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As you go through the holidays partaking in traditions/rituals and obligations, do you ever stop to ask yourself what these mean to you? Why you do what you do? I am not referring to the religious significance but rather to the individual rituals we do as part of personalizing the holiday experience; sending cards, decorating the house, wrapping presents, cutting down a tree. Perhaps, your tradition every year is to make batches of holiday cookies for everyone. When was the last time you thought about why you do this and what it means to you? Is it because it still brings you joy, or is now expected of you? Or maybe, you dislike shopping and the cookie making keeps you out of the stores? In truth, the reasons may have changed over the years.

I am not suggesting you stop doing what you do (of course, you can) but rather, in this holiday season consider why you do what you do and how you feel about it. For one family cutting a tree and hanging ornaments is met with enthusiasm and excitement, but for another they dread the expense and the mess.  One may love wrapping gifts, another may see it as a waste of resources. These traditions may have gone on so long that we simply forgot why we do them. Again, this does not necessarily mean that you stop doing them: it is simply a way you bring mindfulness and meaning into the holiday season.

It is a common lament that during the holidays there is no time to practice “mindfulness”. If you meditate regularly then you know how the practice centers you and decreases anxiety. Why give that up at the time of year when you most need it? We don’t need to find “more time” to be mindful. Rather we need to incorporate it. It is a misconception that mindfulness is only achieved by sitting quietly and emptying your mind; if baking cookies is a joy, stay focused on the task at hand, appreciating the feel, smell and taste of your labors. That is a mindful practice. A bonus of having this experience is when you are standing on a seemingly endless line at the store and your patience is tested, you can visualize, revel and relax into the memory of the cookie baking. That line of disgruntled, impatient folks will fade into the background.

For many of us, this year has brought significant challenges/changes into our lives. Both joy and sorrow impact how we experience our rituals. To ignore how these practices may have changed in meaning, robs us of this experience we call being present. If you simply go through the motions without an awareness of how you feel, the result might be superficial, leaving you feeling empty, exhausted and unfulfilled after the hoopla subsides.

If you are unsure how Mindfulness works or simply want to bring more of it into your holiday experience then try this:

Every time you say Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Holidays or Happy New Year, think about what those words mean to you. Then think about the person to whom you are addressing the words; allow the salutation and your voice to convey your intention. This seemingly small mindful practice will provide a respite from your frenzied pace, and your intention will also be conveyed to the recipient. It is always a gift when we allow ourselves to be present, and even more so when we share that moment with another.

 

Wishing you a peaceful, healthy and mindful holiday season!

 

© 2014 Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC is a psychotherapist in private practice in Farmington, CT since 1986.She is the author of the award winning From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce now available in Kindle format for $9.99 as well as in paperback.

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