I know that in the past (and still sometimes), I have trouble with simply being present during the holidays.
I’ll often pick up my phone and snap a picture for social media or check my Facebook during a lull in the conversation. Or I’ll still be running off adrenaline or stress from work, making it hard to get in the true holiday spirit and remember what’s most important during this time.
Mindfulness is hard—especially in times of busyness and travel and heightened emotions (even good ones). But it’s important. Staying in the present moment is what allows us to get the most out of the precious instances in life. It’s what helps us get out of our heads and away from our phones long enough to appreciate those around us.
If you get what I mean and crave that extra depth too, here are some thoughts on how to be more mindful during the holidays this year.
How to Focus on Depth During the Holidays
These are personal goals of mine for this year. Hopefully they can help you too!11 Mindful Ways to Get More Meaning Out of the Holidays Click To Tweet
1. Challenge Yourself to Engage Without Your Phone
Lately I’ve really had to come to terms with the fact that checking social media on my phone accerbates my anxiety. And at the same time, I’m “addicted” to it; I feel a little empty when I stop myself from checking my phone during lulls.
One of the best ways to be more present during the holidays is by being away from our phones.
It’s hard to admit, but I truly believe our phones take us away from important moments—small moments that seem boring on the surface… but might just matter the most, like:
- Sitting with family quietly in front of the fire
- Enjoying great food together
- Watching the snow or rain (or whatever the weather is like where you are)
- Enjoying christmas lights, just because
- Random laughs or smiles or exchanges between meals or conversations
When we’re checking our phone for texts or emails or sending a snap or scrolling through our Instagram feed, a part of our attention is not present. It’s not soaking in the people, sights, sounds, and richness of the holidays around us.
It’s also a subtle way of making the 100-200+ semi-acquaintances online more important than those a few feet in front of us who matter most.
These moments are precious, fleeting, and for many of us, only come around about once a year. They’re the times in life that really matter, right?
If we were at the end of our lives looking back on what we remember most, wouldn’t it be time spent face-to-face, talking and laughing and eating with people we care about?
This year, I’m making a conscious effort to silence my phone more and get comfortable with less engagement and more in-person depth. Will you join me?
2. Choose 5 Things to Be Grateful for Every Day
Our brains are programmed to look for the negative. Sometimes we need to actively “fight” it to remind ourselves of what’s so good. According to this article from Psychology Today, researchers have found our brains need small positive experiences to counteract the negativity at about a 5:1 ratio.
Many of us enjoy several things about the holidays, but they can also be bring stress, lack of sleep, an increase in rich meals that can make us tired, and perhaps interactions that cause some friction, such as time family members who hold largely differing opinions from us.
Reinforce the positive to your brain this season by listing out, or saying outloud to yourself, five things you’re grateful for at the beginning of each day. This could be people, experiences, physical things, or intangibles like feelings of joy or happiness in your life.
Look for the joy in the season, and let yourself acknowledge it.
3. Take at Least 5-10 Deep Breaths Daily
The holidays can ramp us up to go-go-go without a second thought. But we can’t be fully present if we’re in a constant state of stress.
We can stimulate the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, or the “rest and digest” relaxation response, by breathing deeply from the belly:
- Inhale through your nose and let your stomach and chest fill with air.
- Pause briefly at the top of your breath, then…
- Exhale slowly through your mouth, as if you’re blowing out a candle, feeling your lungs and belly deflate.
- Repeat 5-10 cycles of breaths.
This is great to do first thing when you wake up, even while you’re still laying in bed, or at any time when you’re feeling worked up, stressed, or anxious.
4. Pause to Connect with Your Senses
The holidays bring many opportunities to slow down and engage our senses. Some of my favorites during this time of year are:
- Smelling a cinnamon holiday candle
- Feeling the heat and smelling/tasting the richness of a warm soy latte
- Seeing bright christmas lights twinkling on my tree and around town
- Listening to instrumental Christmas music
- Feeling soft socks and sweaters in the cold weather
No matter where you are or what you’re doing, gift yourself the small delights of your senses. What can you see, hear, smell, touch, or taste during the holidays that brings simple joy and pleasure? Practice this while working, shopping, driving, or sitting doing nothing.
(This is another great reason to put down the phone. These types of moments are easily lost in the rush of social media.)
5. Practice Mindful Eating and Focus on Enjoyment
I’m deeply passionate about intuitive eating for the holidays. We all deserve to get pleasure from special foods this time of year while also feeling good.
Instead of beating yourself up for eating holiday sweets, why not make the goal satisfaction? Be a little picky and choose the foods that you’re most looking forward to. Give them your attention and enjoy each bite with mindfulness. If you eat past fullness, remind yourself how great the food was and relax and digest.
Remember intuitive eating is about listening to your body. Pay attention to how the foods make you feel with awareness but not judgment.
For example, I feel best when I eat often and have some foods with fiber and protein before dessert. This lets me enjoy everything to the fullest without feeling too tired or full—bringing me the most satisfaction. But everyone is different.
6. Embrace Peace Within the Chaos
This year, what if we accepted that things not going as they’re “supposed to” is an expected part of life—and even more common when many people are involved (like during the holidays)?
I’ve been trying to ease into this more lately—the surrender to imperfection, even disappointment, sometimes. We might have specific expectations about how we want the holidays to go or how we wish others would act during them. But there are many factors we can’t control.
You know the old saying? “You can’t control what happens, but you can control how you react to it.” I actually get frustrated often when I hear this because it’s tough to swallow. I often try very hard to approach things in a calm and balanced way… but I’m so reactive by nature that it’s hard!
Finding peace in chaos is not usually easy—but I find shifting my mindset towards accepting it on a regular basis helps.
Let’s approach the holidays, and life in general, with an emphasis on presence—the goal being to observe and listen more than we react.
Let’s focus on what really matters— not if the meal is completed perfectly… or if everyone loves their gifts… or if we all agree on politics… or say the right things… or even if we have some fancy schmancy new job to brag about.
We only have a short time here, in the grand scheme of things. What can we do this holiday to get the most out of the time? I’d say approaching things with a light spirit that emphasizes meaningful moments above all else.11 Mindful Ways to Get More Meaning Out of the Holidays Click To Tweet
7. Find Ways to Be Creative—Just Because
As Brene Brown says in The Gifts of Imperfection, “If we want to make meaning, we need to make art.”
Creativity is seen by many of us as a luxury or something that’s fun but not that important. But actually, I think creativity is a necessary form of play. It allows us to break from the mold and express a deeper part of ourselves.
Do something creative this season. It could be cooking or baking for yourself or others, coloring, writing, doing crafts, playing an instrument, or anything else. Just because.
8. Emphasize “You” Instead of “I” and “Me”
I’ll be the first to say I can be extremely focused on myself. I love self-development and am always trying to be better. But I also find the more I make my conversations about the other person, the more we both learn and the more I can give them.
Let’s allow the holidays to emphasize our relationships this year. We can reflect on those we’ve spending time with and those who have made the year special. Perhaps we’ll let them know what’s great about them without looking for anything in return.
9. Allow Time to Recharge
I know this is easier said than done, especially if you have others humans depending on you during the holidays. But you deserve some time to care for yourself. Start small if you have to. Maybe it’s a short nap, a movie, turning off your phone or computer, sitting with a cup of hot cocoa, or taking a nap.
One thing I’m prioritizing right now, actually, is setting an actual end to my work days. I set a plan for my work the next day… and then shut everything off so I can focus on my evenings. No more email or trying to solve work problems until the next day.
(And I’m trying to spend less time on social media—during the day and the evenings. It’s amazing how much it zaps focus, concentration, and energy without us realizing it.)
10. Let Yourself to Be Human
For some of us, the holidays don’t feel like the most wonderful time of year. For others, we love this season but still struggle with navigating emotions or relationships or changes. Sometimes we don’t know how to be more mindful when there’s a lot on our plates.
That’s okay. We can let these emotions come up and acknowledge them, even express them to those we trust, without needing to react or apologize. We’re human, and we’re complex. Let’s sit with that and allow ourselves the space to let it be.
11. Let Others Be Human
Let’s smile at others when we catch their eye—and be kind even if they aren’t.
We’re all struggling with something, and that doesn’t magically pause just because it’s a certain time of year.
Maybe that moody family member is missing someone or dealing with life stressors they don’t want to talk about. Perhaps that rude stranger or curt store employee is fighting a battle we can’t understand—or maybe we can, if we knew their story.
Either way, it’s likely not about us and they likely need love and kindness more than anything. A little warmth can go a long way.
Have a Happy Holiday, from Me to You 🙂
This season, I hope these tips for how to be more mindful help.
But mostly, I wish you meaning and depth and love. I wish you good food and warm drinks and the reminder to take care of yourself in whatever way you need it the most. I wish you simplicity and mindfulness and, most of all, peace in simply being alive.