Struggling to find your Christmas cheer amidst all the stress, rushing about, manically browsing online flash sales and endless queuing in the shops? If you’re finding yourself getting increasingly exhausted and notice carols grating in your ears rather than getting you into the festive mood, it’s time to breathe deep and take a step back. Give yourself a little love and time to recharge and you’ll find the festive season a more nurturing and peaceful experience for you and your loved ones.
1. Claim a piece of solitude
Depleted? Stressed out? Then put your hand on your heart and ask yourself: “What do I need right now?” It may be a nap, time away from others or something active. If you have a favourite activity that gets you into the calm zone – just do it! Sometimes a brisk walk or other physical activity is the perfect way to shake off the stress and get the feel-good endorphins flowing again. At other times, cosy up with a steaming mug of hot chocolate or a herbal brew and a good book – a simple way to reconnect with our inner peace – or get yourself a gorgeous colouring book and let your creative brain be in charge for a moment.
Soak it out…
For the ultimate melt-your-worries-away experience, slip into a warm candlelit bath scented with one of our nurturing bath salt blends. At particularly stressful times when you can’t even remember what calm feels like, remind yourself that small shifts do make a difference. Take it from the ever-wise Caitlin Moran: “Nine times out of ten, you probably aren’t having a full-on nervous breakdown – you just need a cup of tea and a biscuit.” And if the guilt of not getting on with your to-do list ever creeps up on you then do like the Danes, embrace a little ‘hygge’ and remind yourself that you’ll elevate your achievements tenfold when you’re calm and grounded.
Hygge yourself happy…
So how to add more hyggle (the Danish art of coziness) into your life? Since it’s all about enjoying life’s little pleasures to the full and turning the everyday into special moments, go ahead and light candles at dinnertime ‘just because’, treat yourself to a bunch of beautiful flowers, pop to your local bakery for a fresh loaf of bread or spend a lazy Sunday afternoon wrapped in a cosy blanket with your fave magazine – you get the idea! It’s no wonder Denmark regularly tops the charts of the happiest countries in the world…
2. Create a peaceful home environment
A calm environment can go a long way in keeping us grounded and joyful in the run-up to Christmas and there are many simple ways to increase harmony at home.
In order to turn our home into a sanctuary of peace at such a frantic time, we may need to learn to overlook certain pockets of mess and undone chores and give ourselves permission to relax – for a moment anyway. You’ll get around to them eventually and there are more important things than a perfectly spotless home, so don’t beat yourself up if everything isn’t ‘just ‘so’ and focus on enjoying yourself and the company of your loved ones.
When things get hectic, essential oils are the ultimate way to uplift your mood and bring a breath of harmony into your living space. Use a diffuser to fill a room with a calming fragrance or fill a spray bottle with water and add few drops of you chosen essential oil to mist the air. Lavender, sandalwood, patchouli, frankincense, bergamot and neroli are especially good at promoting a peaceful state of mind.
Skip the news
Finally, avoid watching the news for a period – with its bias towards negative reporting, news can increase feelings of anxiety and helplessness. Seek out positive news stories instead and remind yourself that there’s still an abundance of love and goodness in the world and so much that we can do to help each other. Try to limit screen time in general too – the benefits may include better sleep, greater productivity and a more relaxed state of mind.
3. Do it with mindfulness
Do you often find your mind drifting in the middle of a task? Do you ever wonder what your friend just said to you while you were lost in worrying about something you’d forgotten to do? Do you sometimes arrange time for a fun activity only to rush through it in order to move on to the next thing? The more we’ve got on our plate, the easier it is to lose our awareness of the present moment and, as a result, we may feel like days are racing past us and we’re not experiencing them fully.
Mindfulness is a practice of bringing our awareness back to the present moment while suspending judgement of what is happening. The benefits of mindfulness include feeling calmer and more grounded, being more tuned into our bodies and the environment as well as being able to notice and truly savour the good things in our lives.
Whatever you’re doing next, try to do it mindfully! Engage all your senses to take in the sights, smells and sounds of your environment, notice the sensations in your body and tune into your feelings. See if mindfulness makes the pleasures in your life even more enjoyable and the frustrating experiences more manageable.
4. Fill up your heart
December is a key month in the year to fill our hearts with gratitude, joy, love and compassion. To amplify those feelings, pay attention to the many blessings already around you, perhaps naming or writing down a few things every morning or at bedtime – it’s a simple practice but one that can have a surprisingly profound effect. Also take time to shed the weight of old grudges and take steps towards forgiving those who have hurt you – in the words of Maya Angelou, forgiveness is “one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.” Give yourself that gift this Christmas and you’re bound to feel happier and lighter!
Deepen the compassion
Deepen your compassion for yourself and others further by practicing the powerful Loving Kindness Meditation (Metta bhavana). Hailing from the Buddhist tradition, the Metta is a simple method of cultivating a loving state of mind.
- 1. Choose a few phrases such as “May I be happy”
- 2. Find a comfortable position and close your eyes.
- 3. Repeat your chosen phrases, directing loving energy at yourself
- 4. Direct your phrases at a loved one: “May you be happy”
- 5. Direct your phrases at a person you feel neutral about
- 6. Direct your phrases at a person you find difficult to get along with
- 7. Finally, direct your phrases universally: “May all beings everywhere be happy”
- 8. Feel instantly more uplifted and tranquil!
- (You can also find a guided Loving Kindness meditation below.)
Be an angel
There’s evidence that helping others and doing acts of kindness boosts the giver’s mental health and wellbeing, as well as brightening the receiver’s day. Good deeds don’t need to be complicated or cost a lot of money – donating a few items to a food bank, running an errand for someone who needs help, letting someone in a hurry go before you in a queue or even smiling at strangers are simple ways to uplift others and foster a sense of community around us. These little acts may even cause a ripple effect of kindness around us! On the flipside, don’t be afraid to accept help from others or even ask for it – after all, you’ll be giving others a chance to get a wellness boost by helping you.
Enlist the magic experts
If you still feel like there’s something lacking in your Christmas, enlist the help of the real experts – children! Young people are naturally wired to seek joy and wonder, so spend some time with your own kids, the grandkids or hang out with a family you know and get stuck into craft projects, festive baking or take in the sights and sounds of Christmas in town. Children can also give us some perspective when we’re snowed under by our endless lists of tasks. Just ask any youngster whether it’s more important to make time for washing the floors or ice-skating and they’ll be shocked we even need to ask!0