As much as we try to deny it, the Christmas period can be as challenging as it is festive and joyful. The tradition of coming together as families and friends has a way of bringing our emotional wellbeing into focus, amplifying and intensifying both a sense of togetherness and loneliness.
Whatever the festive season brings up for you this year, mindfulness expert and author, Neil Seligman, has shared five mindful tips to help you navigate the coming weeks with acceptance, kindness, and awareness.
We feel gratitude for the people around and loss for those no longer with us. We take stock of the year past, reflecting on failures and celebrating successes. With a little more time and less distraction, we sit down with others, or find time alone.
Start with Optimism
If the festive season brings a sense of dread remember that optimism is a learnable skill. Notice the mind’s tendency to dwell and catastrophise, and experiment by redirecting yourself to a more positive outlook by giving yourself the challenge of visualising how your next challenging situation might work out well and with least friction. Remember that your track record for getting through tough days is 100% so far. You will also get through this one and the act of visualising an easeful path forward can take you into a resourceful and creative mindset.
Eat With Awareness
The Christmas period sees us thrown together with relatives and in-laws, favourite Aunts & Uncles, and sometimes tricky siblings: not always a recipe for merriment and joy! If that sounds familiar, remember that you can call on your mindful eating practices to help you keep calm and jolly even over a fraught meal.
When feeling irritation or disturbance with another person, first ground yourself by coming back to the physical sensations of eating and drinking. Scan for texture, taste, and temperature. As you slow things down, inhale and feel where in the body you sense the disquiet. Now breathe again, and choose your next move.
Hug it Out!
You don’t need to be a scientist to know that hugging is good for the mind, body, and soul. As a kind act of mutually-desired physical connection, a hug is protective and health-giving. This universal ritual practiced by humans to greet, celebrate, console and cherish is beautifully rich in its social and physical benefits.
When we hug another, we bring our hearts together physically. We feel the living life of the heart beating in the body. We feel connected, alive, and present. This is the very definition of a mindfulness practice. At a time that can frequently be challenging, awkward, and unsettling, this simple act of togetherness offers a much-needed experience of comfort and safety. Whether you are surrounded by friends or strangers this Christmas make space for a mindful hug.
Take Time To Check-in and Chill-Out
Remember you have full permission to take care of yourself, even amongst all the busyness of the season. This is a recipe for a mindful moment away from all the wrapping and relatives. It is a full pause, away from everything, without any technology or distraction. Let it be one human being, one drink and some time and space alone to simply breathe and be.
Do whatever is needed in order to feel comfortable disconnecting from technology for the length of your break. Set a timer for 10 minutes if it will allow you to be more relaxed.
Prepare your favourite drink and take it to a restful spot. It could be the sofa, a favourite chair, or even upstairs in your bedroom (hiding from the in-laws!). Get really comfortable; this is not a meditation posture so curl up, pull a blanket over if you like, and relax.
Hold the mug close and breathe. Deeply inhale.
Let go completely and exhale. Sink into your seat. Sink into the peacefulness of this moment. Sink into the now.
Allow yourself to land fully in the freedom of these moments dedicated to noticing what is arising within.
Take a sip. Breathe.
How do you feel?
Take another sip. Breathe.
What do you notice in your body?
What thoughts are bubbling up in your mind?
Let all of it be just as it is, and breathe. Deep, open, calming breaths.
Drink. Contemplate. Be.
Whatever this Christmas means to you, there is always something to be grateful for. William James, the Father of American Psychology once wrote: The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another. So this Christmas, if you can, choose the grateful thought over the anxious thought. Notice that whatever your situation you can meet it with kindness: compassion to yourself and kindness to others. And remember, it is a strength to reach out in connection both to offer and to ask, for help.