Can you feel it? The holiday season is looming. Are we excited? Nervous? Overwhelmed in October? I googled “tips for surviving the holidays” and there seemed to be no end to the articles on this topic. There were also numerous “tips for finding gratitude in the holiday season”. With a cursory glance, I could see that the subject matter seemed the same in both articles–the “survival” tips often focused on opening to gratitude, and the “gratitude” tips led to a means of surviving the holidays. The only difference was the perspective–kind of the “glass half-full or empty” perspective. Hmm, the difference seems to be a conscious choice about how to frame the situation. So how do we become more conscious and make a choice to adopt an attitude of gratitude in the holiday season ahead of us?
- Acknowledge that gratitude is a choice. To do this, you may need to spend some quiet time with yourself, perhaps in meditation, or on your mat, but really any way you can drop in on yourself for a moment or two and take a look at your thoughts. Perhaps even write them down. Observe the patterns and stories. If you find a pattern of negative or “lack” type thinking, take a look at it. Is what you are thinking true? Is it the only truth? Is there another way to look at it? I often advise my students, “Don’t believe everything you think.” Yes, we have thoughts. Yes, they are often helpful in getting us through the day. But sometimes we get into patterns that are not helpful and start to think that is the truth. Often it is not. Make a choice to look at your negative thoughts and see how you might flip them around. And then be grateful that you have choices.
- Stay healthy, inside and out. When we feel good, everything around us feels better. It is easy to get run down during the holiday season; we can be overloaded both physically and emotionally. Make your health a priority. This is neither indulgent nor selfish. In fact, prioritizing your well-being makes you more fun to be around, more effective at your efforts, and more able to provide for others. You may have to make choices, and say “no” sometimes to make time for yourself. Feel good about doing that. And then be grateful for your health, and thank yourself for the care you have taken.
- Be conscious of what you digest, and I’m not just talking about food. So, if we are to stay healthy we will indulge a bit over the holiday season and not give ourselves completely over to gluttony. Yet, we are constantly digesting more than food. Our bodies and minds organize around everything we come in contact with–the people with whom we spend time, the jobs we do, the media to which we expose ourselves, and the environment we are in. Do you have trouble feeling grateful when you are surrounded by crass consumerism at the mall? Don’t go to the mall. If you need to get gifts, and being in stores steals your gratitude, then find another way. Use your skills and creativity to craft homemade gifts. Do some mindful on-line shopping in an efficient way. Similarly, if what you see in the papers, on TV, etc gets your down, don’t go there. Be vigilant about how you spend your time with social media too. If everyone looks happier than you on Facebook, stop checking every few hours (or minutes!). On the other hand, think about those people that you love to be around, entertainment that thrills you, and activities that motivate you. Spend more time with those people doing things that bring peace and enjoyment. Feel grateful and continue to cultivate friendships and pursuits that nourish you.
- Open your heart. We spend a lot of time protecting ourselves from disappointment and avoiding risks. Opening the heart is often scary. The Sufi mystic Rumi wrote “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it”. So for us to open our hearts we have to let our defenses down. A Yoga practice with a focus at the heart can help to bring energy up to the heart Chakra so that we can feel more comfortable opening up. The practice can be simple, like a kneeling cat/cow stretch, or you can spend time opening the heart in a bigger way. Including breath work, or pranayama, and mantra can also be very helpful. Find a practice that works for you. It could be a class, a video or a personal home practice. Feel grateful for your breath as you expand from the heart.
Please join me and my dear friend and fabulous teacher, Janice Samuelson, for a holiday kick-off workshop, “Attitude of Gratitude” on November 21, 2016 from 4:30-6:30 at Studio Mantra. Click here for more information and to register.
With deep gratitude, I wish you a wonderful holiday season!