Do you ever feel like every holiday is the same? You see the same people, you do the same things, you eat the same food, and watch the same programs. The day, or week can just seem so scheduled and predictable. For some, this is part of what makes the holidays so enjoyable and so special; the traditions, and the excuse to gather with those we hold dearest. For others however, the repetition can result in slipping into autopilot, and failing to attend to the moment. Here are two useful tips to help you stay present and get the most out of your holiday season. It comes around but once a year after all.
AWARENESS. Mindfulness is all about bringing awareness to your present moment experiences without judgment. I often hear clients express their desire to “get the holidays over with,” and that they have to tolerate them, their families, their in-laws, all of it. Instead of tolerating and suppressing, we suggest attending. When you feel irritated, hurt, bored, or bothered, don’t sweep it under the rug just because “it’s Christmas.” Notice it. Acknowledge it. Tell yourself, “I am angry right now because mom is doing that thing where she praises everyone in the room but me,” for example. We are absolutely not suggesting you ruin anyone’s holiday by initiating a massive confrontation, nor are we even suggesting a private confrontation at a later, more appropriate time, although this could be beneficial in some situations. For those who are convinced their situation is hopeless, and that “mom will never change” so to speak, simply acknowledging and identifying their emotions is far healthier than amalgamating all of their negative feelings into one big sentiment of loathing for the holidays. The take-home message here: don’t just say “bah humbug.” Tell it like it is. Notice what’s truly bothering you, feel it, experience it, and then let it go. This will reduce your anxiety and actually increase your chances of enjoyment.
GRATITUDE. Whatever your reasons may be, if you don’t care for the holidays, focus on something you do care for. Going through the motions of the day on autopilot keeps us from appreciating the blessings that truly are all around us. That was not meant to sound like a corny existential cliche, but is rather, the absolute truth about the holidays, and life in general, as per the Mindfulness tradition. Instead of simply going through the motions, try attending to the sensory details of everything your holiday brings with loving gratitude; the taste of your food, the scents, the sight of your family and loved ones and the comfort they can bring. As long as your heart is beating, there is always something to be grateful for. If the holidays bring you malaise and discomfort, turn your attention to something you are grateful for. Is it nan’s stuffing? Your trusty Honda Civic? Your health? Perhaps it’s the mere fact that you have a nice home and a pleasant life to return to after the holiday madness has passed. Regardless of what may be bringing you down during your holiday celebration, solace and joy can always be accomplished by focusing on our blessings with appreciation and gratitude. Holiday indifference should never give way to what’s most important.
Wishing you all a happy, healthy holiday, and all the very best in the New Year…