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 feels like every waking minute is spoken for—shopping, mailing, cooking, baking, parties, and possible travel. The unfortunate fallout to all this “doing” is losing out on the very aspects of this time that we treasure and crave most: peace, joy, the chance to reflect, and spending time with family and friends. The extraordinary circumstance recent years, including canceled plans and missing loved ones, has added layers of frustration and grief. 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 connect to something greater.
Every season has its rhythms. Perhaps more than the others, winter is conducive to self-reflection. The shorter days, longer nights, and chilly temperatures (in many places) offer opportunities to be a little quieter, a little calmer, a little more internally focused. Whether that means spending time by a blazing fire, or reading, praying, meditating, or walking through a fresh blanket of snow, these moments of peace feed your spirit. Simply taking five or 10 minutes every evening to reflect on what happened during the day 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 pass by in a blur, which is why it’s important to focus on a core spiritual practice: mindfulness, in which you bring your awareness to each moment. It’s not easy always easy to do, but if you can be more present when you’re baking cookies or decorating your house—rather than thinking of each task as just something to tick off a list—you’re more likely to notice things you might have missed. Choosing and placing ornaments on a Christmas tree may remind you of where each one came from—the Santa you picked up in Sweden, the vintage glass bauble from your aunt. Or shopping for the ingredients for your grandmother’s latke recipe brings back memories of being in her kitchen. That’s part of the magic of mindfulness—being in this moment may connect you to a fond moment from the past.
You might also adopt 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 how to start? Simply note three things, big or small, that make you feel grateful every day. Or make it a point to tell others why you’re thankful for them. Maybe your dentist squeezed you in at the last minute, or your sister agreed to watch the kids when you needed an afternoon off. Expressing thanks to the people who make your life easier, happier, and healthier is a gift you give not only to them but to you—and your spirit.
This time of year may also prompt you to help those in need. You might find, in fact, that you feel most in touch with your spiritual self when you’re doing what you can to nurture others. That could mean people you don’t know—volunteering at a soup kitchen, perhaps—or those you do, maybe checking in with a neighbor who’s going through a tough time.
Once you’ve freed yourself from a to-do list that has little to do with why we celebrate, the holidays start to feel less like a burden and more like a gift. Feeling a greater sense of fulfillment comes with connecting with people you care about and finding hope in the season.