The holiday season is upon us. How is it going so far? Today’s thought for the holiday season is: “mindfulness enriches holiday experiences.” Let me explain what I mean.
The first three weeks of December are often full of activity. A few “specials” that come to mind include:
- Theater productions
- Worship services
- Family gatherings
- Light display viewing
- Candle lighting
- Holiday movie watching
- Baking and cooking
- Tree trimming
- Gift exchanging
You may have other unique traditions and experiences on the horizon in the upcoming days.
While all these extra happenings are fun, they do take time. Unfortunately, our normal roles and responsibilities rarely lighten up in December. In fact, it may feel like we have more to do than at any other time of year. The resulting time-crunch often leads to hurrying around and rushing to fit everything in. Sadly, we can be so hurried that we fail to truly enjoy whatever holiday indulgences we have planned. Have you ever rushed through a meal, so distracted and stressed that you hardly even tasted what you were eating? The same can happen with holiday experiences.
The truth is pleasure is best experienced when our minds are fully engaged.
Our brains are the main processing center for everything we do. For any activity, if we think we are having a good time, then we are (and vice versa!). In order for our brains to register joy, pleasure, satisfaction, and all the other “warm fuzzies” of the holidays, they have to be focused on and engaged in what we are doing. In contrast, if our minds are racing on to the next task or perseverating on problems we have yet to resolve, they cannot fully process the richness of the current moment.
Contrary to the multi-tasking myth, we can only truly think about one thing at a time. We may believe we are thinking about everything at once, but in actuality we are forcing our brains to toggle from one focal point to another. This increases our cognitive load and can make us tired and stressed.
On the other hand, if we can slow down and be fully present in the moment, we will enjoy it much more. Allocating 15-30 focused minutes to savor an experience will have a much bigger “bang for the buck” than spending an hour or more mentally dropping into and out of whatever is going on.
This holiday season, I encourage you to be fully present in the special experiences you decide to participate in. While you may need to do less in order to make this happen, prioritizing a couple of satisfying activities will have a larger payoff than rushing through a larger number of events. Think of these as the holiday equivalent of the “power nap,” where a focused break provides long-lasting benefits.
What might this mindfulness look like? It could be any number of things, such as:
- Slowly tasting and savoring a holiday treat.
- Putting your phone (and its camera) down and giving your full attention to an experience.
- Embracing moments of silence, or mindfully listening to your favorite holiday music.
- Allowing yourself to take your time when working on a holiday project.
- Actively listening to a friend or relative at a holiday gathering.
- Noticing the special holiday scents of pine, cinnamon, honey, etc. that temporarily surround you.
- Luxuriating under a plush blanket or inside a fuzzy pair of slippers.
These are just a few examples. You know you are being mindful when as experience engages multiple senses. To further deepen the richness of the moment, consider:
- How is this moment making me feel?
- What thoughts are stirred up in this moment?
- Why do I love this activity?
- What do I see that I want to remember about this experience?
- What do I notice that is new, different, exciting, touching, etc.?
- What do I smell, and what is this scent making me think of?
One last comment I want to make. I know that few of us are in complete control of what is going on around us. Distractions happen, and sometimes we have to pick up our pace or squeeze festivities in. Nevertheless, I encourage you, as much as it depends on you, to savor whatever special moments might be in your path over the next few weeks. In so doing, you will enjoy them more, both in the present moment and in the years to come.
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What holiday activity are you looking forward to this season? Will you be able to give it your full attention?