How to be Mindful During the Holidays


Goodbye November. I’ve got a month of mindfulness ahead of me and I’m ready to begin. The holidays are a wonderful time but they can also be filled with excess and expectation. We come together as friends and families but with that comes the pressure to provide meals, gifts and even our time–which seems like the easiest thing to give, but when you have dozens of people to touch in a short period, this can be a challenge. And then there’s the excess. It’s part our culture to celebrate with food but with so many celebrations in such a short time, the calorie counts soar, causing every gym and health club to brace for (and revel in) the crowd of people who hit the door January 2nd, still reeling from 6 weeks of over-indulgence.

But does it always have to be this way? It seems like everywhere I turn there are angry people voicing their concern that the local holiday parade is called just that in order to accommodate people of all faiths and beliefs. There are family members at odds because they can’t agree on plans. There are people running themselves ragged, giving up their personal time to exercise or reflect, just to do more of the required holiday stuff.

This time of year is not likely to change but it doesn’t mean we can’t change the way we react to it ourselves. As we turn the corner of the holiday season and say goodbye to Thanksgiving until next year, there are things we can do to strengthen our souls and spirits in the next month, instead of overwhelming or ignoring them.

 1. Don’t put all of your personal routines on hold. 

With vacation days, school breaks, travel and no shortage of things to get done, it’s tempting to disregard the routines that serve us personally, like taking a moment to meditate or write, hit the gym or read a book. This is a time where we want to give so much of ourselves to others–and the best way to do that is by first, making sure

2. Be grateful. 

There are more people, experiences and things in your life to be grateful for than you can count. So try. Create a list of all of the things to be grateful for and reflect on them throughout the month.

3. See more.

Experience the food, the lights, the music and the space around you with new eyes. These things are here and then they are gone. Appreciate their splendor.

4. Forgive. 

Give yourself a gift this season. Forgiveness is one a powerful way to rejuvenate the spirit. Forgiveness does not mean whatever happened will be forgotten but it does mean that you are releasing the negative feelings surrounding it and deciding to not let it control you any longer. When you do this, you make room for new and wonderful experiences in your life.

5. Practice empathy. 

When you encounter someone who steps in front of you in line, snaps at you at work, cuts you off on the road, remember that they have their own stresses. You do not know their story. You do not know their struggles. Put yourself in their shoes and treat them the way you would want to be treated.

6. Drink water. Sleep.

This seems simple, but so many people underestimate how much water they actually consume and the quality of sleep they actually get (let alone the length). It’s proven that we function better when properly hydrated and rested so just make this a must!

7. Trade judgement for kindness. 

The holidays seem to bring out the best in some and the worst in others. Use this time to feel warmth and kindness towards others instead of casting judgment.

8. Let go of expectations. 

This is a time of year that is fraught with expectations that just can’t reasonably be fulfilled. Instead of committing to the way you think things should be, stay present and ground and roll with the punches (this is by far my hardest rule to abide by).

9. Love yourself.

Stop looking at your flaws and missteps and appreciate everything that makes you you.

10. “Smile, breathe and go slowly.” -Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Buddhist monk

The Freedom that Comes from Forgiveness forgive is to set a prisoner free and to discover that the prisoner was you. -Lewis B. Smedes

I was having a great day. I mean, a really great day. Then it hit me. The memory of what “that person” did to me and suddenly, out of nowhere I was angry. I thought that I had “moved on” from that part of my life, but I realize now that I moved ahead while carrying the resentment and bitterness of the things that had happened with me.

When an injustice happens, we want to be vindicated. We carry the burden of the hurt because on the surface, forgiving can feel like letting the other person off the hook or excusing their behavior and actions. So we wrap the pain and the anger associated with the events around us like a blanket.

If I forgave, I wouldn’t have anything to hold on to–and we all want the things we’ve done in our lives to count, to not be a waste.  Then I came across something I wrote in an old blog post: “If you want to change, change.” I read that forgiveness is a choice; it’s a gift you give yourself. It does not come naturally like the process of grief, it’s one that you have to actively commit to see through.

Forgiveness calls for a change of heart and thinking. It is not a feeling–it’s a decision you make to do the right thing.  Forgiveness is hard because it means letting go of the emotional attachments we’ve made to parts of our past. It is a practice that requires you to let go and learn . Dr Wayne W. Dyer writes “When you give up interfering, and opt instead to stream like water–gently, softly and unobtrusively–you become forgiveness itself.”

Andrea Brandt, Ph.D. describes forgiveness as “the capping off of your emotional turmoil. [It] puts the final seal on what happened that hurt you. You will still remember what happened, but you will no longer be bound by it. Having worked through the feelings and learned what you need to do to strengthen your boundaries or get your needs met, you are better able to take care of yourself in the future.”

Forgiveness is not about forgetting, it’s about moving on. Forgiveness is not about giving it, it’s about choosing happiness over anger and learning that anger and resentment are a choice as is choosing not to indulge in them. Forgiveness is not about pretending that nothing happened, it’s about the commitment to stop playing the pain over and over again in your mind.  Forgiveness is about forgiving yourself for putting you in a bad situation in the first place. Forgiveness is freedom.

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