We all know that Christmas can be a mixed blessing. There can be moments of great joy and celebration. And also more stress and strain than other times of the year… for so many reasons. A friend of mine loves saying that life is like peanut butter – we have to learn to take the crunchy with the smooth.
Today I want to bring some mindful attention to how we can have a happier Christmas – with more of the smooth and some tips on how to ‘slide under’ the crunchy.
Making the Most of the Smooth: Feed your Well-Being & Happiness
What are a few of your favourite things about Christmas?
For some, the excitement of planning gifts, decorations, carol singing and feasts are times of great joy.
Some get great warmth and satisfaction from helping those in need.
There can be some fun times getting together with loved ones.
And being a part of your children’s excitement and anticipation can be the highlight for many mothers.
1: Think about what you look forward to and plan to be fully present for these magic moments.
So many of us can get caught up in the longer than usual “things to do” list and let these moments pass by in a blur. Almost unnoticed and unappreciated.
2: Notice when they happen and STOP EVERYTHING ELSE.
Tune in to the moment and really give it your undivided attention. Get down on the floor with your children as they unpack their presents. Decorate the tree with them if that’s something you love. Not only is multi-tasking a myth, you won’t realise until it’s too late that you were not really listening, watching or engaging and that you were distracted – not mindful or present. Don’t let busyness rob you of these moments of joy.
3: Linger a little and tune in to that warm, happy feeling and let it soak into your bones (well your brain actually, but bones sounded better).
From our brain’s point of view, we need to savour these moments for at least 20 seconds for it to rewire our neuronal networks for greater happiness and well-being. Given that these are the things we are most looking forward to – that’s not too big an ask is it?
Just giving yourself permission to do this a moment at a time throughout the holiday season will:
- lift your mood
- implant the moments in emotional memory and resource you for the more challenging times that may also be part of your day.
Choose Wisely how you Respond to the Crunchy
One of the founding mothers of mindfulness in the West, Sylvia Boorstein, said something in our interview that I will never forget:
“Mindfulness is attentiveness, moment to moment. What’s happening right now and what’s coming up in me in response to what’s happening right now. Importantly, this is in the service of being able to choose wisely so that I avoid complicating my own life and the lives of others.”
So let’s take a few moments to think about how we can use that awareness to make our own and other’s lives less complicated this Christmas.
To me there are three parts to this that can help us deal with the Crunchy:
1: Awareness of what your version of Crunchy is at Christmas time.
For me and many others that I have spoken to, it is the prospect of hashing over old ground with relatives over the holiday season.
2: Noticing any tension even the thought of this brings up in your body and deliberately softening that with kind thoughts and self compassion.
“I know it’s tough dealing with this. I am here for you.”
3: Choosing wisely.
We can be so hooked into our habitual way of responding that we find it hard to break out of that and try something new. But that’s where our freedom lies. If there is something practical you can do to lessen or remove the sources of tension – do it! If not, try some of these ideas for sliding under the provocative conversation and surprise everyone by not taking the bait!
This is not about masking over or denying any difficulties, but about choosing wisely in the moment not to get hooked in old patterns – to choose to take the conversation in a more uplifting direction.
Infused with positive psychology, these ideas are designed to help you and the person you’re talking to shift gears and set you up to enjoy a more lighthearted time together. Change the words to suit your style – keeping the tone smooth rather than crunchy!
Pick your favorite or try them all.
What was something that made you laugh this year?
What news from a loved one were you happy to hear?
What’s gone well for you this year?
What three things are you grateful to have in your life?
How have you helped someone this year?
Who warms your heart when you think of them?
What do you appreciate about yourself?
What kindness can you show towards someone close to you, so that they have a happier holiday?
What are you going to make sure you slow down and savor this holiday season?
Who would like to know just how much they mean to you – and when can you let them know?
What I love about these alternatives is that they pack a mighty punch of good stuff to our hearts and brains. Combining the evidence-based psychology of flourishing, mindfulness and neuroscience all in one. It is an opportunity to practice:
Happiness for others
Focusing on and savoring the good
Appreciation and gratitude
And good old-fashioned laughter
Happy holidays, everyone.