10 Mindful Ways to Enjoy the Holiday Season

Practicing gratitude reminds us that we are part of a beautiful whole, supported and loved. When you begin to feel stressed, alone or anxious, consider the things you are thankful for.
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1. Set an intention for this holiday season. It can be as broad or specific as you wish, but take a moment to consider how you'd like to spend this time and where you want to focus your time and energy. This simple action creates awareness, and will help you prioritize.

2. Acknowledge your entrenched holiday habits. The force of habit (also known as our habit energy) is the momentum that propels us down familiar paths in life. Even when we've acknowledged the need to change our habits, it's easy to stay in autopilot. Change requires a conscious effort. You likely have specific holiday season patterns, such as rushing, over-committing, overspending or over consuming. What else? Without blaming yourself, look at these habits and ask: Do these habits serve me well?

3. Practice compassionate listening with friends and family. In order to truly appreciate the time we have with loved-ones, we must be fully present. The perfect time to practice compassionate listing is when it's most difficult to remain present -- when we have disagreements with a loved one or strong emotions have built up over time. When we leave our body and disconnect our consciousness from the present moment, we miss valuable lessons, connections and understanding. Remember to observe whatever emotions arise, and to treat yourself with loving compassion too.

4. Take time to do nothing. Even a few restful moments in between activities, or at the end of the night, can reduce stress and improve awareness and mood. Remember: Doing nothing doesn't mean checking email or chatting on the phone. Need some help winding down? Consult the "Doing Nothing" guide.

5. Just breathe. We put so much on our to-do list that we may be stacking up tasks back to back. We need mini breaks to refresh ourselves. For example, if you are waiting for a slice of bread to come out of the toaster, refrain from doing another task. Take the two minutes to just breathe...

"Breathing in, I know I am breathing in.
Breathing out, I know I am breathing out."

6. Start or renew your meditation practice. Do NOT add meditation to your to-do list. Instead, consider it a tool to enhance your everyday experiences. Meditate while standing in line, while cooking, or while walking down the street. Regular meditation can improve focus, reduce stress and anxiety and offer great joy.

7. Invite deep sleep with a bedtime meditation:

"Breathing in, I am conscious of all that I still have to do
Breathing out, I park them in my 'to-do' box until tomorrow to get a good rest"

8. Savor sweets. Treats are some of the best foods to savor as they are so rich in flavor. And if we really enjoy them, we are less likely to mindlessly over-consume them. Eating while full of guilt isn't helpful. Choose your sweets thoughtfully, and enjoy them fully.

9. Enjoy the splendor of this time! The 2011 holiday season will soon be over. Relish the unique sights, smells and sounds. Do not miss the magical moments!!

An inspirational passage on impermanence from Thich Nhat Hanh:

Nothing remains the same for two consecutive moments. Heraclitus said we can never bathe twice in the same river. Confucius, while looking at a stream, said, "It is always flowing, day and night." The Buddha implored us not just to talk about impermanence, but to use it as an instrument to help us penetrate deeply into reality and obtain liberating insight.

10. Give thanks. Recent studies show that practicing gratitude improves health, perspective and relationships. Practicing gratitude reminds us that we are part of a beautiful whole, supported and loved. When you begin to feel stressed, alone or anxious, consider the things you are thankful for.

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