A Mindfully Merry Holiday Season!
Movie MagicIn ‘Home Alone,’ Kevin learned the importance of good neighbors and that no matter how much fun material things can seem at first, nothing truly matters other than a sense of family and belonging. In ‘The Grinch,’ we are shown that even though the Who’s of Whoville get wrapped up in consumerism, it all comes down to community and who you are spending the holidays with. This sentiment makes the Grinch’s heart grow three times and realize that Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store, but perhaps that it means just a little bit more. The Conductor in the ‘Polar Express’ brings it home by saying, “Sometimes seeing is believing, and sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.” In ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’, George realizes that practicing gratitude for what he has and the connections he has made really does give us a wonderful life and shows us that one person can impact so many others. You get the point – the intangible things in life usually bring us the most joy, which rings especially true during the holidays.
did materialism steal the holidays?So why is it that we feel like we have to give in to buying mass amounts of material things to make the people we love happy? We are bombarded with Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, the ease of express ordering on Amazon with just a click, and dazzled by advertisements displaying the newest and shiniest gadgets – ones that give us a quick dopamine hit until it loses its shine. We are on to the next new thing. I think we have lost the true meaning of this time of year. We’ve let materialism steal the holidays.
Rethinking our valuesAlthough our society puts so much value on consumption, the idea of a healthy planet isn’t possible unless we slow down and reprioritize our values and our impact as consumers. We can focus on a mindful holiday season and build our connections with ourselves, others, and the environment. When we do this, we allow more time for peace, joy, family, friends, experiences, giving – the possibilities are endless. We know that the current value of materialism and the fast-paced holiday season is detrimental to our environment. In last year’s episode, ‘I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas‘; I talked about the environmental impact of the holidays and ways you can switch it up to be more sustainable. But, this year, I want to talk about the gift of a mindfully merry holiday season. One that will increase your joy, help you align with your values, strengthen connections, and reduce your impact on the environment.
Mindfully merryAs a reminder, Mindfulness is “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.” It is a practice you can do every day to reduce stress and anxiety, improve relationships, reduce rumination and focus on the present moment’s gifts.
Holiday mindfulnessFor the holidays, in particular, mindfulness helps us realize our values, slow down so we don’t make impulse purchases or purchases that don’t align with our values and live in a way that relieves guilt and stress for ourselves and the environment. One of the biggest hurdles to sustainability during the holidays is overconsumption, lack of planning, and overwhelm. Think of it this way – when you are distracted, overwhelmed, or in a hurry, do you make the best decisions? I’d bet not. And the added pressures from society and extensive marketing don’t help. Making sound decisions requires time and attention – which only happens when you slow down. You’re less likely to overbuy or overspend on things that don’t truly serve you or the people around you and more likely to see the beauty in what you already have or to invest in higher quality items that will last you (or the people you are buying them for) longer. So what is the secret for tapping into a mindfully merry holiday season?
Tune in to what mattersThe first step is to follow the cues of movie magic and tune into what truly matters to you. Obviously, in the movies, the main character goes through a point where their character is tested – a trial or tribulation of sorts. But it doesn’t have to be this way in your life. Starting today, you can choose to focus on what gives you meaning or fills your cup and let go of what brings you stress or unhappiness. Try not to get swept up in all of the things we are told we should do to enjoy the holidays that might trigger you. Are you usually worried about finding the perfect gift? Increased expenses got you stressed? Maybe you are concerned about spending time with your family, or the opposite – feeling lonely that you can’t. Many holiday stressors come from unmet expectations of what the holidays should look like instead of appreciating them for what they are and finding the good. This is where mindfulness can come in and help you accept your thoughts and feelings for what they are and focus on the present – what is true. But first, ask yourself these questions to help you reconnect with your values so you can stay committed to them throughout the holiday season.
Who do you value spending time with during the holidays? Is it your immediate or extended family? Your chosen family? Your Co-workers? Your Neighbors? Maybe even Yourself?
Is it more critical for you to spend all of your money on gifts or show your loved ones you care about them regardless of whether there is a present involved?
Do you have sustainability on your wishlist or single-use items that only bring temporary happiness on your wishlist?
Is it important for you to volunteer or give back to your community, schools, or those in need?
What moments brought you meaning and joy in the previous years? Which ones didn’t? What can you learn from that?
Now that you have a better sense of your values and what brings you peace and joy, the second step is to practice being present. Being present means that you give yourself wholly to what you are doing.
If you are in a conversation with someone – practice active listening or listening to understand the complete message being said to you – not waiting for your moment to rebuttal or have a hidden agenda.
Practice gratitude every day if you aren’t already. The holidays are the perfect time to start appreciating everything in your life and finding joy in the small moments. Here are some small moments that I express gratitude for – the crisp weather in my lungs reminding me that I am alive, my real Christmas tree that keeps me in tune with the bounty of nature, and the sound of my favorite holiday music that evokes happy memories with my family. At the beginning of each day, try naming three things you are grateful for, and get as detailed as possible to reap the benefits. Bonus points if you share your gratitude with others as the holidays are a time to spread feelings of goodwill!
connect to your senses
Another way to be present is to connect to your senses. Like I mentioned, pay attention to the cold air on your face or even the sparkle of the snow if you’re lucky to get it. You can relish in the smell of fresh-baked cookies, pay attention to how they look, taste, and feel. This also means listening to and honoring your body – if you are doing too much, your body will tell you.
And if I have to say it, take multitasking off of your to-do list. You can’t be present in a moment if you’re doing more than one thing at once. Multi-tasking is just task switching – which is a lot of work for our brains. Putting an end to multi-tasking could mean putting your phone down or saving the cooking and cleaning for when you’re not with others. And even thinking about your to-do list will take you away from the joy of the present moment. You may need to stop periodically and take a few full breaths to get back to the present moment, but mindfulness is a practice, so it will take some time to get used to.
Doing these things will help you to appreciate the gift of presence, not presents.
Create new traditionsAnd my last secret weapon to help you to be mindfully merry is to create new traditions. Most of what we do now is rooted in tradition and conditioning. You can break your current cycles and connect deeper while still keeping things festive and fun by creating new traditions. Are there traditions that you have that lead to overconsumption, insecurity, or waste? Reinvent them or develop new habits to take their place.
ExamplesFor instance, instead of buying impractical gag gifts for games like white elephant, you could do a book exchange or gift experiences or memberships instead – trust me, those are the gifts that keep on giving. Instead of buying stocking stuffers, you could challenge yourself to plan ahead and make a gift or get an activity everyone can participate in, like a puzzle. Maybe instead of a Christmas shopping outing, you take that walk in nature instead. Make it a new tradition to give back – whether that be through your time, gratitude, or support. A great way to do this is to participate in Giving Tuesday every year, which falls on November 30th. Instead of cooking a big meal for yourself, maybe you host a potluck and ask friends and family to bring dishes that represent their family’s traditions and cultural heritage and ask everyone to bring something to take leftovers in so there isn’t as much waste!
remember to be mindfulAnd while you’re enjoying these new traditions, you can practice being mindful! Doing these things is guaranteed to bring you more joy in life, strengthen your connection with yourself and others, lessen your negative impact on the environment, and increase your positive impact on other people’s lives.
Something to grow onFor this week’s something to grow on, I’ll leave you with the reminder that the holidays aren’t about acquiring new gifts but appreciating the gifts life and this earth have given us. Thanks for joining me, and happy Holidays from Hometown: Earth.
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