Do you struggle to stay conscious through the holidays? I don’t mean physically conscious (although that can be hard too!). I’m talking about maintaining your emotional balance, physical health, and mindful presence.
Over the years I’ve found that the holiday sprint from late November to New Years can be overwhelming. With so many parties, celebrations, and heightened expectations, it can be hard to stay grounded and centered.
For all the felicity, there are also family visits, emotional dramas, shopping assaults on the senses, and plain old weird nostalgia. And I’ve found that mindfulness has been one of my best tools for staying grounded through this time.
So here are 5 mindfulness tips to keep you thriving throughout the holidays. All of these have helped me stay centered and free from unconscious patterns of behavior.
1. Give the Gift of Meditation (to Yourself)
If you’re visiting family or if you’re traveling any long distance for the holidays, here’s my pro tip. Give yourself the gift of meditating first thing every morning.
Even if it’s just for five or 10 minutes, it will create space in your being and you’ll be less prone to fall into old dynamics and patterns with family members. Why? Because meditation will keep you calm and fuel your mindful presence through the day.
2. Stick to Your Wellness Routine
As a yogi, you probably have an effective (if not meticulous) daily wellness routine to keep yourself balanced and grounded. Asana practice, pranayama, meditation, and great organic food.
With the increased travel, late nights, and all the eating and drinking this time of year, it’s easy to fall out of your wellness routine. Pay attention to this, especially if you’re traveling.
Without even noticing, you can lose all your healthy momentum when your schedule goes sideways. Don’t punish yourself when this happens. Just try and get back in the saddle as soon as possible. Your routine is a key part of what keeps you sane, centered, and healthy.
3. Avoid Hot Topics
In my family, there is a range of political sentiment, and it can get polarized in less than two seconds flat. So one thing I’ve learned to do during the holidays, when several generations with different worldviews gather is this. I avoid hot topics.
When tensions flare around religion, politics, and even food preferences, I quickly shift to less charged topics. I search for common ground. It was amazing how much better the holidays got when I started doing this.
When I was younger, I would happily wade into emotional combat, emerging bruised but proud that I defended my view. Now, I’m more mindful of how quickly those conversations can spiral into deep division and separation. And that’s not why I traveled to spend time with my family.
Now, when I’m aware of my own inner thermostat rising, I don’t take the bait. It’s just not worth it. I look for common ground.
4. Eat Slowly
Food is a huge part of the holidays. First off, there’s tons of it. Second, it tends to be rich: cakes, pies, pot roasts, casseroles, cookies.
Deep communion around food is a huge part of what makes the holidays awesome, but it’s also easy to overeat. If you’re like me, you can finger food your way to some serious indigestion before you even hit the main course. Even with my vegan friends!
So one thing I try and do is slow down at the holiday food trough. It’s simple and is one of the best weapons in my mindfulness tool chest. When my eyes go wide at the site of that buttery apple crisp, I slow down and check in.
"Do I really want this now? And if so, for God’s sake man, respect your stomach and take a measured portion." Even a quick check-in like that can keep you from eating yourself into painful or dulled-out state.
But more to the point, I've learned how powerful it is to slow down and enjoy my food. Eating slowly is one of the more ecstatic mindful exercises. It’s a way to ground yourself in the present moment wherever you are. Just like yoga, it brings me back to my body and my root. And an added benefit, it’s also the best way I know to moderate portions.
5. Commit to Moderation (Especially When Drinking)
This one is kind of obvious, but it doesn’t hurt to reiterate it. Alcohol flows freely over the holidays and so do our inhibitions. It can be easy to drink too much.
I love to drink. I like wine, beer, and single malt scotch. But I’ve noticed that alcohol is an easy escape from the tensions that arise during the holidays. It makes you less conscious, not more.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying "Don’t drink." My mindful approach to drinking over the holiday is actually pretty simple—commit to moderation. I’m always thankful for it and I think you will be too.
How do you stay mindful and grounded throughout the holidays?