. It takes away the fun if you are making payments on Christmas till summer vacation.
- Mindful selecting – I enjoy the shopping for Christmas gifts because it gives me an opportunity to think about each member of my family, and what gift they will like. I may not always nail it on the head, but I try to think about each family member’s interests. This includes what they like, as well as what they don’t like. (For example, my Dad hates going clothes shopping.) It’s like a fun puzzle to me to try to find something that fits their interests, that they don’t already have that’s in my budget. Instead of stressing about it, I try to enjoy the time to think about each member of my family.
- Mindful Unwrapping – I remember trying several things when it came to unwrapping Christmas presents. At my Grandma’s house we all unwrapped all of our gifts at the same time. However, at my Nanny’s house and later at my parents’ we passed out all the gifts and went round-robin style. When I was a kid, it was hard to wait for my turn, but it taught me to enjoy the whole process – not just the receiving, but the anticipation of seeing someone’s face when they unwrapped the gift I got them. It also stretches out the gift time and lets me savor it more, plus I get to see everything.
Mindful Holiday Activities
The holidays are a busy time. There are a LOT of activities going on and you may feel pulled in many different directions. If I feel rushed, with many things packed into the schedule, it’s hard for me to enjoy them. I just feel tired and stressed about getting to different places in time. I try to mindfully select the activities that mean the most to me and my family. It’s ok not to do everything. Do the things that you enjoy the most.
Mindful Holiday Decorations
Some people enjoy going all out for holiday decorations. If having a Christmas tree in every room and having the whole house decked out in Christmas decor is something that you enjoy, go for it!
For myself, I prefer one tree in the living room for Christmas. There are a few other decorations that I enjoy that I put out. If my tree has any theme, it’s memories. The decorations that go on my tree are ones that my Grandma made me, some that I got as gifts from various people in my life, and ones that the kids have made. To me, it is beautiful because each ornament reminds me of something or someone. Put up the decorations that you enjoy the most. Don’t stress about getting them perfect to show off. Your decorations in your house are for you and your family.
Mindful Holiday Food
Just like with mindful holidays and gift-giving, there are several ways to be mindful of food around the holidays. I love holiday food just as much as anyone else. However, I am trying to make some healthier food choices. This is my plan to be more mindful of food around the holidays:
- Eat more slowly and enjoy the taste of each bite
- Eat my vegetables first
- Remind myself that I don’t have to have 3 helpings to enjoy my favorite foods
- Be mindful of when my body is telling me I am full. (Funny thing is the kids always do this, yet it’s so hard for grown-ups.)
- Be more aware of how much I am eating
- Stop long enough to take in the whole experience – my family around the table, the smiles, laughter, stories, music if it’s playing, how nicely Mom has set the table, etc.
Little things that make a difference
Sometimes little things make a big difference when it comes to mindful holidays. For example, I never realized that we always put Christmas music on when we put up the Christmas tree until I went back and watched some old home movies. Now, we all put the Christmas tree up together. It’s a family event, as is taking it down. When it goes up, we play Christmas music. When we are unwrapping gifts on Christmas morning, I always make sure that I put Christmas music on then too.
Little things like hot spiced cider in the crockpot, putting on music, lighting a candle, starting a fire in the fireplace, or donuts for breakfast can become little things that stand out in future holiday memories.
Best Tips for Mindful Holidays
The best advice for mindful holidays all centers around stopping long enough to soak in the whole experience and making an effort to be fully present at the moment.
When making your holidays mindful, don’t compare your holiday to anyone else’s. If your gifts to each other are smaller, that’s ok. If you have simpler decorations or your tree is not perfectly themed, like mine, that’s ok.
The holidays are very personal and the experience is different in each family. As my Mom told me when I was a newlywed, part of crafting the perfect holiday for your family is deciding which traditions to keep from the husband’s side and the wife’s side, how to mesh them together and which ones to create new. Your holiday needs to fit your family; not your neighbors.
Your holidays should reflect your values and your priorities. Don’t compromise them to fit in with anyone. Stand up for what you believe in and the things that are important to you. You can do it in a respectful manner. Set an example that you would be proud for your own kids to follow.
Don’t go into debt over Christmas. It may mean that you have to start Christmas shopping in July and buy one gift a month, or that you save a certain amount each month for a year. Plan ahead. Paying off Christmas for several months afterward is no fun. At the end of the day, it’s stuff. What matters is the experience and love that you share as a family. Give what you can afford and don’t trash your finances for one day.
There are certain Christmas presents that stand out in my mind as a kid. I remember the year that Santa brought us a Super Nintendo. (Laugh all you want – it was amazing at the time!) I also remember the year that I got a rocking horse that made noise and I’m sure drove my parents nuts with “clip-clop, clip-clop” sounds, and the year I got something that was so big and so special that I wasn’t sure that Santa was going to be able to deliver on it – a Hula Hoop!
Yes, you read that right – a simple hula hoop ranks right up there with a brand new game system in my Christmas memories. More than the gifts, I remember the memories. I remember my little brother throwing a bear out of his brand new little tikes car and it saying “Bingo!” as it’s head hit the floor. I remember Christmas music, playing in the snow, and the smell of special holiday meals. These little details are what you need to soak in. Take pictures, take videos, and take in all that is going on around you as best you can.
Related: 7 Tips for a Stress- Free Christmas
The Last Thing You Need to Know About Mindful Holidays
The holidays only roll around once a year. They can be a time of stress or a time of joy. The choice is up to you. When you choose mindful holidays, you let go of unrealistic or perceived expectations. Instead, you choose to soak it in and live in the moment. You aren’t thinking about where you “failed” or what doesn’t look just right. You simply enjoy what is and choose to spend your time and money on the things that mean the most to you. What are your best tips for mindful holidays? Leave me a comment below!