This quote from the Dalai Lama is especially appropriate for this time of the year. Christmas, whether you are religious or not is meant to be a time for family and friends. It's supposed to be the one time of the year that we get to just be with those we love and care about. Yet statistics show that many of us find the festive season a struggle. I certainly feel stressed trying to think of something original to buy my family and friends.
THE PARADOX OF OUR AGE
We have bigger houses, but smaller families; more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge but less judgements; more experts, but more problems; more medicines, but less healthiness.
We've been all the way to the moon and back but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbour.
We build more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever but less communication.
We have become long on quantity, but short on quality.
These are times of fast foods but slow digestion;
Tall man but short character;
Steep profits but shallow relationships.
It is a time when there is much in the window but nothing in the room
Remember what it used to be like
I know it's not very mindful to focus on the past but in this instance, it could be helpful to remember what Christmas used to be like. Remembering what it was like before we allowed technology take over. Before the constant distraction of our mobile phones and repeated beeping of social media notifications.
What would happen if we just spent a few hours or a whole day with our mobile phones on silent? What if we stopped looking down at the screen and looked up at our loved ones? What would we notice if we actually paid attention?
Mindfulness is a love affair with life. You see the beauty in everybody and in everything - Jon Kabat-Zinn
Staying in the Moment
We spend so much time in preparation for the "big day" that we are future focusing, missing the moments in between. We are stressed about the Christmas meal, the presents, the plans for the day and then when the day comes we are too exhausted to enjoy it.
If the traditions and rituals of Christmas do not mean anything to you, there is still the opportunity to make this time of the year meaningful. This is still an opportunity to really just let go of the craziness of everyday life and take time out to be, to stop doing and just be present.
Remembering to enjoy the little things like wrapping up presents, putting up decorations or maybe just having the time to reflect on life.
Managing Our Expectations
I guess the biggest challenge is how to manage our expectations. We build up a picture of how we want our Christmas to be and what we would love to give or receive from our loved one's, often this very anticipation creates a sense of "let down" or disappointment. And after so much planning, how do we cope with the come down after it's all over?
We have to learn how to manage the emotions that arise after Christmas. It's no coincidence that depression, divorce and stress spike in January.
If you don't get what you want for Christmas, if you couldn't buy your children the biggest and best present possible, if the food wasn't as fantastic as you dreamed it would be, if your partner buys you a present that you don't like, can you let it go or will you carry it forward?
Can we just accept a gift without judgement? Can we give a gift without expectation?
Mindfulness Tips for the festive season:
- Pay attention to your thoughts and catch them before you react
- Every morning sit for a few moments and ask yourself this questions "What is the meaning of Christmas to me?" - see what comes up and how you feel. This will help you to remember what is important to you rather than getting lost in all the busyness and craziness.
- Notice what triggers your negative feelings and thoughts. When you begin to notice, you can do something about it before you get lost in them.
- Remember to be grateful for the things and people in your life. Gratitude is a powerful attitude.
- Plan family and friend activities, things you can do together. And maybe dare to go technology free for a while.
- And make sure you get fresh air, get out even if it's just for a while. A little freshair can make all the difference.
Don't sweat the small stuff - it's all small stuff! - Richard Carlson
Remember that having time to be with our family and friends is enough. We don't get meaning from things, so perhaps this year have the courage to do it a little differently.