We all know Christmas can be a stressful time. From financial worries to dealing with family members that have made it no secret that what they really want to do is throw the turkey at each others’ heads, there are a lot of factors that can drain the Christmas spirit right out of us if we don’t catch ourselves. Plus Christmas can become such a materially focused thing: having the perfect tree and decorations, splashing out at all the christmas exhibits, finding the perfect presents… In all the excitement we can lose sight of what’s important. Things we usually care about like our bank balance, being patient and compassionate with others and our environmental impact can all go out of the window. Christmas is just one day – what will you remember when it’s over? Will we even remember what we ate and were gifted? How can we use Christmas to encourage love and inner peace?
♡ Reconnect with the true meaning of Christmas
This doesn’t have to be a religious one – whether you’re a Christian or not all of us can use the holidays as a time to strengthen our community spirit, to celebrate the year gone by and to let loved ones know that we care. For Christians the birth of Christ is a celebration of God’s love… really it’s all about love people. Love love love. When you bring your intentions to mind to spread happiness to others you get in touch with your empathy – not only for others but for yourself.
In a time of stress you take a few deep breaths. You resist the urge to react immediately to an insensitive comment. You put yourself in that grumpy shopper’s shoes and realise she’s probably fretting about how she’s going to get everything done in time to make Christmas the best experience for her family. Maybe she’s a single mother facing the first Christmas alone and trying to make it the best it can be for the little ones with such an important person missing. Maybe she’s worrying about debt… maybe she’s trying to impress the in laws who never think she’s good enough to be married to their son. You realise than in another circumstance the grumpy shopper could be any one of your friends and you probably just caught her at a bad moment. And heck, you know you’ve not always been an angel.
By thinking this way and accepting others you have also by extension accepted yourself and that feels GOOD.
♡Recycle wrapping paper
Did you know that 12.5 million hectares of forest have been cut or burned down this year? Nope, me neither until I looked up this scary counter:
Luckily there’s a super small thing you can do without going all eco-warrior. Reuse your wrapping paper. All it requires is the restraint not to tear open the package like a wild hyena with its carcass and you can save yourself some bucks too! Just fold it all up neatly and put it in a bag in the cupboard along with the baubles and lights for next year. This way you can dramatically reduce (or maybe totally avoid) buying any wrapping paper next year. Yay!
Unfortunately most wrapping paper can’t be recycled but there are eco-friendly alternatives. One such company, Wrappily says ‘227,000 miles worth of wrapping paper get thrown away—enough to circle the world 9 times!’ So just from encouraging others to buy responsibly we can make quite a difference!
This one’s a given, but just in case you’ve bought exactly 0 of your presents so far, here’s a little reminder. You’ll enjoy those Christmas moments more if you aren’t running around like a headless chicken on the 24th…
♡Be in the present moment
How many times do you take yourself away to the past or the future worrying? Will s/he like my present? Have I bought enough nibbles? Uncle Bert was horrible last year, I don’t know how I’ll stand being in the same room as him…
When we are in our heads we are not able to really enjoy what is going on for us right now, which is actually all that we ever have. When you think about it, the only thing your life is made up of is many versions of the present moment!
Take a look at what’s around you – take in the details of the decorations and ways which the home has been arranged to be more pleasant. Look out of the window at the landscape and appreciate the land and the sky. Enjoy the smells of cooking and the tastes of each part of the meal. When people are talking, really listen – not just to decide what to say back but to really understand.
If you find yourself in tense situations bring your attention back to your breathing – notice how your body feels. Loosen your shoulders and inhale and exhale slowly. A relaxed body makes a relaxed mind – then you are more likely to be able to respond calmly to the situation. When anger or another negative emotion arises in you remember that this to shall pass. None of this is as important as you first think (unless perhaps you brutally injured yourself with a carving knife and need to call an ambulance…). Most of the problems we have are exaggerated or even invented by a mind that isn’t okay with being in the present moment and always wants more than it has in front of it.
Speaking of presents, this is a classic example. Many of us will experience disappointment about a gift from a loved one – but that is because we are comparing it to an idea we had about what might be… we are lost in the future. To be present, thank the person for the thoughtfulness of purchasing the gift. Remember that even if you got the perfect set of gifts they wouldn’t sustain your happiness for long. Having things and losing things is the inherent nature of life- so breathe and let it go.
♡Give your time over your money
Take time to check in with loved ones and ask them how they are doing. Listen to their stories and offer encouragement and support and laughter. Focus on swapping memories more than swapping presents!
If you have the time you could also look into volunteering for the local community. Could you help at a local food bank, homeless shelter or make sure elderly people aren’t alone this Christmas?
♡Donate unwanted presents to charity shops
Why not pass unwanted objects on to someone who will appreciate them plus raise some money for a good cause at the same time? Win win!
I’m not a vegan so please don’t think this is in any way preachy. (Yes, there are plenty of non-preachy vegans too). Just hear me out okay? I’m not telling you not to have meat / animal products at your christmas dinner. I’m just asking for you to think about where you source your food… what do you know about how it is made? How many food miles and how many greenhouse gases have been emitted to make your meal? Are you ethically comfortable with your choices or could you make a small swap to benefit other living beings and the planet? Could you buy a product with less packaging? Could you encourage the cook at your Christmas dinner to only make what you need rather than a huge feast that will get thrown away? If there are leftovers can you make them into meals for Boxing Day etc?
I find it grounding to take a silent moment to be thankful for my food. It’s a common Christian practice to say grace before a meal but you can do this with no religious connotations. It doesn’t have to be spoken aloud. The purpose in any case is to cultivate an attitude of gratitude – to think of those who are less fortunate and be thankful. If saying a secular grace is something you’d like to incorporate into your Christmas I found this site has plenty. One that I like is:
We are thankful for the food on this table.
We are thankful for this time together.
Our thoughts go out to family and friends;
We hope that they are safe and well.
♡Lastly – a simple one – just say thank you and be grateful.
If you are reading this you probably have a roof over your head and are able to put food on your table. Many are not so fortunate. A truly fulfilling Christmas is about the simple things – the laughter, the company, celebrating what we are blessed to have.
What do you do to be mindful at Christmas? Do let us know – you may inspire others to do the same!