When it comes to the holiday season, it can be very difficult to stay present and in the moment, as opposed to focusing on the “should”, “need tos”, “must do”. Although it is typically our intention to stay present, it can be hard when we feel pulled in many different directions. When this occurs, we might find ourselves missing out on wonderful opportunities to connect with those that we love, and being grateful for what we have. It might take a little extra effort to learn to be more present and mindful, but the benefits really do outweigh the effort.
The first step to a mindful holiday season is paying attention to what we are thinking about throughout the day. When we first wake up in the morning, are we instantly running down or to do list for the day, or are we spending a little time, just noticing and expressing gratitude for what we already have in our lives. If we are stuck on hold, or stuck in line at the store, do we tend to become frustrated, or do we try to find a way to appreciate the fact that for even a few moments, we can just be still. If possible, start your day by setting an intention for yourself. This doesn’t need to be a “goal” for the day, but something like setting the intention to remain calm, or setting the attention to really listen and hear, when others are speaking. If you reflect back on the intention at the end of the day, this can help to keep the momentum going.
Another way to stay present is by focusing on our five senses. When we do this, it requires us to be in the moment and really pay attention to ourselves. If we can notice what we hear, see, smell, taste and touch, our focus has to be in the present. If we take the opportunity to do this practice throughout the day, we will notice out awareness becomes heightened to what we are experiencing. If we start this practice with a few deep breaths, we will begin to feel more calm and able to manage the daily stressors we experience.
It is also important to recognize where our thoughts are going. Do we have a tendency to notice the negative or the positive? By staying present and mindful, we have a better opportunity to catch ourselves when we are slipping down the path of negativity. It is amazing how quickly our mood can change from good to bad if we allow ourselves to focus on the negative. We all know that if we focus our attention on a particular thing, we will have a much greater likelihood of seeing that. So, if we focus our attention on the negative, we are much more likely to see the negative. If we take the time to focus the positives in our lives, it will soon become a habit to look for those positive things. Just the simple act of taking a moment each day to acknowledge three good things about our day, can actually increase our overall happiness.
Try to practice a mindfulness day. Instead of letting the day fly by without noticing anything, take the time to notice everything. The practice of mindful eating is a great way to really get in touch with staying in the moment. Start the day by really paying attention to that first cup of coffee, or that morning oatmeal. How does it smell? How does it feel on the tongue, are their subtle flavors that we might have missed in the past? It is easy to increase our enjoyment of our meals if we take the time to pay attention instead of just getting through our meals as quickly as possible.
Another important step to take is to pay attention to how our own energy is impacting others as well as how other people energy is impacting us. Are we allowing others bad moods or negative energy to impact how we are feeling and responding? If so, what are the steps that we need to take change this. If someone seems short tempered, what can we do to make sure that doesn’t rub off on us? How can we go the extra mile to not only keep our own mood in check, but maybe add a little something to the positive mood of those around us?
Lastly, practice self-compassion. It is not always easy to make positive changes in our lives. If we have spent the majority of our lives acting, responding, thinking and behaving in a particular way, it might take a while, for us to create the new habit of being mindful and present. What are the things we can do to acknowledge ourselves and treat ourselves well? Making sure that we get enough rest, healthy food, plenty of water and exercise are all wonderful ways to treat ourselves with self-compassion. It is important to remember that even a small step in a positive direction, is one step closer to achieving our goals.