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Finding Stillness in the Season: Starting a mindfulness practice for a meaningful holiday experience

A winter scene with a cabin the background watercolor

What does mindfulness during the holidays look like?

To put it simply, the idea of engaging in mindfulness during the holiday season is setting down expectations, refusing to rush through it, and finding joy in the holidays again.

Though it may be simple it is by no means easy.

A watercolor painting of a young child opening christmas presents

It seems to be the condition of adulthood. The holidays have lost their sparkle. When we were kids we would wake up at the crack of dawn, shaking the foot of our parent's bed, begging them to wake up so we could pillage what Santa left behind for us. Everything was cozy, shiny, and warm.

It was all so exciting and magical.

And as we've gotten older the holidays have lost that magic. Now the holidays consist of long commutes through crap weather, rushing through packed stores to spend too much money on gifts, and being so engrossed in cooking the perfect Christmas dinner that you don't have the energy or time to be present with the family gathered to celebrate with you.

What if I were to tell you that, with intention, we can find the magic of the holidays again? A lot of the pressure we experience is self-inflicted and if we really want to, we can let it go.

It all starts with mindfulness. Slowing down and engaging in or establishing new holiday traditions that make us feel joy. Setting our environment up so we are not overstimulated and overwhelmed. Being present with the people around us. Acknowledging that we can't do it all, that it isn't going to be perfect, that some things are going to slip between the cracks. And that is okay.

At the end of the day, what matters more? A perfect 5-course meal you cooked by yourself? Or, participating in the joy of the holidays with your kids?

A watercolor painting of a family celebrating christmas together

I know which one is more likely to bring me joy, and which one is likely to make me crabby and difficult to be around.

What are the benefits of a mindfulness practice?

We know that mindfulness can improve our mood but what are the actual benefits of a mindfulness practice? Let's keep it short and simple, here are all of the great benefits of practicing mindfulness:

A watercolor painting of a person walking down a snowy sidewalk

  • Improved memory

  • Improved mental wellbeing

  • Decreased episodes of depression

  • Decreased anxiety symptoms

  • Improved relationships

  • Improved self-awareness

  • Improved self-esteem

  • Better physical health"

Do we have you convinced yet?

Practice makes perfect

A watercolor painting of a woman doing yoga

You can't just jump into a mindfulness practice on Christmas day and think it will be life-altering. Mindfulness takes practice. So start now. Start implementing a small action or activity into your daily routine until it becomes second nature. Everyone's daily practice will look different. Mine looks like smoke cleansing my space, doing a tarot pull, some journaling, and a walk down to the river. Yours may not look like that. Maybe it's praying, yoga, or an intentional and relaxing shower. By implementing a mindfulness practice in your daily routine, you are training your brain to be calmer and more present in other aspects of your life.

Embracing tradition

Mindfulness is all about intention.

Another way to find stillness in the season is to establish intentional traditions that bring you joy and peace.

Start by brainstorming all of the things you love about the holidays. Even if it's something you've never done. Maybe it's driving around and looking at Christmas lights. Maybe you enjoy baking Christmas cookies. Write down any ideas that bring a little bit of that Christmas sparkle back.

Once you are done, pick an idea or two, try them out this year, and see how it goes. There is no right or wrong way to start new traditions with your family.

A few of our traditions:

A watercolor painting of a snow covered evergreen tree

Bringing back Yule.

A new tradition to our home: "decorating" a big old evergreen outside with our favorite local hedge witch on the winter solstice. This takes place a few days before Christmas. We go over to her house and fill a tree up with yummy things for the local wildlife to eat like peanut butter, corn, and birdseed. This is probably one of my favorite traditions and brings us back to Yule roots.

We have a Christmas Eve movie night.

On Christmas Eve my kids get to open their Christmas Eve presents. Inside this box there will be something comfy (slippers, blankets, new pj's), their favorite treat, and a "movie ticket" (I printed off) to a Christmas Eve movie. Everyone will snuggle up on the couch in their new comfies with a treat and a bowl of popcorn and enjoy a movie together. It's something special just for my little family. While the big family celebrations are saved for Christmas Day.

A watercolor painting of young children reading books in front of a christmas tree

The 12 days of book-mas.

Now the only reason this is doable for me, is that our local library has an annual book sale in the fall based on at-will donations. This means I can get 12 books for each of my kiddos and I can pay what I can afford that year. This is one of my favorite traditions as it encourages a love for reading my husband and I are both fortunate to have. It's a very hygge tradition to snuggle up in the evenings with a new (to me) book and a warm cup of tea. It's even more enjoyable to do this with my kids.

These traditions don't take a lot of effort and I find genuine joy from them. Being present and in the moment for these activities is what has started to bring the magic back for me.

Other ways we can practice mindfulness during the holidays:

  • Mindful Eating

A list of 6 ways to practice mindful eating from

  • Mindful Gifting

A woman
  • Self-Care

Self-care tends to be the first thing we throw out the window when times get stressful. Ironically enough, those times are when we need self-care the most. No matter what self-care looks like to you, hold on to it for dear life. We tend to underestimate how much of a difference it really makes.

  • Reflection and Gratitude

Reflection and showing gratitude forces us to be present and take stock of what is really happening around us. Whether you add this to a journaling practice or just take a few moments of quiet contemplation, reflection, and gratitude is a great way to practice mindfulness.

What are some traditions your family practices that bring you joy? Let us know in the comments!

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