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Christmas and Positive Psychology - Mindfulness tips for Christmas

This page added 25th November 2017

Christmas can be one of the most stressful times of the year. It is a time of extra responsibility, disrupted routines and an overload of people, food, alcohol and over-excited children. The key to maintaining stress levels during this period is to recognise when negative thoughts and feelings arise (e.g. jealousy, anger, sadness) which lead to an increase in our stress levels. When we are mindful of such unhelpful thoughts and feelings, we become more conscious of our underlying emotions, how we are behaving and whether we could be acting in a more positive manner.

Seeing our experiences during Christmas time in a more open-minded point of view will help avoid the judgement we place on ourselves for feeling unpleasant emotions. This will allow us to let go of these emotions much more peacefully and to focus more energy on celebrating the holidays and spending time with our loved ones.

In order to help regulate stress levels during the holidays, try to use some of these Positive Psychology strategies and see if they are helpful for you.

Three Minute Breathing Space

If you’re rushing to the shopping centre to buy last minute presents or a family member has gotten on your last nerve and you’re feeling quite exhausted, anxious or stressed, it’s quite difficult to remember to remain calm.

The Three Minute Breathing Space is a helpful and brief meditation technique that can be used for two main reasons. It can be used as an activity to break up the hassles of the day and dissolve negative thoughts before they gain control over you. It can also be used as an emergency meditation that can help ‘ground’ you when your thoughts are spiralling out of control.

The aim is to set aside three minutes each day and pay attention to the movement of breath in your body. This can be at one of the three main points of movement; the inhalation and exhalation movement through your nose, in your chest or belly. Use a timer so that you also don’t have to worry about a clock during this time. Just focus on you and your breath. Note that when practicing the meditation you might realise that your mind runs away to many of the other thoughts or worries you may be having about your day. This is natural, it’s what minds do. When you notice that your mind has wandered, gently escort it back to the movement of the breath.
The Intensely Frustrating Line Meditation

When Christmas rolls around you may constantly find yourself in endless lines; waiting to buy presents, waiting to buy groceries or waiting in peak hour traffic on the way to visit a relative.  These periods of being forced to wait can also be a time of intense stress and frustration. However, next time you feel like screaming at the person in front who seems to be taking forever, try practicing the Intensely Frustrating Line Meditation. When you are in a line, become aware of the thoughts and feelings you have when you’re held up. Ask yourself and notice:

What is going through my mind?
What sensations are there in my body?
What emotions and impulses am I aware of?

Mindfulness involves practising accepting all forms of experience, even ones that are unpleasant. See if you can acknowledge the presence of frustration and stress without being impacted by its negativity.

Create a Mindfulness Bell

Pick a few activities that you would do during the holidays that you can make into ‘Mindfulness Bells’. These activities are instances where you stop and pay attention to the details, for example:

Preparing Food

Sometimes we can’t be bothered wasting our energy on preparing a big meal, however, this is a perfect time to practice mindfulness. When preparing food during Christmas time pay attention to the array of rich flavours, smells and textures and the movements involved with preparing the food.

Wrapping the Presents

After wrapping present after present, sometimes it can feel like quite a chore. Again, try to turn a mindless activity into a mindful one. Examine the colour and texture of the wrapping paper you are using, focus on the sound and feel of the scissors as they slice through the wrapping paper and feel the finished product of a wrapped present and acknowledge the effort you have put into it.

The Ten-Finger Gratitude Exercise

During stressful periods throughout the year in which we are consumed by the things we must do and the places we must be, we tend to forget to take a step back to appreciate ourselves and the things we have in our lives.

The Ten-Finger Gratitude Exercise allows you to take time out of your day specifically for your own well-being. The aim is to count ten things on your fingers that you are grateful for each day. It is important to count to ten, even though it becomes very difficult after three or four. This allows us to intentionally focus on even tiny unnoticed positive elements that happen in the day into awareness and enhance our positive appreciation for life and the world around us.

I hope with the practice of these techniques, the most stressful time of the year can become one of the most enjoyable. Remember to enjoy the food, enjoy the company, and enjoy each day!

Written by Steve, ADAVIC Volunteer

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