It’s here! ‘The most wonderful time of the year’...
December is full of social events, shopping, fabulous festivities and foodie delights, and Christmas and New Year are a time of love, joy and fun. It is incredibly easy to allow ourselves to get swept along with the commercialised hype and buzz of Christmas, rushing from one thing to another and speeding through our to-do list before the big event with a heightened sense of anticipation and excitement, but when was the last time you took 5 minutes to just breathe and really soak it all in?
Psychology Today tells us that the act of mindfulness ‘is quite simply paying full whole-hearted attention. Mindfulness is about observation without criticism; being compassionate with yourself. When unhappiness or stress hover overhead, rather than taking it all personally, you learn to treat them as if they were black clouds in the sky, and to observe them with friendly curiosity as they drift past.’
This year, I am encouraging you to take a moment, take the weight off your feet and reconnect with the true magic of this wonderful time of year. Christmas isn’t just for children, and I think it is a time to reflect on the rituals and gorgeous elements that mean the most for us. Memories and traditions live inside all of us, passed down from one generation to the next, and December can be the month that we bring our busy thoughts and lives back to these comforts, and let go of the year’s stress, niggles and worries.
This year, I intend to celebrate Christmas, slowly and to its fullest potential - complete with cosiness, natural magic and sparkle. If you need some pointers to create a sense of Christmas glee to rival even the most excited small child on Christmas morning, I recommend these 5 simple steps:
Celebrate the small things, savour each amazing moment as it comes. Take a moment to relish your advent calendar each morning, sneak a regular peck under the mistletoe, make yourself a cosy hot chocolate with all the trimmings! The small things add up, and whatever tiny things you celebrate they add to building a general feeling of contentment and build a month of magic long before the big event.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” – Melody Beattie. Embrace the joy that both the act of giving and receiving brings. By practicing gratitude, it not only helps us feel good, it inspires us to do good - give thanks with means, hug with connection and laugh with abandon.
You don’t need to sit cross legged on the floor to be a ‘good meditator’ and for most of us the act of meditation is completely different. For me, it is a walk with the dogs, breathing in the cool air and noticing the colours of the sky in the morning. By getting grounded in the ‘bigger picture’ of the Earth, I am starting to connect with Pagan Christmas traditions more and more, recognising the shortest day, bringing the outside in, and celebrating the coming of more light. For you it might be taking a long bath, stirring your favourite pudding recipe, or sitting quietly in front of the fire.
Move your body. Over Christmas it can be a time of feasting, and we are often eating and drinking more than usual. Whilst this can be a joyful experience and a welcome treat, it can also leave us feeling disconnected with our bodies, feeling sluggish and bloated. Ttaking a long walk, practicing a grounding yoga class and getting your blood moving reminds us that there is more to Christmas than gluttony and sloth, and instead celebrate the outdoors, our strength and potential with our friends and family for the year to come.
Make a pledge to put down your electronic devices this Christmas and be fully present with those you love. Look jthem in the eyes; listen with intent; abandon your expectations; stay curious and give conversations your unwavering awareness as they unfold. Find out what amazing new things you discover and what a delight new connections can bring.
Over the next two weeks, I urge you to take note of these points and observe what effect these practices have on you and your experiences. Let’s have a Merry ‘Mindful’ Christmas, and I hope you join me in leaping out of bed on Christmas morning with delight and excitement!