Christmas holidays are associated with spending time with loved ones, a table full of your favourite foods, gifts under a decorated Christmas tree and a loving atmosphere. In a way, rightly so, because it is a touching and uplifting vision. However, it is worth asking whether our ideas about these days come from our own experiences or maybe from holiday movies and Instagram photos? How to deal with an idealized vision of Christmas and stay mindful during this time?
The most important concept to work on during this period is acceptance. Accepting that life is different from what is shown in tv commercials or that a gift you give to someone won’t be met with the euphoria you hoped for. It also involves letting go of your expectations and ideas about the perfect holidays. It will be freeing and create more space for you for any mishaps or deviations from the norm, which are, as we well know, inevitable.
It also involves working on the feeling of gratitude. When you let go of your ideas and expectations, you will find that there are things you can appreciate and enjoy in the now. Take a moment during the day to direct your thoughts to gratitude. You can even make a list of the things you are thankful for and write things down daily. These can be very minor points, such as warming your hands with a cup of tea when you get home or wearing comfortable clothes. The most important thing is to notice such situations and focus your attention on them. Thanks to this small habit, you will accumulate positive feelings in you, and the negative ones will start to lose their importance.
This year’s holidays pose an even greater challenge to us, because they will most likely not allow us to spend this time like we are used to. Closed shops, no Christmas markets and, above all, meeting in a smaller groups for security reasons. Here again is an issue of accepting such a state of things – instead of fighting and opposing to it, we suggest making peace with the fact that in 2020 Christmas will be different. For this one year, we all have to make some compromises, let go of some aspects and adapt to a different reality. It may help to think that tradition does not change forever and that we may never have to experience such dilemmas again. It is also worth remembering that with the lack of acceptance and anger, we will not change anything except our own energy and that of our loved ones – but we can do a lot by focusing on the good sides and creating a positive atmosphere together.
Holidays are often difficult, but this year the circumstances are so special that it seems almost impossible to experience them peacefully. However, we have some tips that can help you not only survive this time, but also enjoy it and get the best out of it.
Despite the temptation to spend most of your time eating all that Christmas food or burying yourself under a blanket, it is worth remembering to stay physically active. This is the perfect time for your favourite meditation or yoga practice, which will allow you to listen to your body and needs, and reduce tension and stress. Even a few minutes of such exercises will result in increased awareness and stimulation of the body to action. Perhaps your practice will be even more beneficial during this time, than it is daily? We do these practices only for ourselves and because of the way they uplift us, so we shouldn’t skip them on days that may require more of this energy and positive outlook.
All breathing techniques focus on the fact that breathing is the source of our health and can significantly affect our well-being. The key to doing breathing exercises is conscious breathing, in which we feel the air flowing in and out, and the body movements that go with it. Controlled breathing has been shown to increase awareness and alertness, reduce stress, and improve our immunity. Some of the techniques are advanced and should be performed under the supervision of a professional. That is why we present to you two activities that you can do yourself at home:
First of all, you need to get to know your breathing pattern, which will later help you recognize the moment of stress and allow you to react appropriately. The quickest way to make diagnosis is a simple exercise in which one hand is placed on the lower abdomen and the other on the chest. If you are breathing correctly, the hand touching your lower abdomen should make more movements than the other hand. If you find that your belly does not move when you breathe, try to gently change it. Shallow breathing, in which only the chest is involved, is characteristic of moments of anxiety and fear. Being aware of the proper work of the body while breathing is especially helpful in stressful conditions, because you can correct them at any time, without even leaving the festive table. The second exercise that is worth doing is a simple relaxation technique. You can do it while sitting, standing or lying down, because awareness and response to body signals are most important. Relax your arms and take long, deep breaths through your nose. Your abdomen should expand significantly and your chest should move slightly. Exhale through your mouth, making sure your jaw remains relaxed. How much time you devote to mindful breathing at any given time is up to you – you can finish the exercise when you feel better, usually in a few minutes.
- Eat mindfully.
It cannot be denied that in our culture most of the traditions are associated with eating and spending time at the table. Of course, this has its drawbacks, but it is often difficult to find other situations in which a family could spend so much time together, talking and enjoying each other’s company. But what if a conflict arises during these conversations or someone is persistently trying to throw us off balance? It turns out that then the dishes and drinks on the table can be a rescue for us. When you find yourself in a similar stressful situation, start by trying to ground yourself, focusing on all the physical sensations you are feeling right now. You can further focus on them by eating or drinking something. Then explore the characteristics of what you are just tasking. How exactly does it taste? Is it at your body temperature, higher or lower? What is the texture, or does it scratch your tongue? When you slow down and focus on your body again, you can try to figure out where your discomfort or anxiety has gone into your body. Then it will be much easier for you to distance yourself from it or overcome it.
- Be creative.
The fact that you cannot spend time with all your loved ones at once can cause sadness or a feeling of helplessness. It is worth remembering, however, that skipping dinner together does not eliminate the rest of the Christmas traditions, which can also be done remotely. Sharing gifts can be a beautiful opportunity to create something special for your loved one. First, think about the person you plan to gift – what are they like, what do they enjoy, what happened to them this year. Based on this, you can create individual Christmas wishes of the highest value, because they are filled with care and attention. If you add a personally created Christmas card to the gift and write your wishes on it, you will for sure bring joy to your relatives or friends. Or maybe grandma’s gingerbread cookies will be the perfect gift for family members? Or Christmas decorations made from things found in the house or hand-painted flower pots? Handmade gifts in the spirit of less-waste are definitely something we will encourage you to do.
- Stay grateful.
Finally, we come back to something we mentioned earlier, which is cultivating the feeling of gratitude. This seems especially important to us on days that may or may not be full of tension. Trying to switch to thinking about the positive aspects and appreciating the details may not work right away, if this is not something we are used to. But focusing on what is good and directing your energy there will allow these positive thoughts to gain more and more power. If you don’t know how to get started, or if you think there’s absolutely nothing worth appreciating happening, we’ve left a sample gratitude list below that can serve as an example at the start of your journey.
I’m warm. I made it to work on time. A colleague at work made me a cup of coffee. I found time for my morning yoga. A neighbour greeted me with a smile. I am healthy. I found the motivation to make a gratitude list.
As you can see, these are really small everyday things. What’s the most important in this practice is to stop conditioning your happiness based on events or achievements, because happiness is also hidden in small things that you just need to learn to notice.
And this Christmas, we wish you a time full of love, compassion and mindfulness, and a life full of fulfillment, contentment and peace.