Being Present During the Holidays

Nurture your own spirit for a happier family holiday.

woman at christmas time face celebrate gift

Each year, the holidays entice us with promises of spiritual renewal and family bonding. Yet it’s so easy to fall into the trap of doing too much, ignoring our own needs, and ending up in meltdown mode. What will it take to break the cycle this year? The answer could be as simple as devoting some time to your spiritual and emotional well-being. Give it a try and this holiday season could be one of deep inner connection and peace.

Cultivate the conscious intention to take care of yourself and holiday obligations in a more centered way. Take a few minutes each morning to turn inward and breathe. Then set a personal intention for the day. Try not to set goals; instead, consider setting an intention that will give you the emotional support you need. It could be anything from staying calm in the face of stress and responding in new ways to old family triggers to setting limits on how much energy you expend on others. Check in with your intention again before you go to sleep. That will help you reconnect to it and see how you’re doing. Work with the same intention for as long as it takes for it to become a regular part of your life.

When it comes to your not-so-enlightened relationship patterns—don’t worry, we all have them—a dose of mindfulness is a powerful antidote. To practice mindfulness, step back from a heated interaction by first taking a deep breath. Become aware of your emotions and any messages your body is sending—you may notice sudden back or neck pain or digestive distress, which are tip-offs to an imminent calamity. Honor those messages by finding space, such as by taking a walk, and reflecting on what you need to do to stay grounded. (If you’re working with an intention, this may be a good time to review it.)

Practice metta (lovingkindness) meditation. This is especially helpful if you’ve succumbed to old patterns and are not at your best. First try a five- to 15-minute meditation. Take a comfortable seated position, draw your attention to your heart center, and recite a phrase such as “May I be happy,” “May I be peaceful,” or “May I be free from suffering.” If this brings you comfort, you can create other mantras and recite them to yourself anywhere, anytime.

Bo Forbes, Psy.D., lives and practices in Cambridge, Massachusetts.