Bring mindfulness to the holidays

Learn how to practice mindfulness through holiday traditions.

A holiday candle.
Photo: Pexels/Bastian Riccardi.

Holidays and traditions can be stressful. Decorating, preparing traditional foods, participating in events, volunteering, shopping, navigating relationships and maintaining daily life can all become overwhelming. The volume of activities may leave us feeling disconnected from the joy of the season. Instead of approaching traditions as a to-do list, consider which traditions evoke joy, peace, contentment, and connection. Focusing on meaningful and favorite traditions can set the stage for a mindful holiday season.

Practicing being aware and noticing is called mindfulness. Mindfulness uses a nonjudgmental, awareness of experiences that can help put life into perspective. Instead of going through the motions of an activity, a mindful approach focuses our attention on the activity at hand. When we consistently practice mindful awareness and actively seek opportunities for positivity, overall wellbeing is positively impacted. Research focused on mindful eating and mindful listening shows that a mindful approach can lead to greater enjoyment of the activity. Infusing mindfulness into some of your favorite traditions can enhance the experience.

Holiday traditions provide many opportunities to practice mindfulness. Traditions like lighting candles, reflecting on gratitude, reading a favorite book, or counting down to a special date can be approached mindfully. Consider which of your traditions might pair well with a mindful approach, without adding unnecessary stress. Some of the simplest traditions can become marvelous memories. Many celebrations and traditions include candles. If the business of the season has taken over, it would be easy to quickly light the candle and go on with the day. However, the experience provides a great opportunity to practice mindfulness.

  • Slow down and allow yourself to connect fully to the moment. Take a break from distractions and give yourself permission to perform one task at a time.
  • Focus your attention on the sensory experience. Notice the characteristics of the candle, how it looks, feels, and smells. Notice the warmth from the flame. Notice how you feel looking at the candle and participating in this celebration. The senses provide valuable connection to the present moment that can be used in a variety of activities.
  • Take time to stay in the moment without rushing to the next activity. Focusing attention on the experience can help commit it to memory. Time moves quickly enough on its own; we can give ourselves the gift of the present moment and memories of special traditions.    

Mindfulness can be used in your favorite traditions. Try mindful eating with holiday treats, mindful attention when writing cards and notes to loved ones, mindful decorating, or mindful breathing throughout the season. To learn more about mindfulness, visit Mindfulness for Better Living from Michigan State University Extension.   

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