How to Cultivate Mindfulness and Gratitude During the Holidays
I love The Golden Girls. I have watched them pretty much every night for the last fifteen years. The only exception is November through December when they are off the air (more to come on that below). I was watching the show earlier this week when I noticed a network commercial for a countdown to the holidays. First, I was annoyed because this means that The Golden Girls gets bumped for holiday-themed movies until the first of the year (ugh).
Off Into a Tailspin
What happened next is all too familiar to many of us. I ended up thinking about all of the things I need to do with the holidays “right around the corner.”
“What was I going to get everyone?”
“Will I be hosting Thanksgiving?”
“I wonder if we’ll be able to see The Nutcracker this year?”
“What will I do with the kids while they are on Christmas break?”
And, before I knew it, my tailspin of thoughts about all of the stuff to do caused me to miss the whole Golden Girls episode where Sophia and Blanche both date Fidel Santiago.
I had missed something I was looking forward to because I was anticipating all of the stuff that was to come in the future.
Thoughts ≠ Actions
It occurred to me that this is exactly what happens during the holidays themselves. Data shows that most of us look forward to the holidays. Specifically, we look forward to spending time with family and friends. But, the same research shows that we actually spend our time during the holidays doing things we hate. In an attempt to do and be everything, we miss opportunities to do the very things we are looking forward to.
Stop the Madness
In the meantime, there is something you can start doing right now to help. Become more mindful and aware of your thoughts of the approaching season. The first step in changing a behavior is awareness.
It happened to me just the other night: I let my thoughts take over, and before I knew it, I was wide awake and coming up with a to do list of items for December. I realized the effect it was having not only on my thoughts, but my body as well. My shoulders were creeping up toward my ears. My jaws were clenched. I was scrunching up my face (and I had just put on all of this anti-aging cream!). The good news is – I recognized what I was doing – and I stopped it. I took a few deep breaths and reminded myself of the intentions I’ve set for my family’s holiday season: to enjoy our friends and family, to gift with purpose and intention, to connect with the spiritual aspect of the season through community, and to maintain commitments to a healthy routine.
So, I challenge you to become more mindful and aware. When you see a holiday commercial and you have feelings of warmth and excitement for the upcoming season – take notice. Explore more about where those thoughts and feelings come from. Or, when you’re in a store and start having heart palpitations when you walk past the holiday decorations – notice that, too. Both of these experiences are your subconscious trying to tell you something.
Envision What You Want the Holidays to Feel Like
What would a joyful holiday season look like for you? Have you ever stopped and asked yourself? I invite you to think about this now. Paint a picture in your head, or even better, write it down. Now that you have the tools to be more aware and mindful of your feelings and thoughts about the holiday season, you can create a vision for what you actually want it to feel like…and can take action on that!
It can be helpful to ask other members of your family what a joyful holiday season looks like for them as well. Once you’ve all had a chance to share, schedule activities and experiences that align with this vision so you can be sure it occurs. Check in with each other over the course of the season as a reminder to stay mindful and aware of how you are spending your time – and make sure it fits within that vision of joy you all shared.
Practice Gratitude to Unlock the Fullness of the Holidays
Let’s face it, this holiday season might not look like holiday seasons in years past. Events and gatherings we’ve attended and look forward to might not happen due to our global pandemic and restrictions related to it. Traveling to see loved ones might not be feasible for you and your family. This can be hard to process, and it can affect your ability to experience joy throughout the season. This is where gratitude comes in.
As Melody Beattie says,“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more.” You can embrace gratitude and find joy even in what can be a difficult season. One thing my family and I started doing at Thanksgiving one year was sharing one thing we were grateful for while at the dinner table. My kids latched on to the practice, and we started sharing one thing we are grateful for every evening at dinner time. Don’t have a sit-down dinner every night? Start a gratitude jar and commit to writing down one thing you’re grateful for and putting it in the jar every day. Decide to sit down with loved ones and share the notes in the jar each week to keep gratitude – and joy – top of mind.
Cultivating mindfulness and gratitude is a step you can take this season to realize the joy that the holidays, and life, can bring – even in the toughest of times.
Meet Bridgette Binford
Bridgette is a Noonday Collection Ambassador, a Health Coach, a wife, and a mother of two (plus two dogs) who has witness firsthand how having something you're passionate about and living life with intention contributes to your health, happiness, and wellbeing. As an Ambassador, Bridgette hopes to inspire others to live a life with intention so that the world can be a happier, healthier, more positive place to live!