’Tis the season for spending. In 2019, the National Retail Federation’s survey of holiday spending estimates the average American will shell out about $650 on gifts. According to Gallup, this number is closer to $950.
While gift giving is a meaningful tradition, there’s another way to celebrate the holidays and show those we love we care. It’s called presence or being present.
Presence is linked with the practice of mindfulness. “Mindfulness is being aware, moment by moment, of your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and surrounding environment in a nonjudgmental way,” said Wellness Coach Tina Vande Guchte, Holland Hospital Lifestyle Medicine. “By practicing mindfulness, you tune into the present moment versus rehashing the past or envisioning the future.”
So how can you be more present during this most wonderful (and often stressful) time of year? Start by considering these tips:
- Surrender your inner Martha Stewart. So what if you burned the gingerbread cookies? Rather than imagining or striving for total perfection, try letting go. Give yourself permission to relinquish control and accept whatever you’ve created with gratitude. Remembering what you’re truly thankful for is a great stress reliever.
- Engage in me-time. It’s okay to say no and avoid hyper-scheduling. Pay attention to your mind and body telling you to step back. Break away for a refreshing stroll or some time at the gym. Relax in a hot bath, savor a cup of cocoa in a quiet space, meditate or do something else that’s rejuvenating and just for you.
- Focus on the people you love (yes, even those with whom you disagree). Set realistic expectations and choose to focus on quality time with your loved ones. Actively listen, without the distraction of your smartphone, TV or social media. Show genuine interest and tolerate differences in conversations.
- Just breathe. Before you prepare that holiday feast, trim the tree or fight your way through those last-minute sales, pause and take a few deep breaths. The simple act of reconnecting with your breath can ignite presence.
- Embrace your senses. Along with breathing, allow yourself to indulge in the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the season, too. Welcome all the sensory details—whether it’s the scent of a pine tree or the melody of carolers.
- Take good care of you. Don’t skimp on sleep, exercise and nutrition. Indulge in some sweets and libations, but do it mindfully: Chew and savor your food slowly, noticing the spices and flavors. Listen to your hunger cues and recognize fullness. Shelve feelings of guilt.
“No matter how extravagant, material items can never replace presence,” Vande Guchte said. “And for your family and friends, your undivided attention is the one unique gift nobody else can give them.”
By focusing on four key areas of wellness—nutrition, exercise, sleep and mental health—our Lifestyle Medicine program can help you live a healthier, longer life. To learn more, call (616) 494-8387.