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Using Mindfulness to Make the Holidays Better

Image of a Japanese stone pagoda in a garden.  Raleigh Psychotherapy, counseling, mindfulness, Katherine Broadway

Once again, the holiday season is upon us. It comes every year, whether we like it or not. Many people find it fun and exciting - they get into the holiday spirit, and are sad when it is over. Then there are people who dread the holidays. Everything about the season is torturous, from Christmas music in the stores to family meals, or perhaps the lack of a family. People who dread the holidays can become depressed, anxious and even angry. As Sarah Vine wrote, “Christmas is like childbirth: magical in theory; excruciating in practice.”

There are ways to make the holidays better. One of the ways is through mindfulness.

Mindfulness is defined as a way to intentionally pay attention to the present moment without being caught up in judgment and criticism. It is both a meditation form and a life style. It means staying awake, aware and paying attention to your thoughts, feelings and body sensations without passing judgment on what you are experiencing. It is about gathering information about yourself and your experiences. Your old messages and beliefs run your life with old ideas and thoughts. Mindfulness is a way to begin to turn off your automatic reactions and make choices about your life.

Mindfulness meditation is one tool we can use to change who we are, how we act, how we see ourselves, and how we feel about ourselves and others. Mindfulness meditation is done by simply paying attention to your breath: listening to it going in and out. When your mind wanders, and it will, you simply bring your attention back to your breath, without judgment or criticism. It is the act of returning you attention to the breath that strengthens the brain.

Mindfulness is a way to live inside your body. As you pay attention to yourself, you begin to notice the patterns in your life and the thoughts that flow through your brain all the time, both when asleep and awake. The phrases you repeat to yourself, such as, “I can’t stand this, no one likes me, I can’t do this,” are red flags. With this awareness, we can choose whether to follow these directives and act in the same old ways, or to pause and find a different way.

A life style of mindfulness means remembering yourself when your attention wanders and you get distracted. It means paying attention to your mood and feeling shifts. As you notice what took your attention, how your mood shifted or how your feelings changed, ask yourself what happened to cause this change. Was it a thought that skittered through your mind? Was something said, or were you

not getting to do what you wanted to do? Doing this is the first step to being able to make your holidays happier.

4 Ways to Use Mindfulness to Make Your Holidays Better

1. Gentle awareness is a way that you can stay present to yourself. It is

simply paying attention to yourself with no purpose in mind but to

notice. What are the thoughts that are in your mind? What are you


2. Meditation comes in many forms. It can be silent, guided, visual,

walking, painting or drawing, just to name a few. Try different methods

to see what suits you best.(link to blog)

3. A mantra is a phrase, word or sound you repeat to help you focus on

and go deeper into your awareness. Again, notice what pops into your

mind, without judgment or fear. Your mantra can be used silently, when

you are in stressful situations. As you find yourself becoming upset,

simply repeat your comforting word, phrase or sound inside.

4. Listen carefully to your thoughts and take note of the feelings that

arise. At times, your feelings will tell you about what you actually want,

as opposed to what you “should” and “ought" to do. As you go through

your activities in the following days, notice what works for you. Focus

on what goes well.

What you focus on will determine many of your feelings. Are you struggling with your feelings around the holiday? Are you finding you cannot make things better for yourself? I can help. Call me at: 919-881-2001.

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