The holiday season brings a bustle of noise, festivities, and to-do’s – so much so that we often forget what the holidays really mean to us. Taking a moment to define what the holiday means to you can help you better align your actions this holiday season with your values.
Besides defining what the holidays mean to us, taking time to intentionally think about what we have (instead of what we want) during this season can have great benefits.
Gratitude is defined as the quality of being thankful, or the readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness (Oxford Languages). When we consciously practice gratitude, our brains release serotonin and dopamine – two chemicals that lead to positive feelings and enhanced well-being.
Here are a few ways to practice gratitude this season:
1. Make a “Ta-Da” List Each Night: At the end of day, write the things that happened during the day which brought your light, peace, happiness, or simply, a smile.
2. Show Appreciation for Others: The holidays are a great time to show others how much you care about them. By taking a moment to write others a note, bring them a warm drink, or tell them what they mean to you, you will be filling up both their bucket and yours!
3. Make a “Wants” vs. Haves” Doodle: Draw some of your “wants (things you currently want)” on one side of a paper, and draw some of the things, or people, you already have in your life on the other side. Circle which things bring you positive feelings and create meaning in your life.
4. Share What You Are Thankful For! A fun way to integrate gratitude during the holidays is by sharing what each person is grateful for at the beginning of a family get-together or event!
Self-Care During the Holiday Season
For many of us, the holiday season is a time of joy and wonder; for others, it can be a time of stress, chaos, or grief. Either way, integrating self-care practices during the holiday season can help you care for your own wellbeing and give yourself what you really need.
Slow Down and Focus on One Thing At A Time
The holidays often bring a sense of busyness, which is accompanied by stress and a lack of presence. Instead of multitasking or speeding through your day, try to focus on doing one thing at a time, so you can fully show up to that thing, or task, and “be with” it.
Slowing down may mean doing the task a bit slower or pausing to tune into what someone said, or how it made you feel. Use the following prompts as a self-care check-in with yourself. You can use these same prompts with your students in the classroom, too, and engage in a mindful pause together.
Right now, I am noticing __________________________________________________________________.
I am thinking _____________________________________________________________________________.
I am remembering ________________________________________________________________________.
I am feeling _______________________________________________________________________________.
“Being with” You and Giving Yourself What You Need
The holiday season is often accompanied by a lot of emotions and for some, it can trigger some difficult memories or feelings.
Try to grant yourself the space to really “be with” yourself in these moments, and notice where each emotion shows up in your body, narrating your experience aloud or in your mind.
For example, I feel a deep sadness in my chest, a lump forming in my throat.
Think of your body as an ocean and your emotions as the waves that come and go; this can help you process each emotion as it shows up and allow it to pass by.
Remembering to give yourself grace and compassion during the holiday season is also extremely important. An easy way to do this is by using these two sentences at the start (or finish) of each day and holding yourself accountable.
I want to feel more _____________________________________________________ today.
I give myself permission to _______________________________________________________ today.
Use Your Observational Mind and Narrate Your Experience.
We often spend most of our days in our thinking mind, moving from one task to another, without taking a step back to notice it all.
Spending time engaging our observational mind can help us process what is happening in the moment, how we feel, and what we need.
To do this, we narrate our own experience using the third person to distance ourselves from our situation and grant ourselves space and perspective.
Maybe it sounds like this: I am feeling overwhelmed by the amount of chaos and mess in my classroom right now. I feel this in my belly and my head. I need some quiet time, and a breath of fresh air to reset my mind and body.
Remember that taking care of ourselves during the holiday season is essential because we are our most important thing.
Activities to Do With Your Children Over Winter Break
This winter break is a great time to integrate some mindfulness practices at home to promote both you and your child’s well-being. Here are a few mindfulness activities to do with your children at home this winter break:
Use an old jar from your home and fill it halfway with water. Afterwards, add some blue or silver glitter (or you can use sand, gravel, or anything else you find at home). Practice shaking the jar together and watch the water become clouded; talk about how our minds feel this way when they are clouded with thoughts and big feelings.
Wintery Mindful Walk
Taking a mindful, wintery walk with your child this break is a great way to get outside and connect together. First, practice walking very slowly together, noticing your footprints in the snow, or slush! Ask your child what sounds they hear, and what sights they see during your walk. Take some deep inhales through your noses, naming what you smell and taste, too. Integrate curiosity and wonder by using the prompt,
“I wonder ________________________________________ this season?”
Christmas Tree Breathing
Using paper and drawing utensils, spend a few minutes drawing different Christmas trees on your paper. After your children finish drawing their trees, use your finger to trace the outline of the trees together, aligning your breath with the shape of each tree.
For example, if your tree is a triangle shape, start at the tip of the triangle and breathe in while moving your finger downwards. Then, hold your breath, moving your finger across the bottom of the tree. Exhale moving your finger back to the top of the tree.
Download and print out this PDF which includes templates for the turkey and feathers. Cut out the turkey and the feathers. Write the things that you are thankful for on each feather. Glue or tape the feathers to back of the turkey.