Dec 19, 2012

Savor the Holidays

Ready or not, the holidays are here! If you find yourself wrapped up in the holiday bustle without a moment to pause, you are not alone. Between the gift shopping and wrapping, cookie baking, party throwing and tree trimming, it's all too easy to let these precious weeks fly by without savoring the experiences we love. Commit to making this year different by setting intentions, rethinking traditions and letting go of things that you do not enjoy. Here are eight ways to get started.
contemporary dining room by Pullga
by Pullga
by Pullga
1. Set your holiday intentions. Remember, this is a fleeting time — no matter what you do (or don't do), it will be over in a matter of weeks. Set an intention to take setbacks lightly, pay attention to the present moment and embody the holiday mood you want to cultivate around you. Moods are infectious, so if you decide to simply relax and enjoy yourself wherever you are (even in line at the mall), those around you will appreciate your good humor and may even find their own spirits lifting.
2. Build a moment of gratitude into your daily routine. It seems easiest to tack this onto something you do already, such as sipping your first cup of coffee or tea in the morning, using that as your cue. Think about three things you are grateful for and three things you can do to make the day special for yourself and those around you.
3. List your favorite and least favorite things about the holidays.What is most meaningful and fulfilling to you? Which activities would you be really sorry to miss out on? By making sure that the most important things are on your schedule and given top priority, and letting go of things that you don't really care for, you can tailor your holidays to suit you. I had an idea that I would design my own family photo holiday cards, but I realized I would rather spend my time sipping cocoa by the tree, so I'm skipping it. No one else will know what they're missing!
4. Think back to what you loved to do as a child. One thing I remember very fondly was going with my grandma each year to the "Teddy Bear Tea" in a local mansion. The home was fully decked out for the holidays, with Christmas trees in every room, elaborate imaginative scenes and plenty of cookies and sweets. While I probably won't make it to such a tea this year, I could certainly remember my grandma by visiting one of the grand holiday homes for a concert or open house.
5. Do something for others. Giving to, sharing with and helping others makes us appreciate what we have and feel more connected with our community. Many people choose to volunteer during the holiday season, but that is hardly the only way you can give — consider helping an elderly neighbor put up Christmas lights, collect presents to donate to Toys for Tots or drop off unexpected gifts to your former teachers or others who made a difference in your life.
6. Be intentional about traditions. There is something powerful about traditions that are handed down from generation to generation — even something as simple as trimming the tree can become a time for passing on family history, as the stories behind the ornaments are shared. Some traditions may have once been practiced by your family but stopped for one reason or another, and you may want to reinstate a personal favorite. Other traditions can be stifling and no longer relevant to our lives. In that case, it can feel freeing to let go of the tradition that is no longer serving you.
7. Give yourself permission to take a totally nonproductive time-out. When to-do lists are running through your mind at warp speed, it can feel irresponsible to drop your plans and veg out instead. But sometimes that's exactly what we need to do! Everyone deserves some real downtime — not writing-cards-while-watching-TV downtime, but really doing nothing. Lie down and take a nap, or just stare at the ceiling for a while. Do whatever you are really craving and nothing else, if only for an hour. Take a hot bath, read your favorite magazines and for goodness' sake turn off your phone.
8. Own your holiday experience. We can all get a bit Scrooge-ish from time to time, when the errand running and line waiting seem to outweigh the simple pleasures we hoped to experience. When I begin to feel a bit of grumpiness sneaking in, I remind myself how very lucky I am to be able to celebrate the holidays in my own cozy home with friends and family I love. And of course, if you would rather skip the holiday frenzy altogether, you can always travel!

Tell us: What is your favorite way to celebrate the holidays? Any tried and true ways to keep stress at bay?