Monday, December 20, 2010

Wishing You a Mindful Holiday Season

Normally people wish you a happy, joyous, and peaceful holiday. So, why on earth would I wish you a mindful holiday season? Well, being mindful will help you have a happy, joyous, and peaceful holiday season.

So, what is mindfulness? Mindfulness comes from the Buddhist tradition, but you do not have to be Buddhist to be mindful. In fact, mindfulness is gaining ground in Psychotherapy.(1) According to one definition, “(Mindfulness) is a state of being aware. It is a process of observation and attention in the flow of changing stimuli and perceptions. Mindfulness is ‘in the moment,’ present, engaged awareness. . . that is free of judgment.” (2)

For me, it is a matter of paying attention to what I am doing at this moment. It is being here in front of the computer as I write this post, instead of thinking about what I am going to do when I get home tonight. It is shutting off all the competing thoughts and focusing on what I am doing right now.

I got the inspiration for this blog post from an article in Medical News Today.(3) During the holidays, the writer said, “we eat, drink, and spend more (money) than we would normally do, and regret it come New Year when we step on those scales, or the credit card bill lands on the doormat.”

You might think, “if I spend my time being mindful, I won’t enjoy the holidays, because I will have to give up everything I enjoy.” Mindfulness is not about giving up. It is about being present and aware and truly enjoying the experience.

Think about the holiday gatherings you normally attend. There are people, maybe there are drinks, certainly there are delicious treats. What do you normally do? You fill a plate with food, grab a drink, and stand around talking with people while you eat.

It is great to enjoy the company of other people, but as you stand there talking, you may be putting food into your mouth without thinking. Occasionally, you will eat something really flavorful. You might stop for a minute and savor it. You might even say, “Oh wow, you have got to try this!” However, for the most part, you are probably not really enjoying the food.

Here is another way to experience the situation. Walk up to the food table. Take a minute to look over everything. Notice the beautiful presentation. Pick up a plate. Choose a few things you think you will enjoy, and put them on your plate, being careful not to pile up the food. You want to be able to see everything you are going to eat. Find a place to sit or stand. Take a look at your plate. Notice the cheeses cut into little cubes or stars. Notice the shape and texture of the crackers. See how carefully the cookies have been decorated.

Pick out one thing to eat. Smell the food before you put it in your mouth. Does it smell sweet? Does it smell earthy? Now, close your eyes and put the food in your mouth. Notice the texture. Notice the taste. Does it crunch, or does it melt? Chew it slowly, experiencing all of the flavors.

I know, it seems like a lot to ask at a holiday gathering. There are other people around, and you may not be able to take that much time with each bite. However, you can still think about each bite of food before you put it in your mouth. You can still notice the care and work that went into making the food. The idea is to put yourself in the moment and enjoy the experience. Enjoy the food. Enjoy the beverages, and enjoy spending time with your friends and family. Isn’t that what the holidays are all about?

If you practice mindfulness during this holiday season, you may wind up eating less and enjoying it more. Then, when the new year rolls around, maybe you will not dread stepping on the scales.

For a handout on the principles of mindful eating, visit:

(1) Psychology Today:

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