Your Aunt Sarah is ranting about the dangers of heating up ready meals in the microwave. Your three year old has just spilled a pricey bottle of port from Waitrose all over the carpet. Your ex keeps sending you cryptic texts and your mother’s gift still hasn’t come in the post.
Pause and Breathe.
The Christmas period is filled with triggers and it isn’t surprising how many people find this time of year a bit stressful and challenging. Taking a short mindful pause when things get overwhelming can be the difference between a reaction that you regret and a more measured response.
Take a moment to stand and feel your body. Notice the sensations of your feet on the floor, of your clothing on your skin. You aren’t setting out to change the way you’re feeling. You’re just making space to connect with it. Allow yourself to drop the story about whatever is driving you mad, even if only for a few seconds, and bring your attention to your breath and body. When thoughts or stories return, just acknowledge them, and come back to the experience of the body standing and breathing.
A pause isn’t a solution to all of life’s ills but sometimes it can feel like a much needed oasis. The hard part is choosing to do it.
2. Take advantage of the great outdoors.
The period between Christmas and New Year is a strange time warp. The synergy of crap television, unlimited mince pies, and unscheduled open time can swallow up whole days that we promised ourselves we would spend getting stuff done.
Go outside and break the sink hole of cabin fever. Even on a grey day, there is something to be gained from seeing the pigeons lined up on the railing by the river or a dark tree against a white sky. Allow yourself to be absorbed by the light. Breathe. Squelch through mud. Stop on occasion to look closely at something that catches your eye.
Most people report positive shifts in their mood as a result of spending time in nature. Your television will still be there when you return.
3. Drink hot beverages with mindfulness.
We all need gentle reminders to come back to the moment… why not choose coffee and tea? This season you will be sitting down with family and friends, catching up, eating food like it’s going out of style… and most likely drinking something soothing in a mug.
One of the ways we can ground ourselves in the present moment is through bringing our awareness to the raw sensory experience that is unfolding: sound, taste, smell, touch, and sight.
So can you set an intention this season to come back and ‘be here’ every time someone says, ‘fancy a cuppa?’ You don’t have to tell anyone that you’re tuning in to the warmth of the cup in your hands or the froth dissolving on your tongue… and you may just notice that the quality of the attention you give your friends and your family is vastly improved.
4. Experiment with scheduling offline time.
You are well aware that being glued to your phone 24/7 isn’t the best idea. It’s really difficult when work is full on and you’ve got to get things done. There just isn’t time.
But, over the festive season there may be some space for experimentation. Can you cut out Facebook and Instagram for an entire day? Could you turn your phone off and keep it in your pocket or your bag when you’re out for a meal with a friend? What do you learn in the process? What’s your experience of going offline? Play around and establish some new habits that work for you.
5. Practice kindness and generosity.
All the emphasis on gift giving at this time of year is supposed to bring up a sense of generosity. We’re remembering loved ones and showing them that we care… Right? Well, it’s a lovely thought. In practice, though, shopping for presents often makes the heart tighten.
This season why not practice random acts of kindness and generosity that have nothing to do with credit cards and bulging shopping bags. Feel free to include yourself in the mix. Smile at strangers in the street. Say good morning. Offer to open doors for mothers with large prams trying to squeeze into small cafes. Can you be generous with your time and patience when a family member who is going through a difficult time dominates the conversation?
Studies show that people who practice generosity feel happier and more at ease. Give it a go. Be creative.