Want Even More Ways to Nurture Your Soul this Holiday Season?
- A printable version of the Spiritual Survival Guide: 23 Ideas to Create a Calm, Mindful Holiday that Fills Your Heart & Soul with Joy
- Bonus video teachings with extra tips
- A driving meditation to stay calm during holiday travel
- A calming family activity that brings mindfulness to the holidays
- And more!
23 Ideas to Create a Calm, Mindful Holiday that Fills Your Heart & Soul with Joy
Holidays are supposed to be joyful, relaxing and nurturing – precious time to share with our families, enjoy each other’s company, appreciate our blessings and take a break from our busy schedules…
But for many of us (77% of Americans according to a recent study) the holidays are actually one of the most stressful times of the year!
It’s easy to understand why – you slave away in the kitchen for hours to make a meal everyone will love, “break the bank” to get presents for everybody, forgo your little free time to decorate the house in time for the dinner party…
Only to spend half the dinner doing your best to keep the kids off their phones and the adults from arguing about politics!
Let’s not forget the stress of holiday travel – running around a busy airport to catch the flight that leaves in 15 minutes, or trying to keep the kids from fighting on the backseat during a long drive…
Or welcoming family into your own home, crowding the only safe space you had left to decompress.
And let’s be honest, not all family members are the easiest people to be around!
So right before ringing the doorbell to join the family dinner, you’re bracing yourself for the prying questions, unsolicited life advice or unrealistic expectations that will be thrown your way…
Phew! The holidays can certainly take a toll on anyone’s peace of mind.
But regardless of previous experiences, you CAN experience a peaceful, fun holiday season…
In this article, you’ll learn 23 tips and ideas to shift your holidays from an anxiety-inducing nightmare that leaves you with 10 extra pounds and a lot more white hairs…
To a joyful, peaceful period where you get to bond with your loved ones, rest and recharge.
23 Tips to Unlock Joy, Calm and Harmony this Holiday Season
#1: Visualize the holiday season you’d love
Right after Thanksgiving goes away, our minds can get easily invaded by all kinds of thoughts about our upcoming holiday stressors…
The dinner planning, getting plane tickets to visit the family, or buying the presents in time.
But there’s a simple technique to start creating a new, relaxing outcome: visualize the holiday season you’d love.
Think about how you’d actually love to spend the holidays, and imagine different scenarios vividly – a peaceful family dinner filled with laughter, or how liberated you feel because you have more than enough to cover all the expenses this season.
Just by doing this simple practice you’ll signal the Universe the kind of holiday you want, and the Universe will start co-creating it with you!
#2: Plan in Advance
When there are too many things going on at once, and we have to make decisions about how to move forward, it’s common to feel overwhelmed.
No wonder that the holidays are a time when anxiety peaks for so many people!
But you can make things easier on yourself by planning in advance – you can decide while you’re still calm which gatherings you will attend, the budget you’ll designate for presents, or if you will travel to see family members you haven’t seen for some time.
A simple way to do this is to create lists. If you take a gift budget as an example, first you would write down all the people you normally give presents to. Set a total amount you’ll spend on gifts, and then assign how much you’ll allocate for each person.
That way you’ll minimize the things you have to deal with during the holidays, and use that time to relax and enjoy.
#3: Create New Traditions
Perhaps your family traditions are life-giving to you – if that’s case, wonderful! But many people feel obligated to perpetuate traditions that no longer align with what they would love, just because “it’s the way it’s always been.”
It’s ok to engage in traditions, just remember that you can create new ones!
From the size of the gatherings, the meals involved, switching costly presents for hand-written notes or choosing to travel this time of the year… you can tweak old family customs, radically change them, or create new ones.
#4: Protect Your Downtime
Rest and relaxation are not a luxury, they’re needed to be the best version of ourselves and be fully present for others. The holidays can also be a great time to refill your cup, if you choose to.
Make sure to balance social activities, chores and obligations with plenty of downtime and recovery.
You can use your calendar and block out times to recharge, to ensure you’re getting the quality rest you need – instead of leaving “you time” as an afterthought.
Be prepared, though – with the non-stop chores and activities that are likely coming your way during the season, it’s not enough to just block downtime in your calendar…
There’s one important holiday “survival skill” you need to master to actually take the time to rest, and I’ll talk about it next…
#5: Set Boundaries
Being mindful of your own limits and resources also helps you to be at your best… and show up for your family and friends as the best version of yourself.
Whereas protecting your downtime helps you create the space to recharge, boundaries help you decide how much you’re putting on your plate – and make sure you’re not overworking yourself.
Boundaries are a nurturing act of self-love.
When you enforce boundaries around your energy, time, or how many “favors” you can do for the New Year’s Eve gathering, you’re ensuring that you’re not pouring from an empty cup.
Setting boundaries makes it easier for you to respect your own limits – whether you’re the one pushing yourself to cross one-more item off your to-do list at 1 in the morning…
Or if the requests come from external sources, such as your cousin asking you to pick him up at the airport.
In the case of someone asking for help, there’s one critical thing to keep in mind to enforce your boundaries, which is…
#6: Don’t Be Afraid to Say No
Many heart-centered people find it difficult to say no, feeling that they’re letting others down.
The thing is, helping others is fine – as long as you don’t push past your limits.
In truth, it’s only when your cup is full that you can be the best version of yourself, the person that your family and friends need you to be – instead of being “everything to everyone” and end up feeling drained, grumpy, sarcastic or resentful.
Also, consider this for a moment…
Every time you say “no” to something, you’re making room for something that’s more in alignment with you. If you say “no” to an outing, you’re saying “yes” to resting at home, for example.
Be mindful of how much you put on your plate, and remember that you have the power to choose how you spend your time and energy!
→ Helpful Tip: Knowing When to Say “Yes” and “No”
Some people are so used to putting others before themselves, that they find it hard to determine what they can say “yes” or “no” to…
And discern whether they’re saying “yes” to a request because they genuinely want to do it, or if it’s just their knee-jerk impulse to help – or please – others (at times, to their own detriment.)
If this is you, it’s okay…
There’s a simple question that will clarify whether you’re doing something out of sense or duty (or guilt) or if it’s truly aligned with your highest purpose.
When in doubt, ask yourself:
“What would I love?”
If you discover that you would prefer to use your time, energy or money in a different way, then you know it’s time to kindly say “no.”
#7: Keep Up on Self Care
From taking time off at work if you can, or making the most of the downtime you have if you’re working, it’s critical that you make it intentional to replenish your cup.
Because what happens so often in our daily lives, is that we use the little free time we have to binge-watch a show, or mindlessly scroll on social media…
Activities that distract us from our day and numb our mind from the exhaustion we feel…
But do nothing when it comes to nourishing our mind, body and soul.
If you blocked downtime on your calendar, you can use it for self-care sessions: a walk in nature, yoga, pamper yourself with a bubble bath, or curl up with a good book…
Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something that recharges you as whole human being – that’s what self-care is all about!
It can be surprising how much your mood can be uplifted when you incorporate periodic moments of self care, even if they’re short.
#8: Practice Gratitude
When we’re stressed out about choosing which side of the family to spend the holidays with, planning “the perfect” dinner, or the financial strain of present-giving, it can be easy to lose sight of the blessings we already have…
The roof over our heads, our loved ones, and even the fact that life is breathing us one more day.
Gratitude is one of the most powerful mood boosters there is, and it’s perfect to recalibrate your energy into an expansive frequency – when you tap into gratitude, you automatically release negative emotions.
→ Helpful Tip: The Replenishing Magic of Gratitude
When tapping into gratitude, most of us feel grateful for the things, people, experiences we enjoy in our life. That’s what we call “For” gratitude, because we’re grateful for what we have.
But at the Brave Thinking Institute, we know that there’s an even deeper level of gratitude that can bring you a higher sense of inner peace – what we call “In” gratitude.
“In” gratitude means that you get to be grateful in any situation you find yourself in – even if it’s a challenging circumstance.
For example, you’re driving to a dinner party and you get a flat tire. At that moment, you can ground yourself and say “I’m grateful in this commute, whichever way it may be.”
That approach lets you cultivate gratitude independent of external situations – and become more positive, calm and resilient.
It takes some practice to cultivate this mindset shift, but it unlocks deeper levels of inner peace!
#9: Meditate for 10 Minutes a Day
Science has proven the profound benefits of meditation: lowering our stress levels, regulating anxiety and depression, and increasing self-awareness.
These qualities make meditation one of my favorite tools in my spiritual toolkit.
The best part is you can do it anywhere, there’s no need for special equipment, and it’s free!
Make it a daily practice to reap a greater sense of peace, to feel grounded and shift from a reactive mode into a responsive mode. Just 10 minutes will make a difference, you’ll see!
If you’re in the middle of a holiday party and you feel stress or anxiety creeping in, meditation can help you, too – take 5-minute meditation breaks in the bathroom to bring yourself back to a calmer state.
#10: Accept Other People for Their Level of Awareness
The holidays can bring up uncomfortable conversations for many people – especially at family gatherings. While unsolicited opinions and prying questions may feel triggering, you can create some mental distance from the situation and remember…
They’re just operating from their current level of awareness.
You cannot change them, or force them to see things your way. Most of the time, they have good intentions and wish the best for you, even if they show it in unskilled ways.
Compassion, empathy and letting go of other people’s expectations will go a long way when protecting your mental peace in social situations.
#11: 5-Minute Power Moves
An easy way to feel overwhelmed is to try to do everything at once.
Instead, you can use the method we here at the Brave Thinking Institute call “5-minute power moves” – and take ONE simple action, during the next 5 minutes, that will take you closer to your goals.
When you take this approach, you’ll alleviate the pressure you feel to accomplish a big task… while still making consistent progress through simple “baby steps” that are simple and manageable.
You’ll see how much easier and faster you check your to-do list with 5-minute power moves!
#12: Be Mindful of Too Much Sugar & Alcohol
While it can be comforting to indulge in holiday treats in moderation, excess of sugar and alcohol can negatively affect our physical and emotional health.
Keep nutritious food at home, and eat healthy meals in your day-to-day to help you keep energy levels up, sharp focus, and a bright spirit.
#13: BYO Healthy Options
We’ve all been there: we have the best intentions of making better eating choices, but when we get to the table… we serve a mountain of not-so-healthy food on the plate.
So a way to avoid this situation (without avoiding dinner parties) is to bring your own food and beverage options, to enjoy social gatherings while being kind to your body.
And bring extras to share, too!
There are more people than you might think who would love to have access to healthier food options during the holidays, but don’t think to bring their own.
#14: Accept Imperfection
Even after careful planning, things can go “wrong” – weather conditions, traffic, or burning the dish you were cooking.
It’s okay! You can’t control every situation, but you can choose how you react to them.
When something doesn’t go as planned, you can pause for a moment, breathe and say to yourself “This is what it looks like while I’m creating a joyful holiday.”
That phrase cues your mind to shift your focus from the “problem” and come up with alternatives and solutions instead. It also allows you to accept what is and release resistance, calming your nerves.
Only YOU can decide to enjoy the holidays – and the memories we cherish the most are not the “perfect” moments, but the ones when we truly connect with others and appreciate life.
#15: Get Outside
Physical activity causes our body to release natural mood boosters: endorphins. Spending time in nature helps us lower stress levels. So if you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, get outside!
Stretch your legs in a relaxing walk in nature, or even just breathing some fresh air and looking at the vast sky can calm your nerves in a couple of minutes.
#16: Try Calming Essential Oils
The sense of smell can activate our limbic system, the part of our brains that plays a role in emotions, behaviors, and long-term memory.
So using essential oils and smelling their unique aromas can be a natural “pick-me-up.”
Popular choices to relax include lavender, sandalwood and chamomile – but feel free to choose your favorite!
Laughter is the best medicine – and also a great way to bond with your loved ones and create fantastic memories!
Keep your spirit light by being willing to see the humor in everyday things, and laughing at yourself. Cultivate a playful attitude and share laughter with others. The more, the merrier!
#18: Notice What You’re Noticing
Have you noticed that when you’re upset, all your attention is focused on the things that you consider to be negative?
The traffic, the problems at work, or a long to-do list and too little time. Your inner narrative keeps going about these things and you get more and more upset – like pouring oil into a fire!
But the thing is, your thoughts are NOT you.
You can take a step back from these thoughts and choose to focus your attention on something different – something uplifting, like being grateful for all the blessings in your life.
You’ll see how your stress evaporates when you choose to focus on the positive!
→ Helpful Tip: Press the “Pause” Button
When you’re in the middle of a challenging situation, or you’re overwhelmed, you can use a Brave Thinking technique called “the pause button.”
It means that if you notice that your mind is racing with negative thoughts, you can choose to push your mental “pause button” and suspend the constrictive thoughts for a period of time.
That way, you’ll interrupt the mental chatter and allow your focus to shift toward new, empowering thinking.
#19: Watch Out for “Shoulds”
Whether you’re a perfectionist, or you want to preserve family traditions, it can be easy to get caught up in all sorts of “rules” – the way things “should” go…
And if you’re not careful, you may set yourself on the path to exhaustion by adhering to this unwritten code of how a perfect holiday must be, even if it’s not serving you now.
From cooking the turkey for 5 hours (when you’re pressed for time) or staying at a gathering longer than you wished (even though you need rest) – whenever you’re about to do something that detracts from your joy just because you “should,” ask yourself whose rules you’re following.
Remember, you’re the one with the power to decide what’s best for you!
#20: Remember: Everyone Else Might Be Stressed, Too!
If your sister gives you unsolicited advice, or someone cuts you off in traffic when you’re already late to the work holiday party, it can trigger a knee-jerk reaction of stress, anxiety or even anger.
In those moments, take a step back and keep in mind that everyone else is stressed, too!
We don’t know what others are going through, so be kind to the people around you – and you’ll soon notice how you start feeling better as well.
#21: Enjoy the Moments with ALL 5 Senses
When we’re stressed, our internal dialogue keeps going… and going… and going. As a result, we spend too much time in our heads and disconnected from the present moment.
A simple solution to ground yourself is to enjoy each moment with all of your senses. Direct your focus to the sensation of the fabric on your skin, the taste of a meal, the smell of pine trees, the music you’re listening to or the relaxing view of snow falling…
Our every moment can be so rich and joyful, when we pay attention!
#22: Be Extra Kind to Yourself
You’ve cooked delicious dinners for your family. You hand-picked gifts for your friends. You spent hours decorating the house, sent donations to the community food bank…
But what about you?
Remember to be extra nice to yourself this season – not taking to heart the negative comments of your inner critic, accepting the emotions that bubble up to the surface, and practicing self-care.
I invite you to take it one step further and do some of your favorite activities: curl up with a book, share a romantic meal with your partner or spend relaxing time in nature.
#23: Rethink Resolutions
For many of us, stress and overwhelm don’t end with the holidays – they spill over into the new year thanks to a long list of unrelated resolutions.
Despite our good intentions, what occurs in most cases is that our resolutions are so many, and so different, that we end up feeling lost and anxious as to what to do…
And quit somewhere around February.
That’s why I don’t believe that the way we’re taught to set New Year resolutions creates any lasting change – but that doesn’t mean you can’t transform your life in the upcoming year…
A kinder, more effective approach would be to commit to ONE goal that is life-giving and meaningful to you – that way, your efforts are focused and it’s easier to stick to it over the year!
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