How to have a more mindful Christmas this year
I’m planning to have a mindful Christmas this year. What’s a mindful Christmas, you ask? Well, let me start by telling you a story about what a mindful Christmas is NOT.
The last First Christmas
I love Christmas. Like, really, truly get excited when I start to see Christmas decorations in the shops in September, love it. And last year, I was particularly excited for Christmas, because it was my baby’s first Christmas. She is my last baby, so I felt a lot of pressure to make it a memorable one. Of course, she was only 3 months old at Christmas time and couldn’t even hold anything yet, much less participate in Christmas celebrations. But that was irrelevant to me. It was going to be a perfect last first Christmas. I was determined.
Except, I have three other children, and did I mention my baby was only 3 months old? Yeah. Can you guess where this is going? I did not have a mindful Christmas last year. I had a stressful Christmas.
I tried to do ALL the things
I offered to host Christmas lunch, despite the fact that we were in the middle of packing up our house to move.
I planned all the activities. Carols, and tree lighting ceremonies, and breakfast with Santa, and advent activities every single day, and elaborate baking, and crafting and Santa photos with matching outfits.
I went overboard with the gifts. Again. Including the gifts for the baby who of course, slept through most of the festivities and had no idea what was going on.
I declined my family’s offer to each bring a dish. I wanted to make all the food. I wanted to do it all.
And do know what happened? We didn’t do any of it.
A Grinchy Christmas
I lost my Christmas mojo. I was exhausted, and because of that, I was also distracted, and stressed. And in the end, we ditched most of the planned activities. We didn’t finish our advent calendar. We didn’t go to any carols. And when we did go to activities and events, I was cranky. Snappy. And distracted thinking about all the things I still had to do. I was too tired to talk to people, and spending too much time on my phone, looking for the perfect shirt for my son to wear for his Santa photo.
So it was NOT a fun Christmas for me. In fact, it was not much fun for any of us. We missed out on some great opportunities to spend time as a family. Opportunities to connect with each other and to create memories participating in fun family traditions. All because of the idea I had in my head of what a perfect Christmas should look like.
8 ways to have a more Mindful Christmas this year
So this year, I’m having a mindful Christmas. I’m saying goodbye to the stress and the chaos and the overwhelm. I’m spending time being present with my family. I’m doing the things that are important to us. I’m focusing on what Christmas truly means for our family, and I’m letting go of the idea that Christmas needs to be picture perfect. If it causes us stress, if it stops being fun, if it doesn’t really matter to us, we’re not doing it.
Sound good? Here’s how you can join in!
1. Make it meaningful
What does Christmas mean to you? Is it about spending time with family? Celebrating the birth of Jesus? Giving to others? This answer is going to be different for everyone. Each family attaches a slightly different meaning to Christmas. But whatever yours is, focus on that.
When you’re writing your to-do list, making plans, scheduling in activities, ask yourself: is this meaningful for me? How does it fit with my values? And if it doesn’t add meaning to your Christmas, well, maybe it doesn’t need to be part of your celebrations this year.
2. Focus on creating memories
Can you remember the Christmases from your childhood? What do you remember most? The gift you received when your were 5 years old? Or the feeling of excitement when you woke up on Christmas morning? I’m guessing what stands out most for people is the way they felt at Christmas time.
I don’t remember many of the gifts I received for Christmas as a child. I’m sure I loved them at the time, but that’s not what my favourite part of Christmas was. My favourite part was the time spent surrounded by family. It was going to my grandmothers house and knowing that my whole family would be there. Knowing that everyone would be together.
It was sitting around her table eating lunch and laughing together. It was swimming in the pool with my cousins until our fingers and toes were all wrinkly and pruned. It was sitting on the grass, all wrapped up in towels, hair dripping wet while we ate ice blocks that melted all over us in the Summer heat. It was comparing new toys. Taking guesses about how soon after lunch my uncle would fall asleep on the living room floor. That’s what I remember most about my childhood Christmases. That’s what makes me smile when I think of Christmases past. Focus on making memories that will make your children smile fondly in years to come.
3. Say no
This one is important. You can’t do all the things. You can’t possibly go to every single Christmas event. You can’t do all the baking, and all the crafting, and go to all the parties, and buy all the gifts, and catch up with all the people you’ve ever known, during the Christmas period. Sometimes you need to say no. Focus on the things that matter most to you. The most important people. The most meaningful activities. The rest can wait.
4. Be present
Make Christmas about presence instead of presents this year! The internet can certainly be an inspiring and helpful space. There are brilliant Christmas gift ideas and sales popping up in your email inbox, craft and baking ideas on Pinterest, and the magazine worthy Christmas trees and home decor ideas on Instagram.
But it can also be a massive sucker of joy. It distracts you from the moment, and it can also cause some serious comparison induced jealousy. Do you want to experience Christmas via someone else’s Instagram feed? Or would you rather experience as it happens in your own living room?
Put down the phone. Just enjoy the moment with your family. Be all there.
5. Use your senses
Using your senses is a great way to really feel grounded and bring you into the present moment. Use your senses to really feel present and mindful over Christmas. Play your favourite Christmas carols, put some twinkly lights on your tree, bake (and eat) some gingerbread cookies, put some essential oils in a diffuser, decorate your home with interesting items from nature These smells and sound scan induce powerful emotions in us. Feelings that we’ll remember and which will bring us comfort long after Christmas is over.
6. Take time for you
In amongst the hustle and bustle of organising everything for everyone, it can be easy to forget about us. But it’s important to take time out for ourselves during busy times. Particularly at Christmas. Particularly if it’s all starting to feel like a chore. So find your joy.
So find what makes you feel good, happy, or inspired. And then do that! It might be something like a massage, getting your hair done, or having a manicure. Or it might be something really simple like drinking your morning coffee in the sunshine, or taking 5 minutes to stretch in the morning before you start your day. Whatever it is that helps you feel happy and energised? Do more of that.
7. Plan it out
Making a plan and feeling organised will help you deal with much of the stress and overwhelm that can be associated with Christmas. This can help you be more intentional – with your time, your activities, your gifts, and your whole celebration. So set yourself a budget (and write it down). Make a list of family traditions that you want to continue this year (check out our Mindful Little Advent Bundle for some fun ideas). And then schedule them into your calendar and find a way to make them happen! Don’t leave these things to chance. By making an intentional decision to do what matters, you create a more meaningful season for everyone.
8. Let it go
Do you find yourself getting caught up in the finer details of Christmas? Making sure the tree is decorated just so? Finding the perfect table centrepiece? Colour co-ordinating all the wrapping under the tree? I have a question for you: Is it bringing you joy? Is it making your celebration any better? More enjoyable? Does anyone even notice?
If your answer is no, it may be time to let.it.go. Seriously. Why are you making more work for yourself? If it’s not adding anything to your celebration, is it really that important? It might be time to let go of your ideas about what Christmas should look like, and embrace a Christmas that feels like a good fit for you and your family.
You’ve spent so long believing that Christmas has to look a certain way. You’ve bought into this idea that Christmas has to be about choosing the perfect gift. Making the perfect meal. Finding the perfect Christmas outfits for the kids. That Christmas should be busy. That you should make time for everyone. That the more you do, the more fun the kids will have. That a magical Christmas is a Christmas packed full of activities, and crafts, and outings, and Santa photos in crowded shopping centres, and shopping for everyone you know. And that damn elf. Don’t even get me started on him. It’s exhausting. You’re exhausted.
But here’s the thing. You don’t HAVE to have a Christmas like that. You can have a Christmas that feels right for you. A calm Christmas. A Christmas with meaning. A Christmas designed by you, for you. You can have a mindful Christmas this year. It’s time.
Sarah is a psychologist, mama of 4 and the creator of Mindful Little Minds. She has over 10 years of experience working with children, adolescents and families experiencing mental health problems and has a special interest in anxiety disorders in children. In her spare time she enjoys hugging her kids, drinking coffee, and telling anyone who’ll listen how tired she is.