By: Nichol Taylor, AMFT
As we jump into the heart of the holiday season, we sometimes forget the simple things that make it truly nostalgic and memorable. There is much to be mindful about and many ways to be present with our families and loved ones. Mindfulness is a term that has been used a lot lately. You hear it on the news, read it in magazines, self- help books and your children have probably heard it in school. So what is Mindfulness? Mindfulness is about being present. Being aware of each and every experience you are having. It is taking in each of your five senses. What you see, smell, taste, hear and feel.
Our five senses can be heightened during the holidays. The smell of cinnamon or fresh cut pine. The sound of your favorite Christmas carol from childhood or fire crackling in the fireplace. The taste of warm cocoa topped with marshmallows. You can even find mindfulness within the hustle and bustle by slowing down and being more aware of your surroundings. Christmas really is the time to be mindful and present with yourself and others.
I have several friends who have chosen to give experiences rather than tangible gifts. This is a fantastic idea and one that lasts much longer than a gift you soon forget or lose. Experiences often have photos and deep feelings attached to them that stay with you forever. Experiences take time and time is most often the gift of genuine friendship.
It is very easy to get caught up in the commercial overload of Christmas. The decorations, neighbor gifts, baking, Christmas cards and the perfect “ugliest sweater” for the ugly sweater party. It is easy to lose any mindfulness during the holidays and find yourself feeling pretty “Grinch like”. Here are a few tips to help be more present and mindful this holiday season:
- Notice the Holiday season. Take time to look at the Christmas lights. Really look at them and how beautiful they are. Notice your favorite things of the season and savor them. A few of mine are watching the smiles of my grandchildren when they see the Christmas tree all lit up or hearing my family laugh around the dinner table.
- Take time to do nothing. There is a quote that I love from the movie Christopher Robin, “When you do nothing, it often leads to the very best of something”. We often feel guilty doing nothing but sometimes it is exactly what we need to do. This is when we get our best ideas or reflection on things we want better in our lives.
- When you notice something positive that really makes you feel good. Let it sit with you for at least 30 seconds. Look inward as to why it feels so positive and it will become a positive memory you can hold on to when there are difficult days.
- When you are with your friends and loved ones be present with them. Look at them when they are talking with you. Listen to them as if they are the only ones in the room. Being an active listener is a very mindful task.
- Disconnect from technology when you are with family and friends. Do not worry about the next picture to post or what others are posting. Technology is probably the one thing that keeps us from being present with each other. If you aren’t careful, you might miss something extraordinary.
As wonderful as the Holidays are, We sometimes struggle with this time of year for many reasons. It could be the loss of a loved one, loneliness or conflict with family members. No matter what the struggle may be for you, show compassion to yourself and set healthy boundaries to enjoy the holidays more fully. Our families do not have to look traditional. Family members are those who truly love and care for us without judgement and criticism. Families come in all different types and sizes. It is not a one size fits all.
It is important to be present with your own feelings and how you are doing both emotionally and physically. There are many resources these days to help us when things become too difficult for us to handle alone. Reach out to anyone you feel safe with and ask for help. It is always good to have someone to talk to and gain a fresh perspective on specific struggles. We were not meant to handle hard times alone. A few signs that you may benefit from some professional help are the following
- Feeling sad or blue most of the time and not knowing why
- Worrying excessively over small things and not being able to sleep or eat
- You isolate and avoid most social situations.
- You have experienced a trauma
- Unhealthy behaviors
- Overwhelming loss or grief
- You want to make a change in your life but do not know where to start
- Needing better coping skills for current relationships
I hope that each of you enjoy this Holiday season and are more present in every experience you have. Slow your thoughts. Put the to do lists aside and look around at all the beauty the season has to offer. Make this year a“Present” Holiday.