Christmas Survival Guide Day 8: Having A Mindful Christmas - Reflections Counselling Lincoln - Counselling and Psychotherapy in Lincoln
Christmas survival guide day 8- Having a mindful Christmas - Jane Travis, Reflections Counselling Lincoln

Your guide to slowing down

Does Christmas ever feel...well, rushed?  A to-do list a mile long, battling through traffic, stuffy shops, crowded supermarkets, then the annual terror of getting the Christmas decorations from storage and hoping they haven't become a home for spiders <shiver>​

There's clearing a years clutter from the spare room ready for guests, parties to attend, nativity plays, cards to write, presents to wrap, Christmas fairs...look, I could go on, but just writing that's made me exhausted!

Not only does all that sound like pretty hard work, ​it's really not very magical. 

So let's get the magic back. ​

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I'm a massive fan of mindfulness, which is about being fully present in the moment and using all of your senses to create a heightened sense of awareness of both yourself and your surroundings.  

In this 100mph lifestyle we have made for ourselves, it''s very easy to miss the small things in life - the flower, the buzzing bee, the patterns raindrops make on a puddle.  

However, becoming more aware of and appreciating those small things will give you a feeling of connection - to yourself, to nature, to your surroundings and make you stop running around like a headless chicken for a while, reducing stress, anxiety and depression.  

Christmas, more than any other time, is a time for the senses, and each of the senses gets a real treat.  

​See

Christmas is a visual joy!  The colours, the twinkles, the lights... well - everything!  ​From the most beautiful displays in cities right down to a simple Christmas card, it's a sensory overload.  

What if you could hit pause and take a good look around you, what would you see that maybe you've missed before?

I adore my Christmas tree, and I find myself transfixed by it.  I love how, with the main lights dimmed and the twinkling tree lights on, the glitter really sparkles.  I turn off any noise and just spend some time enjoying this simple pleasure.  It calms me.  

​When you're among the crowds, instead of dashing around mindlessly, stop for a moment and become aware of your surroundings: The lights and the colours but also the people.  Each person has their own story, and taking a moment to realise this will make you feel a sense of connection with them.  

The stressed mother, the couple newly in love and holding hands, the man desperately wanting to find the right gift for his wife, the old man that watches the delighted faces of children.  It's all there, right in front of you. 

So slow down, and be aware of the world around you.​

Hear​

What does Christmas sound like?

Well, there's music, and lots of it.  From Christmas carols and classics like white Christmas and jingle bells, to fun stuff to dance to like Wham! and Slade, there's happy music to uplift your spirits and moving music of Christmas sadness. 

But there are other things too.  The sound of a fire burning, or children playing, or champagne fizzing, or crackers banging, bells jingling..  

Close your eyes for 5 minutes and allow yourself to be aware of the sounds around you. 

Smell

We rarely think of our sense of smell as it's not the main sense we use, but scent can stir up the memories like nothing else. 

When I think of the aroma of Christmas, it's mainly food smells: Luxurious Christmas cake, rich mince pies, the sweet scent of chocolates and the warmth of mulled wine.

But there's also scented candles, vanilla, cinnamon and pine needles.

So I invite you to close your eyes and take in what fragrance is around you, let it envelop you.

Taste​

So much food around at this time of year - gotta love it!  But I wonder, do you really savor and appreciate it?  

It's so easy to bolt down food, to mindlessly have chocolate after chocolate and not really notice it, rather like being on a production line and keep shoveling in food!

Here's a very simple technique to try, and all you need is a raisin. Just one, humble little raisin! ​

  • Firstly, take your raisin into the palm of your hand and look at it. See the light and shade, the wrinkles.
  • Then, touch it. What does it feel like? It it hard, soft? How does it feel to roll it in your fingers? ​
  • Next, put the raisin to your ear and roll it between your thumb and finger.  Notice what sound it makes.
  • Now, hold it to your nose and take in the scent.  Does it bring up any memories? 
  • Finally, taste it. First, lick it with the tip of your tongue, then place it on your tongue and hold it there.  What's it like if you suck it?  Or take it between your teeth and nibble it?  And after you've explored it, eat it, slowly, and savor the taste. 

 If you either don't have or don't like raisins, try a small piece of chocolate, or cheese.  

​So over the Christmas period, slow down with food, taste it, appreciate it, give it respect it deserves. 

Oh, and an added (and for me, welcome!) side effect of doing this is you'll eat less. ​

Related posts

'3 ways to deal with overeating'  from the Christmas Survival Guide series

Touch

​Touch is another under appreciated sense, yet it can bring so much pleasure.  Yes, sensual, sexy pleasure but in other ways too.  

It's said that a hug can help elevate the mood, strengthen the immune system, boost self esteem and aid relaxation, so for the sake of your health hug someone!

10 reasons why we need 8 hugs a day by MindBodyGreen

But you may not have someone on hand to hug, or it may be something you aren't comfortable with.  

So the good news is, you can give yourself a hug!  

Okay maybe not quite a hug, but you can get some of the benefits - it might sound a little strange, but stick with me and try this: stroke the back of your hand and over the wrist, slowly and gently.

Be aware of how it feels.  Carry on stroking, but now close your eyes, how does that feel for you? Maybe rub in some beautifully fragranced lotion.

Doing this is a great way to reconnect with the body: In our busy lives we tend to live on a head level - thinking, worrying, reasoning, pondering.  Touch brings us back to a heart level of experiencing and feeling.  

​Be aware of touch generally - hot and cold, smooth and scratchy, soft and hard.  

Have you heard of therapy dogs?  Well, they're dogs that are taken into residential homes so the residents can pet them because of the benefits they bring, like reduced stress and anxiety, increased wellness, decreased feelings of isolation or loneliness. For more information about it, take a look at Therapy Dog Info

So pet an animal!

Stop and do this...

Over the Christmas period, whatever you are doing just stop and look around you for a moment.  Be aware of what you can see, hear, smell, touch, taste.  It's like taking an internal snapshot. ​

It's not hard to do this, you don't need any special equipment though I highly recommend using a journal to explore in.  

Don't let Christmas pass you by, I'm sure out of the 1440 minutes in every day you can find 5 minutes twice a day to slow down and appreciate your Christmas. 

Be there, fully present, and enjoy your festivities.

Need some help slowing down? I can help! Contact me now.  

10 blogs to help you survive Christmas - Jane Travis, Reflections Counselling Lincoln (1)
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About the Author Jane

Jane Travis is a qualified and experienced counsellor and clinical supervisor in the Lincoln area. She has been working at Reflections Counselling Lincoln since 2005. She also helps other counsellors and therapists market and grow their private practices at JaneTravis.co.uk.

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