By Ali Mariani
Christmas is over, Hanukkah is ending soon, and New Years is coming. The holiday season is a busy, chaotic, loud, vibrant, colorful, and exciting time of the year. Holiday music is playing everywhere you go, stores are adorned with holiday décor, and people are acting frantically—trying to get everything they have to do done in time for the holidays.
That’s why it is not uncommon that mindfulness is one of the first things to go out the window when Santa falls down the chimney. For better or worse, the holidays have been hallmark-ized and commercialized over the years, urging the general population to associate them with material things; presents. Buy the Tickle-me Elmo, the E-Z Bake Oven, the Nintendo 360, the newest apple product, etc. ad infinitum. We as Americans have truly taken the cake in this materialism.
And isn’t the true meaning of the holidays also about sharing your presence with loved ones? I mean, I have seen enough holiday Hallmark movies to know that when the dad can’t make it home for Christmas, no electronic can replace it.
Practicing mindfulness during the holidays can be done in a number of ways.
- Find the time to write heartfelt notes/cards to loved ones. It is easy to get carried away with buying the perfect “present” for loved ones. I get it. I will be the first to admit that I enjoy nice things. But that isn’t the sole purpose of the holidays, either. Expressing our love and gratitude for the people in our lives is one way we can stay mindful during this season.
- Take time to appreciate the changing of the seasons. One of my favorite ways to practice mindfulness is to take a walk outside and become aware of my surroundings. Nature is the gift that never stops giving. Go outside; look at the frozen lake, the snow fluttering, the white-washed winter sky. Nature is healing.
- Meditate to clear your headspace. One of the things that I notice during the holidays is that my head becomes filled— with sugar plum fairies, clutter, hopes, expectations, fears, etc. The holidays are a prime time for expectations to crop up in regards to family time. In order to clear some of this clutter, let’s take some time to sit quietly and meditate.
- Clean up physical clutter. As much as I love holiday decorations, I was ready to put them to sleep the day after Christmas this year. Physical clutter in my space can equate to mental clutter. The holiday season, especially if you have some time off, can be a great time to re-organize, throw unnecessary “things” away, donate things, and clean up. I make it a point to fill up a few bags of old clothes to give away in December.
- Engage in volunteer/service work. There really is no better way to practice giving during the holiday season than to volunteer. There are always countless opportunities to volunteer during the holiday season, check out volunteermatch.com and volunteersquare.com for specifics. Check out listings at your local soup kitchen and church, too. Service is another gift that keeps on giving. It makes the person doing it feel good, and it helps others. Everybody wins. Additionally, service can help us to remember the true meaning of the holidays: to enjoy the presence of our families and loved ones.