As the holiday season moves into full swing, it’s important to remember that it IS possible to engage in too much of a good thing.
The fun, the family, the celebrations, the dash to finish things up before the end of the year — it’s exciting. But more often than not, all that energy and excitement can leave you feeling overworked, overwhelmed and overindulged.
What if, instead of getting sucked into the vortex of holiday hype, you approached the season as an opportunity to build your mindfulness muscles?
Here are 20 habits that are actually good for you, to help you experience more peace, joy and mindfulness this holiday:
1. Move your body.
When your schedule gets busy and hectic, exercise is often the first thing that gets dropped. Don’t do it! Your brain and relationships will thank you for continuing to move your body. The endorphins that get released during a run or a yoga class, help reduce stress and leave you feeling better. If you don’t have time for your regular workout routine, adapt it. Some intentional movement is better than none at all.
2. Eat smaller portions.
With all of the treats that are served during the holidays, it can be all too easy to overindulge. Pace yourself by being mindful about what you eat, choosing smaller portions of your favorites.
3. Experience taste.
Science has proven that we get most of enjoyment in the first two or three bites of a savory dish or sweet desert.
Mindfully experience the taste of those first bites and then stop and ask yourself if you really want any more.
There are lots of tempting opportunities to indulge in libations during the holidays. Consider making sparkling water your holiday beverage of choice and save the wine and champagne for the meal or the toast. Or to prevent yourself from drinking too much, alternate each cocktail with a full glass of water.
5. Observe with a light spirit.
The holiday season seems to bring out the best in some, the worst in others, and the full range of experience for everyone else in-between. Consider using this time as an opportunity to observe others with a light spirit, rather than judgment. You’re guaranteed to enjoy the holidays (and everyone else around you) a lot more if you do.
6. Practice empathy.
When you encounter who is having a bad day, try to put yourself in their shoes. That snippy store clerk has probably been on his or her feet for hours, or that grumpy older relative who may be missing a loved one. Even that screaming child who may be tired of being ignored — try putting yourself in their shoes and respond as you’d want to be treated if it was you.
7. Smile more.
The easiest way to establish connection is to genuinely smile when you make eye contact with someone. During the mad rush of the holidays, be aware and intentional about your opportunities to smile more.
8. Shop mindfully.
The consumer marketing machine is at full blast during this time, with the goal of getting you to overspend. Make it your practice to shop mindfully this year. Consider each person on your gift list, tune into what you know about each of them, and think about the gift or gesture that would best honor your connection with that person.
9. Shop slowly.
You’re more likely to shop mindfully if you shop slowly. Notice what’s around you. Pay attention to your breathing and pace. Are you shopping in a condition of fight-or-flight, or operating from a state of rest and digest?
10. Breathe more.
All of the stimuli of the holiday season can easily put you in a mode of constant stress. Take your foot off the gas by applying the brakes of your body’s rest-and-digest response. The easiest way to do that is to breathe deeper and more frequently. If you find yourself feeling spun up, stop what you’re doing and take three deep breaths from your belly.
11. Move mindfully.
As you move from place-to-place this holiday season, treat the journey as a walking, sitting or driving meditation. Look at the lights, listen to the sounds, feel the air and notice the smells. Keep a mindful pace by being in the moment as you move.
12. Transformative listening.
During the holidays, you regularly end up spending time with people you don’t see or talk with very often. The family gatherings and office parties offer opportunities to listen in a more transformative way, to people who may need to be heard. Be mindful of the chances to listen without an agenda and be fully present.
13. Take breaks.
Leave yourself time to be a human being and not just a human doing, during the holidays. Give yourself some time to do absolutely nothing.
14. Travel off-peak.
If you can, schedule your travel during the peak of the season on non-peak days. The roads will be more open, the airports and train stations less crowded, and you’ll be a lot less stressed as a bonus.
15. Don’t over-schedule.
As much as possible, leave some room in your schedule. If your calendar is a tightly coupled system, unexpected delays or challenges can cause a big ripple effect. Besides, you want to leave some time for spontaneity.
16. Get your sleep.
The laws of good health and well-being are not magically suspended during the holidays. 95& of people need at least seven hours of sleep a night to be fully effective and healthy. Get your sleep to be the healthiest, happiest and most engaging version of you.
In many professions, the last two weeks of the year are a sort of collective pause from the daily deluge of e-mails and meetings. This holiday, make your out-of-office message a true statement. Unplug and seriously don’t check your email. Take advantage of the collective break; hopefully most everyone else is, too.
18. Notice the joy.
Look for and pay attention to the joy that is the very essence of the holiday season. If you’re not finding any, why not create some for others? You’re bound to see it then.
19. Be kind.
Sharing kindness and love is really the point of it all, isn’t it? Treat all of the reminders of the season to make merry, as triggers to practice random and non-random acts of kindness.
20. Be grateful.
If you have the capacity to read this post, there’s a very high likelihood that you have more people, experiences and things in your life to be grateful for than you can possibly count. So start counting anyway, and when you get to 30 or so, pause, reflect and give thanks for all of the great blessings in your life.