THERE IS A chill and a sparkle in the air and an aroma of pine leaves. Leaves of trees are piled on footpaths, wistful romantic tunes jingle – “I’ll be home for Christmas”, colourful lights twinkle, people bustle. I’m already waking up at night… excited, expectant, planning… Oh no, not again!
It’s so easy to get swept up and lost in the nostalgia, the idealism, the madness, the hype. Then, our actions become ‘mindless’ reactions – we overdo the decorations, presents, food, parties because we mistake the illusion of Christmas for reality. Of course, we all want the sharing, the caring. We want to experience the warmth, fun and celebration at Christmastime but our tendency is to focus our energy in all the wrong places so often it turns out quite differently… tension, strained relationships, family fights, sadness and loneliness.
But, how can we avoid the pitfalls and make the most of whatever we have? And, what about the people who are not excited or looking forward to the next few weeks. Maybe you are alone, or have lost someone dear, or you are unwell or dealing with a challenge – is there any help out there, you might ask?
Simplicity is the answer
Whoever you are and whatever your story, ‘mindfulness’ or your capacity to be aware, right here and now means you stay with yourself and your experience as it unfolds, moment by moment with kindness, curiosity, openness and acceptance. So, instead of ‘having our buttons pushed’ and ‘reacting’ unconsciously to ongoing events, circumstances and other people, we stay open.
Perceiving with all of our senses (really looking, listening, feeling, smelling, tasting) takes our attention out of the stream of thinking (so we don’t get ‘lost’ in the story of what ‘must’ be done for instance) and we see reality as it is with lots of choices. Rather than worrying about what has happened or might happen, we deal with what is happening and our ‘presence’ (fully here) means we respond effectively and appreciate more fully.
When we are mindful we slow down and see the bigger picture. We realise that each moment (not just the moments on 25 December) is precious and an opportunity to re-write patterns and habits that are no longer serving us. We choose to re-engage with living, savouring the ordinary stuff like good company, loving relationships, delicious food, fun, laughter, music.
Research supports mindfulness
Research has shown that it is less ‘the event’ that makes us happy – than what we bring to it. So, when we get caught up in ‘rushing around’, ‘doing too much’, ‘getting anxious about having everything just so’, we become stressed and unable to relax and enjoy ourselves.
However, when we allow some space to replenish ourselves, we increase activity in the parts of our brain associated with positive emotion, joy, a sense of enthusiasm and decrease the activity in the areas associated with depression, rumination, excessive self concern as well as fear and anger.
Consciously choose happiness
You can consciously choose to make some space to cultivate awareness or mindfulness even if you have real difficulties to deal with. Mindfulness can help you to:
- Stop and settle
- Focus on what matters
- Make some skilful choices
- Manage anxiety, stress, loss and fears
- Deal compassionately with self and others
- Come to your senses
- Move your body
- Enjoy silence
- Give generously
- Appreciate fully
- Bring it back to self
- Savour moment by moment