Peace on earth begins with peace inside – holiday mindfulness


camera-4-2013-084In theory, the holiday season should be a time of celebration, joy, and certainly peace. But in reality, that is not always the case. External circumstances that are often out of our control have the ability to rob us of peace and joy. Then there is the holiday shopping, over spending, crowds, gift wrapping, decorating, extra cooking, too many parties, too many sweets, and of course family gatherings. It’s not always possible to opt out of the holidays or holiday events that tend to add a load of stress and rob us of our well-being, nor should we want to. But the fact remains, and what I consider to be so sad about this, is that we lose the meaning and wonder of what can be such a special time of year. By the time January rolls around, we’re dropping needles faster than the Christmas tree.

Not everything about the holidays is irritating or stressful. And we can’t change those things that are out of our control, but certain simple practices can save the month…one day at a time, one moment at a time, and even leave us with a greater joy and peace. To get there, we must be intentionally mindful. Peace on earth begins with peace inside.

Tips for Well-being this Holiday:

  1. Release your expectations. What is the discrepancy between your expectations and reality this holiday season? Often what robs you of peace is the expectation of what the holidays should be like. Who you will spend the holidays with, what you will do, what gifts you will give and receive. Disappointment over unmet expectations is a joy killer. Decide to pause from time to time and pay mindful attention to all that you have. Whatever the day brings, look for the wonder. Look for the joy, and put a check on your expectations.
  2. Look for ways to add sunshine to your day. I’m talking about real sunshine. Sunshine stimulates the production of feel-good hormones and also helps relieve that seasonal sadness that can creep in. Spend some time outside. Open the curtains and let the sunshine in when possible.
  3. Make time for a walk in the park. Don’t have a park? Get outside and walk anywhere. If the sun is shining it’s a double benefit. But just walking has a tranquilizing effect on your brain, and a 30-minute walk through a park or neighborhood can put us into a state of peace. Exercise and the outdoors are both stress relievers. Add benefit by watching the squirrels, or watching dogs or children play. Sit on a park bench, feed the ducks or birds and be mindful. Be in the moment. Enjoy.
  4. Unplug and power off. Constant calls, texts and email alerts keep us from experience a moment calm. Not only is this exhausting to receive all of these notifications, but we feel obligated to respond which contributes to more stress. Turn it off. Enjoy the moments of un-plugged quiet.
  5. Sing a favorite song. It doesn’t have to be a holiday song. Any song is great. Just sing, and sing out loud! Singing is known to reduce stress; it both soothes your nerves and lifts your spirits. The feel-good joy may come from endorphins released when you sing, which leads to that feeling of pleasure.
  6. Turn on your favorite holiday tunes. When you’re feeling anxious, and you can’t bring yourself to sing, listen to a familiar and favorite holiday song. Research shows that when you hear music you love, it can relax blood vessels and increase blood flow. It leads to a sense of peace and calm, and is good for the heart as well!
  7. Watch a funny and/or enjoyable movie. The more familiar the better! Miracle on 34th Street, ELF, and It’s a Wonderful Life are just a few that will rev up those mood-boosting endorphins.
  8. Cut down your own live tree: If you celebrate Christmas, and if your allergies allow for it, skip the artificial tree, even the trip to a tree stand, and head to a tree farm if there is one nearby. Remember, being outside improves mood, but there is also something quite mindful as cutting down your own tree can add something new and enjoyable, and create simple memories.
  9. Buy flowers for your home and office. Flowers have a way of brightening most days. We feel better and even happier at the sight of flowers. The fragrance is also a nice boost. Cuttings of evergreen and scented pine cones are also great.
  10. Simple acts of kindness. Give to others; kind words, kind deeds, and other simple ways to brighten someone’s day. Whether you do it with money or time, giving is good for you.
  11. Stars of wonder. Go outside on a clear night and look at the stars. Sit, stand, even lie down under the great sky and begin to shut out the craziness. You’ll be amazed by how just about anything in your day will be put into perspective and give you a sense of peace. Live in Austin, Texas? Drive up to Mount Bonnell or head to the hill country. Get out of town and look up.
  12. Power up your smile. Be intentional about keeping a smile on your face wherever you are. Our facial expressions not only communicate our mood to others, they have the ability to influence our mood as well. Smile! You will feel better. Do a periodic face check during the day and make sure the smile is still there.
  13. Enjoy a relaxing bath. I realize not everyone is a bath person, and for some, a shower can do the same thing. Slip into a soothing bath or hot tub and let the mindfulness begin!
  14. Sit by a crackling fire: Don’t have a fireplace? Next best thing is lighting several candles and putting on holiday music.
  15. Breathe deeply around those relatives. Close your eyes, breathe, and resist the temptation to enter into stressful conversations. Enjoy the good moments. Look for times where generosity and togetherness are present.
  16. Have a cup of hot cocoa or tea. Just holding a warm beverage makes us feel good. While it may sound corny to some, research shows that warm hands are linked to warm hearts. Take this warm drink outside under the stars and breathe deep.
  17. Enjoy an occasional candy cane. The smell alone of peppermint will make you feel better, but it’s also a natural healer.
  18. Count your blessings. Yes, you have them no matter how tough life may seem. Look for the positive and dwell on the positive. Spend a few minutes every morning and evening reflecting on the good things that you hope to experience in your day, and the blessings you experienced that day. No matter how insignificant they seem, count them; the walk in the park, the stars in the sky, a smile from a friend, a kind word, and so on. We all have a tendency to camp out in the negative. Breathe deep. Be mindful of your blessings.
  19. Don’t lose the wonder. Make the small things matter. Look around and appreciate with a heart of gratitude.
  20. Be ever mindful. No matter how hectic life gets, how busy you feel the holidays get, spend time on your own joy and peace of mind. Be intentionally mindful.
  21. Peace on earth begins with peace inside.

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