4 Qualities to Cultivate this Holiday Season
As the days get shorter and the year—the decade!—comes to a close, I feel drawn toward introspection. Year after year, I recognize four practices that help me live in alignment with my values during the holiday season.
Even though Thanksgiving has come and gone, it’s important to me to practice gratitude at this time of year. A gratitude journal is a great way to do this. When I think of all I have—my family, my work, and my home—it becomes increasingly clear how privileged I am to have these opportunities for comfort and advancement. As a result, I feel more aware of and compassionate toward those who may not have the same level of privilege or opportunity.
I enjoy my volunteer work all year long and I feel compelled to do a bit extra during the holidays. I might make a special donation and I might try to increase the peace in some of my rockier relationships. In many ways, I feel like forgiveness is it’s own kind of community service—not to mention it’s good for your health. Studies have found that the act of forgiveness can help lower your risk of heart attack, improve sleep, reduce pain, and boost your mood. The health benefits of forgiveness only increase as you age.* Forgiving others can be hard work so feel free to seek out the support of a qualified therapist.
As I work on forgiving others (which is easier said than done), I also have to practice forgiving myself. During my reflections on the past year, I will inevitably be reminded of the mistakes I made or the ways I fell short. I’m always trying to build my self-compassion skills, which means I work on being kind and understanding with myself in the same ways I would with a dear friend. I know that when I can feel compassion for myself, I can also feel compassion for my fellow humans.
I also know that I become extra sensitive at the end of the year. I get the urge to slow down and hibernate a bit during the holiday season. That’s usually juxtaposed with the flurry of activity that can lead to the “holidaze”—lots of shopping (sometimes in stimulating environments like a mall or busy shopping center), holiday parties, travel, festive foods, and the stress of year-end work deadlines.
Some folks might feel drained after a day of shopping at the mall or hopping between different holiday parties; a lot of other folks might feel genuinely energized by it. My experience with this varies from year to year but I manage it with mindfulness. Before switching to a new activity, I try to take three deep breaths. This helps me check in and adjust my plans as needed.
Gratitude, forgiveness, self-compassion, and mindfulness practices help me to stay grounded in my values all year, but especially during the holiday season, which is full of busyness and travel for me. What practices help you feel empowered and grounded at this time of year?