Mindfulness is all about getting out of our heads and into the present moment and the best way to do that is by connecting with our senses. Why? Because we can’t smell tomorrow, or feel yesterday! The Holiday’s are such an amazing opportunity to practice mindfulness, even with all the restrictions placed on us this year. We can expand, open awareness, and take in the beauty, the sweet and savory, and the music. Bringing present moment awareness unlocks the potential to see with beginner’s mind and allow the present to bring what gifts it has to offer.
Some tips on using your senses:
When you do venture out shopping for gifts or taking a casual stroll, be sure to really tune into the sights, sounds and smells (if you can through your mask) of the season. Feel the winter weather change, perhaps cold and frosty or just a slight change in humidity. Notice how the Christmas songs can take you back and give you a certain feeling inside, take in the smell of pine needles and holiday lights. Be present for these things and truly observe the sensations in the body.
Mindfulness not only helps with truly savoring all the traditional treats the holiday brings, it also helps limit the overconsumption that often accompanies holiday parties and family meals. We tend to end up consuming more food and drinks than feel comfortable. This holiday season is the perfect time to practice using mindfulness to help us determine when we’ve had enough. By really savoring our food and drinks more slowly, we can naturally notice when we’ve had our fill. We can use mindfulness to check in with our bodies and follow the signals that it sends about fullness. So rather than acting when our mind says: “I want another cookie!” we can listen to what our belly says. If you notice that you are comfortably full or maybe that your belly is already bursting then pause, thank your mind for that thought and try to leave the cookie platter — or simply close your eyes and smell the cookie. Sometimes savoring with the nose is just as amazing as savoring with the tongue. Try it out!
Another big part of mindfulness is acceptance and compassion and this applies not only to others, but also ourselves. Set the intention to be kind to yourself! We spend so much time leading up to the holidays thinking about everyone else and trying to create the perfect atmosphere for everyone. Make a point of just noticing how you might be putting too much pressure on yourself, or beating yourself up when things don’t go as planned, or feeling like you ate too much. In those moments just remember to take a few deep breaths. And like you would tell a good friend: don’t be so harsh with yourself, you are human!
In the frantic race toward the holidays, we might forget that — as beautiful as Christmas can be, as special as Chanukah may be to you, and even the celebration of Kwanzaa — they are just another day (s) that will come and go. Bring awareness to the expectations you might be holding for the season. Every time you notice your mind racing ahead and creating inflated or unrealistic expectations, just take a few breaths and come back to the present moment. The same intention can be made when thinking about any family gatherings you have planned this year if you are fortunate to live nearby. The mind can anticipate and create an expectation of past drama already being played out in the mind. Ruminating about what could happen won’t help and will only makes you more tense during the days before the event. Let go of any expectations and greet the day when it’s at the door.
Pay attention if the mind starts to “should” on your holiday season and practice acceptance and gratitude for what is present. if your celebration is on video chat this year, make teh best of it! However, if you need time to grieve any losses, especially loved ones, give your self ample time to feel the love still aching in your heart and turn toward it with kindness and warmth. Know that you need extra special care when grieving so really let go of as many demands, expectations, obligations, and let yourself feel what you feel because there is no “right” way.
My heart goes out to those who lost a loved one or suffered greatly this year. May your heart feel the love and compassion that I call around you and may you find some peace and ease in the moment of presence.
With Love and gratitude,
Patty and The Sacred Treehouse faculty
Patty Thomas Shutt, founder of Sacred Treehouse, is a licensed psychologist and co-owner of Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches. Dr. Shutt is passionate about helping others discover the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. She offers Beginner Meditation & Advanced Meditation classes at Sacred Treehouse, in addition to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindful Self-Compassion and various book studies throughout the year.