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A Merry Mindful Holiday Season

The key to mindfulness is to slow down and fully engage all the senses. Mindfulness also directs one to ask: What thoughts are going through my mind?  What sensations are there in my body? And, What emotions and impulses are occurring?

As we may know, the holidays do not always go according to plans and expectations (whether that is travel, food, stocked store items or how people behave). Mindfulness accepts that some experiences can be unpleasant and uncomfortable (just as some are joyful and satisfying), and, that’s okay.

We can bring mindfulness to any situation. As you prepare for the holidays (e.g. decorating, purchasing gifts, food preparation), stop and mindfully explore each task. Do we really need ten varieties of squares when five would be sufficient? Just because we have traditionally stayed up to midnight watching Christmas movies with a friend on Christmas Eve, do we still want to do this again this year? Be truthful to yourself and others.

During this time of year, we need to be mindful of the thoughts and feelings that are driving our choices.  Do we really want that offering of plum pudding or are we merely “being nice.” Are we going to use the irrational thought, “Oh, well, it’s Christmas.” or “Because I’m on my own.” to allow for endless indulgences rather than consciously choosing to enjoy a particular pleasure and at other times not.

If we do not want to gain weight, be lethargic, overspend or get into an argument with a family member, it can help to mindfully make a plan not to do these behaviours. With eating/drinking, we can plan not to have seconds or only two drinks – and stick to it!  Mindfulness asks that we check-in with our body (stomach) and feelings to decide if we want more.  Are we eating because we are bored, lonely or feeling ignored? Especially with ‘treats,’ by mindfully savouring them we not only enjoy them more fully, but we will be less likely to overindulge.

[For practice on mindful eating, click on link for a 5 min. Chocolate Meditation]

When we feel frustrated or annoyed with someone, we can plan to leave the dinner table (or other situation) and find a place for a minute or two (or longer!) of deep breathing, stretching, and aligning our (often irrational) thoughts. We can set budgets and notice what feelings or thoughts arise when the urge comes to buy (cook, decorate, clean) more.

If you are feeling stressed or uncomfortable, acknowledge this and identify specifically what you are thinking about.  What thoughts (judgements, expectations or obligations) are behind the stress?  How could you change these thoughts to help alleviate or remove the stress?

Mindfully create a list of activities that bring you laughter, peace, connection and relaxation (e.g., walks in nature, making a gratitude list, taking the nephews tobogganing, viewing a favourite movie, etc.) and put them into your holiday schedule. Make the holidays what you consciously want them to be.

Click on link for some holiday stress humour from Ellen D.

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Diane Hancox, MA, CCC provides counselling services to Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Nanaimo and Vancouver Island.