Nurture Your Spirit This Holiday Season
If there’s a verb that sums up the holiday season it’s almost certainly “to do.” Once November rolls around, it suddenly feels like every waking minute is spoken for—shopping, wrapping, mailing, cooking, baking, maybe even party-planning and traveling. The unfortunate, common fall-out to all this doing is losing out on the very aspects of this special time that we treasure and crave most: peace, joy, the chance to reflect and spend meaningful time with family and friends. Given the overtones in the air—whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the winter solstice or simply having made it through another year—this is the ideal time to nurture and strengthen your spiritual side and to feel connected to something greater.
Every season has its rhythms. Perhaps more than the others, winter is naturally conducive to self-reflection. The shorter days, longer nights and chilly temperatures (in many places) tend to offer more opportunities to be a little quieter, a little calmer, a little more internally focused. Whether that means spending time inside by a blazing fire, or reading, praying, meditating or walking through a fresh blanket of snow, moments of peace—even when they’re fleeting—feed your spirit and offer you time to take it all in. Simply taking five or 10 minutes every evening to reflect on what happened during the day, or to consider some of the ups and downs of the year just past, is another great way to slow down and be present.
That’s one of the biggest stressors of the holidays—the pace at which they come and go. Getting caught up in the frenzy makes it all seem to pass by in a blur, which is why it’s a perfect moment to focus on a core spiritual practice: mindfulness, in which you learn to bring your awareness to every moment. We know that’s not easy to do all the time, but if you’re able to be more present when you’re wrapping gifts or baking cookies or decorating your house—rather than thinking of each task as something that just needs to be finished—you’re more likely to see things in the experience that you might not have otherwise. Choosing and placing ornaments on a Christmas tree may remind you of where each one came from—the Santa you picked up on a trip to Scandinavia, the vintage glass bauble from your aunt. Or maybe shopping for the ingredients for your grandmother’s latke recipe brings back memories of being in her delicious-smelling kitchen. That’s the magic of mindfulness—it allows us to fully engage in the moment, which then may connect us to a moment from the past, one that conjures up positive feelings.
You may also want to consider adopting a simple gratitude practice. Since the season typically kicks off with Thanksgiving, think about what you feel truly thankful for and jot it down daily in a gratitude journal. Not sure what to write? Simply note three things—big or small—that make you feel grateful every day. Or make it a point to tell others, especially those who are most important to you, why you’re thankful to them. Maybe your hair stylist fit you in for a last-minute appointment, right before your office party; or your sister agreed to watch the kids when you really needed time away with your spouse. Expressing how appreciative you are to all the people who help make your life easier, happier and healthier is really a gift you’re giving not only to them but to yourself—and your spirit.
This time of year may also prompt you to help those in need. You may find, in fact, that you feel most in touch with your spiritual self when you’re doing what you can to nurture or serve other people. That could mean those you don’t know—volunteering at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, perhaps—or those you do, maybe by inviting a friend who’s new to the area for a holiday dinner, or checking in more often with a neighbor who’s going through a tough time. (If you’re not sure how best to bring out your spiritual side, read our article, “What’s Your Spiritual Personality?”)
You’ll feel a noticeable shift when the holidays start to feel less like a burden and more like a gift, and when you’ve freed yourself from a lengthy to-do list that has little to do with why we love celebrating into the New Year: feeling a greater sense of fulfillment and purpose that comes with spending time with people you care about and embracing the beauty and wonder of the season in your heart.