Mindfulness tips for a calmer Christmas
Psychologist Suzy Reading shares some ideas for making this Christmas peaceful, and how to stay in the moment for maximum enjoyment
To maximise peace this Christmas, mindfulness is just the tonic. Not only is it a powerful coping strategy in itself, allowing us to step back and feel less pushed about by our thoughts and feelings, but it also forms the foundation for self-care. The skill of mindfulness allows us to check in, observe our needs and take nourishing action – scheduling an early night when we notice fatigue, a prompt to reach out when we feel disconnected, nutritious food before we get starving ‘hangry’. This is proactive healthcare, giving us access to calm amidst the Christmas squeeze.
Mindfulness is being aware of what’s happening in the moment – our inner world of thoughts, feelings, memories and sensations, and what’s unfolding outside of us, coupled with acceptance – allowing it to be as it is. It’s not just about stress-busting: our mindfulness skills also help us recognise moments of peace and truly relish the good stuff!
Top 10 mindful tips to help you stay calm and in the moment over Christmas
1. See the light
With limited hours of daylight, set the intention to get a good dose of natural light in the morning to boost your circadian rhythms and promote better sleep. A simple walk around the block will do. Make the most of early nights by appreciating a sunset, and bring the light indoors with twinkling fairy lights or candles. Feel how it lifts your spirits.
2. Mindful hydration
One of the greatest challenges to building any new habit is remembering to do it. Overcome this by piggybacking mindfulness to an existing habit. Every time you drink a tall glass of water, take a moment to observe your surroundings and compassionately check in with how you’re feeling. Give yourself permission to take restorative action, remembering that self-care is healthcare, and without our health, what do we have?
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3. Nature walk
Build your mindfulness muscles by taking a walk in nature’s beauty, and training your eyes to notice anything awe-inspiring. Enjoy the opportunity to unplug and feel the effortless receipt of energy this practice brings.
4. Music as mood alchemy
Bring your full attention to music and notice how it can shift your mood. Classical or ambient to calm, carols to create a festive feel, pop to drop the day from your shoulders. Add a bit of movement with a kitchen karaoke or boogie session to burn off those mince pies.
5. Build a happy memory bank
Try journaling to capture the moment. Stick in happy snaps, cards, or reflections of moments of connection. A nourishing practice in itself, but something you can keep coming back to for repeated doses of joy.
6. Take the pressure down
When inevitably tempers flare (permission to be human), use your breath to anchor you in calm. Breathe before you say anything – you have a choice in how you respond. Smooth out your breath to soothe your nervous system. Take a calm breath in through your nose, and a long, relaxed one out with a sigh. Repeat.
7. Turn to touch
Give yourself a dose of oxytocin, the feel-good hormone, by engaging in nurturing touch. Mindfully and tenderly rub in some hand balm, dress yourself in garments with a texture you love, or snuggle up in a cosy throw. This is even more important for those on their own.
8. Stretch it out
Let’s be honest, the impulse to hibernate is real, and the weather may not encourage you to get out and about, but we need to move for our mental health. When energy or motivation for movement are low, stretch instead. There are a plethora of online resources, or just listen to your body and it will guide you. Do what feels good to you.
9. Presence, not presents
Your mindfulness skills help you give the most life-giving gift: your full attention. Get absorbed in conversation, drink in that hug, put distractions away, and play with abandon. It’s not about undivided attention every minute – that’s not realistic. Instead, aim for pockets of presence and see the dividends ripple out broadly.
10. Remember to savour
The ultimate Christmas mantra: if you’re going to indulge, savour it! If you are going to eat that pudding, nibble on that shortbread, crack open that bubbly or dig into that roast, enjoy it. Savour every last little bit of enjoyment. Don’t fritter it away with guilt. Don’t waste it by thinking you shouldn’t be doing it. Don’t miss out on the joy by failing to give it your full attention. You might find that life’s joys savoured in this way means you stop a little sooner, and have less compensatory work required of you later. Life is meant to be enjoyed, so savour it!
If you are feeling stressed or anxious, do not disregard it. Seek advice from your GP or health professional, or visit Mind for information and support.
Looking for more mindfulness guides?
- How mindful baking can improve your mood and reduce stress
- Sleepy time: a sleep meditation podcast for kids
- 5 easy ways to bring mindfulness into your daily routine
Or discover more wellbeing guides from BBC Good Food:
This article was reviewed on 16 December 2021.
Suzy is a mother of two, an author, Chartered Psychologist and Coach. She specialises in self-care, helping people manage their stress, emotions, and energetic bank balance. It was her life experience of motherhood colliding with the terminal illness of her father that sparked her passion for self-care, which she now teaches to her clients, young and old, to cope during periods of stress, loss and change and to boost their resilience in the face of future challenges. Join Suzy’s well-being community on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.
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