The holidays are coming, and it’s easy to slip into the trap of rushing about so much you forget to enjoy the moment. There are gifts to be bought, pictures to be taken, outfits to be found, houses to be cleaned, and food to be cooked, not to mention the Christmas cards I write and fail to mail every year. It’s easy to forget the purpose of the holidays—spending time with family. Being present when they are there.
Mindfulness activities vary greatly depending on what you’re trying to achieve, but these are a few that help me experience a day during this season without getting lost in the hustle and bustle.
1. Silence It seems straightforward enough, but being in mindful in silence isn’t as easy as it might seem. My mind tends to wander, so for me, writing in silence is the way to stay mindful, and connected to what I’m doing. Sometimes reading to my child works, too! A good book can transport you to another world, but reading aloud to a young child can keep you grounded in the here and now. For many people, mindfulness is just about bringing themselves back to the present over and over, so reading a book with a child and asking questions can keep your mind from straying. How to do it during the holidays? Read a book with your family before bed. I recommend The Night Before Christmas, but you could choose a lengthier book like A Christmas Carol and read chapter by chapter if your children are older.
2. Conversation We spend so much time on “social” media that sometimes we forget how to have dialogue between two people in real life. As I grew up, the often-cited catch phrase was “active listening,” where you listen, ask questions, repeat back what was said in a different way to ensure that you understood it, and use nonverbal cues to show your interest. By actively listening, you are remaining present in the conversation. How do you fit it into the hustle and bustle? Try talking about your day over the dinner table.
3. Getting Into Nature I’m a city girl—and agoraphobic. I don’t often actively go out of my way to find natural spots outside my home. But on those occasions I do, I am always amazed at how often I’m completely present in the moment—because nature is beautiful, and experiencing it fully is an instinctive impulse. How will you accomplish this during Christmas season? If you pick a real Christmas tree, make it an experience. Look at all of the trees available, notice things about them. If you don’t get a real tree, or don’t celebrate Christmas, plan to take a nice walk during lunch time.
4. Board Games Hear me out! Most people think of mindfulness and think of meditation or yoga; but being present in the moment is a true goal of mindfulness, and not many things make you pay attention as much as an engaging board game. Some family favorites are Haunted House on a Hill, Sorry, and Battleship. Leave the phones in the other room and get ready for some present tense fun. Where will you find time to do this? My best board games take two hours max. We implemented “Family Fun Fridays,” where we do a different activity, but often I can swap in a board game for some other activity. Just can’t make time? Consider a different kind of game for the holiday, like a Yankee Swap. Nothing keeps you in the present like the thought of someone stealing your hard-won gift.
5. Using Your Senses This one doesn’t always work for me—I get distracted too easily, and my brain can be a tornado; but I try, because using your five senses can help you remain present in the moment when done correctly, and this one can be done pretty much anywhere. Find five things you can see. Look around, and describe each thing to yourself as you observe it. four things you can touch. The book under your fingers, the floor under your feet. Listen to three things you can hear. Take a deep breath and discover two things you can smell, and finally, one thing you can taste, whether it’s something you’re thinking about tasting or simply the taste in your mouth.
As with any skill, practice makes perfect, so don’t be surprised if the first time you pull out a board game you find yourself checking your phone, daydreaming, or wondering what time you have to get dinner ready. But keep at it. The benefits of mindfulness are many, and well worth the effort.
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