In June I’m invited to speak in a city I have always wanted to visit and heard nothing …
I taste cinnamon, I smell pine, I hear bells ringing, I see lights and I feel warmth. Is it Christmas time again?
How about to spend this year’s Christmas party and holiday season mindfully and spend it fully aware and unprejudiced? How about to simply enjoy the moment – far away from other thoughts, worries or stress?
With these little personal 10 tips for mindfulness at Christmas time, the holiday season might potentially become a whole new experience of joy and self-knowledge. But before we get to the tips – what is mindfulness anyway and what the heck does it have to do with Christmas?
Mindfulness means to give all our attention to the here and now and to deal carefully with yourself and your environment. According to the often-quoted American medical professor Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is by definition a specific state of attention and awareness which intentionally refers to the current moment (rather than to the past or the future), and is not judgmental. Mindfulness is not a temporary fashion, it is a state of being and attitude towards life. Mindfulness is not the same as multi-tasking, mindfulness is the one thing that we do to devote our full awareness to.
Applied to Christmas this can get tricky. A time to practice mindfulness therefore even more. Because especially before and during the holiday season we sometimes get in quite a spin and juggle all the things that still need to get done or want to be taken care of. We quickly become stressed, tensely writing the last emails, getting annoyed in crowded stores to buy our last Christmas gifts, planning family gatherings and food purchases for the holidays… Through all of this there might be pictures of last Christmas popping up in our head – especially when the song Last Christmas is being played in infinite loop. Also you might think about the next days and how everything will work out or just looking forward to your break.
1000 things at once and with one foot in the past and the other in the future. When are we truly in the present moment – in the now – during this time? And when do we simply just enjoy that moment?
And when on top of that also our technology is speaking with us constantly it might get even harder to really focus. Ringtone or notification here, WhatsApp message there, Facebook update here and Email there. And when finally the Christmas dinner is on the table and the tree decorated, we take out our phones and take pictures to share with our friends on a social network. Oh and of course Grandma wants to be called via Skype too. But hey, please now all be calm and happy and relaxed, right?! But how do we still stay mindfully and fully present in those moments? Our smartphones equip us with many great tools and apps to practice mindfulness. But they are not the only solution. Despite of many great meditation and yoga apps it stays up to ourselfes to do the job and connect within and not just externally. In order to create a state of inner stillness, it might not just solve the situation to sing “Silent Night” – although music has a proven effect on our wellbeing and happiness and can release tension. Still, the answers will probably not be found in external factors only, if our mind is disturbed. “Come on, now get comfortable and cozy already!“, Grandpa Hoppenstedt is being exhorted in the German master comedy sketch for Christmas by Loriot (German: „Weihnachten bei Hoppenstedts“ – Video link) – while he is enjoying to reproduce an orchestra of loud brass instruments. For one person it is joy for the other it is the opposite of calm and peace. So many different interests and assumptions and so many expectations and perceptions during Christmas time. So how can we still get through the holiday season relaxed and calm?
Here are 10 mindfulness tips for Christmas & the holiday season
I hope this adds value and supports you to experience the holiday season fully present and happy.
Stopp multi-tasking – Do not do 10 things at once. If you feel stressed go slowly. End one thing and then start the next. You do not have to decorate the tree, tell a joke and cook dinner at once.
Make at least one person laugh every single day – It is a lovely feeling to make other people happy and give them joy. It will warm your heart. But you do not have to make everyone happy at once. You do not have to be everyone’s darling.
Give yourself a shot of positive energy and thought – e.g. by putting a number of walnuts in front of you and turning them into lucky nuts for yourself for the end of the year and next year’s wishes. Put for example 24 walnuts in front of you and make a wish for every single one of them when you crack it open. You can for example eat one nut a day or more if you like and every time you do so you think solely of your wish and dream. Use this time to consciously focus on just that. It does not matter how many walnuts you choose, this is not about quantity it is about quality and positivity of thoughts. Also it is a nice little practice to formulate and also visualize your dreams. It helps to include the visual sense in order to do so. If you crack a nut, it symbolically stands for opening the path to luck and happiness too. Also the taste helps to anchor your positive thoughts even deeper.
Experience you 5 senses fully – Focus on how you perceive things on all different senses: What do I taste, sense, hear, see and feel right now? Ask yourself this question several times a day.
Just breathe – Use the holiday season for conscious moments of calm and peace of mind. Find moments to do absolutely nothing and just breathe. Just close your eyes and focus on your breath. It might be hard and a bit awkward at first, but it gets easier. Take at least 3 conscious breaths (and build it up to 10) every day.
Find a Xmas song that makes you smile – The warming sounds, rhythm, the voice – all of this has a direct influence on our subconsciousness, our emotions and our brain. It does not have to be the old annoying Christmas song you cannot hear anymore, find a new one or try something else. If you prefer Michael Bublé to classics, go for it. It is your call. Music has a healing effect so use the music around you everywhere during Christmas for you.
Mindful eating and drinking – Explore the food and liquids you are having with full awareness and with each bite or sip. Imagine that you are having everything for the first time in your life. It will be an even greater pleasure!
Take time for yourself – A hot bath, a fresh ginger tea, some nice exercise, your favorite movie, a lovely conversation with a dear friend, a massage, a good book – do something for yourself every day.
Enjoy nature – Enjoy the clear winter air at a mindful walk. Feel the ground with every step you take and look around you.
Offtime-moments – find moments in which your digital devices are secondary and give them a little break too. Concentrate on the people that surround you in real life during Christmas time. Of course you do not have do completely abandon your phone, but maybe you can compromise on certain times to check your emails or the social web. Also the switch to flight mode is an easy option that gives you some offtime here and there. Also try to wish people you care about a merry Christmas personally, write them a message or even send them a Christmas card. This has become rare in modern digital times.
Finally – and that is also for sure not just a Christmas mindfulness tip – here is a little gratitude practice for your daily routine: Before you go to sleep each night, name one thing you are grateful for today. This lets you end your day with a positive thought and might make you sleep better. I hope this also lets you start positively energized and recharged into the new day and the new year! I wish you a mindful, merry Christmas and a relaxed and happy start into the new year!