James Sweetman, Meet James
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November 23, 2018

A Mindful Christmas

Mindful Christmas

Christmas can be a stressful time of the year, if we let it. The pressure of buying the perfect gifts, preparing food and having a ‘Happy Christmas,’ can be overwhelming. Equally Christmas can be a time of celebration, an opportunity to spend time with loved ones, to relax and perhaps allow ourselves the odd indulgence or two.

In the midst of all the planning and organising and the on-going effort of keeping everyone around you happy, the one person we can forget is ourselves. So this Christmas why not give yourself a gift, the gift of mindfulness.

For me, mindfulness has two aspects. Firstly, it is about being ‘present’ to yourself (a nice use of the word at this time of year,) being gentle and compassionate towards yourself and acknowledging that you are always doing your best. Secondly, mindfulness is about paying attention to what is going on around you, seeing the world through eyes of gratitude, being in the moment, not reliving the past or worrying about the future.

Here are five suggestions for being more mindful this Christmas season.

The true holiday spirit

You cannot make Christmas meaningful to you until you decide what you want Christmas to mean to you. What are your priorities over the Christmas period? What’s important to you about Christmas? When you are clear as to what’s important to you, then how you spend your time over Christmas should reflect this.
People often talk about not feeling ‘Christmassy.’ What makes us feel ‘Christmassy?’ For me, ‘Christmassy’ is a mindset – a mindset of gratitude, reflection, relaxation, love, wonder and joy.

What new tradition could you start this year?

Many people habitually adhere to family traditions in the vain hope of recreating an idealised version of the past. Rather than blindly following Christmas traditions, what would you like to do differently this year? This Christmas is my first Christmas as a married man, so although I’ve been with my husband Brian for 11 years, we are making some changes to the Christmas routines this year. Making changes doesn’t mean you won’t be tactful or not make plans in advance, but what could you do differently this year that more accurately reflects your current situation or personal pleasures?

Add your own name to your gift list

As well as the gift of mindfulness, why not give yourself a tangible gift this year? Many years ago I started the tradition of buying myself a Christmas present. It might be a book or a nice bottle of wine, (or both) but I do it to acknowledge myself and everything I do well every day of the year. This year it is a jacket I’ve been coveting for ages. I’ve saved up and can tick it from my bucket list too!

Good enough is good enough

The theory of Christmas is the image is of a perfect family with shining faces sitting around an open fire in woolly jumpers with perhaps even a Clydesdale horse trotting by the window. The reality of Christmas for many is traffic jams around shopping centres, hangovers, keeping the peace, hoping someone doesn’t drink too much, borrowing money, hours in the kitchen, putting on a brave face to mask loneliness or sadness.

Stress arises when we try to be perfect or control situations (or people) outside of our control. How could you reduce the effort you put into Christmas this year? I like to ask myself the question – in the run up to Christmas and over the Christmas period who do I want to be, that is, what qualities do I want to connect with purposefully? (Ease, pacing, joy, gratitude, organised!) Another useful question to ponder is – how can I enjoy the process of preparing for Christmas?

I believe that our external reality reflects who we are. Stressed people find Christmas stressful, joyful people find Christmas joyful, angry people find something to be angry about and so on. The qualities you seek in Christmas are really the qualities you seek in yourself.

The qualities you seek in Christmas are really the qualities you seek in yourself. Click To Tweet

Gratitude

For me, Christmas is a time to express gratitude. Be it the giving of gifts and cards, or giving of ourselves through acts of kindness, generosity or volunteering our time. To foster the attitude of gratitude, that for me is at the heart of Christmas, here are some reflection questions.

  • When did you laugh the most in 2018?
  • What was the most rewarding or fulfilling thing you did in 2018?
  • Whose company did you savour in 2018?
  • What did you let go of in 2018?
  • What was your most memorable moment in 2018?

Let me close, by wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful and wonder-filled Christmas.

If you enjoyed this article you might also like ‘My end of year ritual‘ that contains many more questions for closing the year and welcoming the new.