The holiday season seems to slip through my fingers all too quickly. In October, I have all these great ideas about what I’m going to do between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. I’m going to send holiday cards (maybe even early this year), and put together amazing, thoughtful packages to send to my friends and relatives. But, time zips by—I swear it speeds up this time of year—and before I know it, I’m scrambling to get things done. And, not only do I find it hard to find the time to fulfill all of those Norman Rockwell-esque fantasies I had, my mindfulness practice sometimes slips off my radar as well.
My mindfulness practice is essential for my mental and spiritual health. But, it can feel impossible to carve out the time for it, especially this time of the year. Over the years—especially since becoming a mother—I’ve had to find creative ways to engage in my mindfulness practice. Often, it’s become much more of an informal mindfulness practice, as opposed to the formal practice of sitting on a cushion and focusing on breath.
I’ve discovered many times and places when I have the space to tune in rather than check out—even in this go-go-go most wonderful time of the year.
5 ways to keep up with a mindfulness practice during the holiday season:
The great thing about this practice is that there is ample opportunity to engage in it. Focus on your senses, don’t check out and engage in thoughts. Noticing the feeling of the soap and the warm water on your hands rather than thinking about other things.
One mindful kiss
Pull out the mistletoe! Hang it in your bedroom. This is a great way to connect to your partner after a busy day. Give each other a moment to each take a mindful breath or two, and make eye contact. Then have one really awesome kiss that you are both completely present for. Feel free to take this wherever you want for extra practice.
Release your tension while you cultivate your attention. Focus on feeling your muscles as you stretch them, relaxing into the stretch instead of tensing against it. If you find yourself getting lost in thoughts, come back to focusing on the sensations in your muscles as they stretch, from moment to moment.
Mindful food prep
Set aside some time when you need to be preparing food anyway—be it making dinner for your family after a hectic day or cooking for a full-on holiday party—and create the intention to do it mindfully. Set a timer for the first five minutes of the salad prep, for example, and pay attention to your senses while you do it. Try to notice when your attention drifts from what you are doing to other trains of thought. Keep coming back to your experience of the present moment. Notice how a carrot feels in your fingers. Notice the sound as the knife passes through it. Notice when your mind wanders and bring it right back to what you are doing.
Take one mindful breath
Taking one mindful breath is my fallback plan when I really need to practice and just can’t seem to find the time, or I am feeling triggered by something and need to ground quickly. Close your eyes and focus on one full breath. Follow the in breath with your attention all the way in and up, and then the out breath all the way to the end. And after that one breath, ask yourself if it’s worth taking the time to focus on one more breath. It’s amazing what one or two really mindful breaths can do to shift things.
This time of year, mindfulness can not only help us stay grounded and present, it can help us slow down and really be present with the things in our lives we want to be grateful for. Friends, family, moments of joy and unity, whatever you value. I encourage you to make time for some mindful moments this holiday season.