How Mindfulness Enriches Holiday Experiences

Thought bubble with a sprig of holly in the corner that says Mindfulness Enriches Holiday Experiences.

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:

  • Concerts
  • Recitals
  • Theater productions
  • Worship services
  • Parties
  • Family gatherings
  • Light display viewing
  • Candle lighting
  • Holiday movie watching
  • Baking and cooking
  • Tree trimming
  • Gift exchanging
  • Elf-on-the-shelfing

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:

  1. How is this moment making me feel?
  2. What thoughts are stirred up in this moment?
  3. Why do I love this activity?
  4. What do I see that I want to remember about this experience?
  5. What do I notice that is new, different, exciting, touching, etc.?
  6. 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.

*     *     *

What holiday activity are you looking forward to this season? Will you be able to give it your full attention?

Seana's signature

20 thoughts on “How Mindfulness Enriches Holiday Experiences”

  1. This is such wise advice, Seana. I love the way you explain how we come to experience things. In truth, we would all be much more relaxed and happier if we took this advice to heart and applied it to our lives in general. Taking time to ‘smell the roses’ leads to experiencing things the way in which they were intended. It also allows us to grow our connections with family and friends – to make truly meaningful relationships. Thank you for your wise words.

    1. I love your point about how mindfulness helps us make truly meaningful relationships. You are so right! So often we are looking at our phones or letting our mind wander when we are talking with friends and family. How much richer our time could be if we eliminated all distractions and fully engaged with one another. I’m going to think about this as I go forth into the remainder of December. 🙂

  2. I love this. It is something I am trying to work on this season. Last night I made a big batch of cookies that my son and grandson love. It got later than I would like, and I’d already had a full day, but I knew I needed to get these baked so that they could be mailed. What kept me going and pleased was thinking about my son and grandson enjoying them. Last Saturday my other son came over to help me put up outside greenery, lights, and my Christmas tree and the lights. We couldn’t start til 5:00 and we were both tired but the results were so lovely and now every morning and evening I can enjoy the outside lights and mentally thank my son over and over for his help.
    Jonda Beattie recently posted…Repurposing Your Things Is Good For The EnvironmentMy Profile

    1. How wonderful to have these family relationships. It definitely helps to focus on our “why” when we are feeling like quitting or avoiding. I love that you baked cookies for your son and grandson. I know they will be a blessing, and associated with you, which is making a memory for them as well! Wishing you a smooth and joyful remainder of the holiday season!

  3. Thank you for this reminder, Seana. I know my holidays often feel like a task list instead of special memories I make with my family. I think approaching everything with intention is a great way to slow down and be present in the moment. Thank you for the reminder, and best holiday wishes for you and yours this year!
    Jana Arevalo recently posted…The Perfect Gift for Military SpousesMy Profile

    1. Happy holiday wishes back to you and your family, Jana! The list is indeed long, but all of our efforts are worthless if we miss the joy of the season!

  4. Right now I have a bunch of holiday-related tasks set to recur yearly, but they don’t address everything, and I don’t do all the things every year. You’ve inspired me to create a new yearly tasks which is to review the list of all the things I MIGHT do for the holidays before the season even starts. Then I can decide which to do and when to do them. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    Janet Barclay recently posted…Planning for Your Best Year EverMy Profile

    1. I love this idea, Janet. That way, you prioritize what you want to do, and then free yourself from feeling guilt about the things you don’t get to. Each year is unique!

  5. I love this idea of savoring, leaning in, and being mindfully present as you navigate the holiday season. I noticed how you beautifully encouraged us to tap into our senses to engage more fully. Scents, tastes, touch, sound, and visuals are available anytime. By noticing and feeling your way forward guided by your senses, all experiences are enhanced.

    I wish you and your loved ones a happy, joy-filled holiday season!

    1. Whenever I think of mindfulness I think of YOU! I was away this past weekend and found myself pondering my own words, focusing in on my senses and what I wanted to remember. This process definitely made the whole experience more fun in the moment, and memorable for the future.

      Happy Holidays to you and your lovely family, Linda!

    1. We might as well enjoy all the special things we are working so hard to plan and pay for, right? Even for a short time, we need to let ourselves let go and fully submerge ourselves. Happy holidays to your and yours, Janet!

  6. This season I have been mindfully slowing down. It has been more difficult that you think because there are many more distractions. It is always a work in progress for us to be in the moment.

  7. There’s so much wisdom in this post, Seana, and I can see that our two posts really dovetailed with one another’s today. It’s so easy to get ourselves distracted — checking work email on our phone at a recital, worrying about next week’s plans in the middle of listening to a friend or child’s story.

    You made a good point in your comment on my post, about losing your mindfulness when concentrating on trying to capture the current moments photographically. We’re all so eager to freeze this moment for posterity, we miss most of the sensory engagement OF the moment.

    I remember my younger days when I was so wrapped up in helping my friend’s celebrate Christmas. Although it wasn’t my holiday, I appreciated the buzz of the season and enjoyed being part of their lives; while it wasn’t my spiritual traditions, it was delightful to play tourist in theirs. When my life was its busiest, making time to enjoy each thing fully and with focus helped create the most meaningful memories. I hope all your readers make use of your wisdom!
    Julie Bestry recently posted…Paper Doll De-Stresses Your DecemberMy Profile

    1. Similarly to you, I enjoy being invited into the traditions of my friends at the holidays. I still feel this way. My daughter lives in an area that decorates with lights all over for Diwali – so fun! What a treat to immerse myself in light. I’m truly making an effort this year to be in one “place” (physically and mentally) at a time.

  8. I’m looking forward to being able to spend more time with family and friends. My family hosts Thanksgiving and a few weeks ago I spent most of my time in the kitchen unable to be a part of conversations over pre-dinner snacks and relaxing on the couch. But, my sister hosts the next holiday! That will eliminate food shopping and cooking from my schedule and free up time to do some gift shopping and be (as you say) “fully engaged” with my family when we gather.

  9. That’s so fascinating – like how my therapist works on mindfulness with me, and tells me about sitting on a couch, and really feeling it supporting. Add in twinkly lights and a Christmas movie (and slippers) and I’m in.
    Tomorrow is a work meeting, a band concert, an appointment, and making homemade mac and cheese. I need to find hours in my days in which I can turn off. Probably not tomorrow.. but after that!
    Tamara recently posted…Peppermint Hot Chocolate RecipeMy Profile

    1. It can be hard to turn off, especially with a family all around you. But hey, maybe there will be a moment to focus on when you make the macaroni and cheese… smelling the cheese, watching the bubbles. Feel free to send some down to CT LOL!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.