2020: with the pandemic many of the points below are still valid. However, organised sporting activities as I write are not happening unless in a school setting, but walks in nature are still a distinct possibility. It might be this year that there will be less hustle and bustle of family get-togethers, where children meet relatives they usually don’t see. This might not be as hard for them as it is for you, see point 6 below. For us adults this time of year might be harder this year. We probably have a whole raft of feelings brought about by the events of this year, from fear to anxiety, from anger to resentment. More than ever we need to remember to be kind to ourselves and set aside that time to recharge and regroup by doing whatever makes you smile. My number 1 motto is ‘be kind to yourself’.
We’ve all heard of the 12 days of Christmas. Below are my 12 top tips for a more peaceful, mindful Christmas time with the family!
I was asked to record a radio program for http://www.elasticfm.com/ with Elaine Godley in November which will go out between 4pm and 6pm on Christmas Eve. 2019. Along with fellow guest, Laura Bland, we discussed how to stay healthy in mind and body over the festive period, whilst listening to a fab load of Christmas classics played by Elaine.
The thought came to me afterwards to write a blog post bringing together the points that I raised.
They are by no means original but a summary of what I have learnt over the years. In no particular order, here goes…
1. Try to stick to routines but remember that this won’t always be possible. Sometimes just go with the flow, have the pyjama days, and don’t beat yourself up over it. Many kids will enjoy this change in routine but you know your child best and how comfortable they will feel enjoying this change from the norm.
2. Remember to monitor sugar and other foodstuffs that affect your child. Many of us overindulge at Christmas but it will be more peaceful for you and your family if you aren’t having to deal with stomach upsets from children eating too much rich food or hyperactive behaviour. If the worst happens, do not judge yourself or beat yourself up for not having been careful enough, it won’t help. Be kind to yourself, always!
3. Get out in nature: go for a walk in the forest; go on a bike ride; feed the ducks at the park (with healthy duck food, of course!). Fresh air is good, we often stay inside at Christmas time and we can all get a little cabin fever! Children, in particular, need to expend energy so spending some time outside can stop that energy build-up.
4. Schedule in some quiet time. Here are some examples of calming, quiet activities: mindful colouring e.g. mandalas; creating collages out of Christmas cards, wrapping paper, leaves and pine cones found on a walk in the forest; reading for fun.
5. Involve your children in mindful activities, those that occupy the mind e.g. baking, decorating the tree, wrapping those presents that Santa doesn’t bring.
6. Relatives: Christmas can be an overwhelming time for children who only get to see certain relatives at this time of year. My personal view is that you should not force children to hug or kiss family members but by all means invite them to do so; just be prepared to accept it if the invitation is declined.
7. Singing! The festive season is an excellent time for this! Singing relieves tension; there’s nothing better than belting out some carols with the family, along with all your Christmas classics. Singing helps to improve mental alertness by delivering oxygenated blood to the brain. It can also boost memory collection to those with dementia. It releases endorphins, which make us feel happier and relieve pain. Singing also encourages deep breathing, which aids relaxation. You don’t have to be a pitch perfect to enjoy a good old sing-song – get stuck in! Check out your local church, community group and/or local choirs for carol concerts, or magical candle lit Christingle services.
8. Listen to your favourite music/Christmas classics! Get the whole family involved; introduce your kids, nieces, nephews, grand-kids to your favourite old songs/pieces of music. If you really don’t fancy singing then listening to music is also very beneficial. It releases dopamine and serotonin to the brain, helping us to relax and stay focused. It is energising and helps to boost our mood. In an experiment at the McGill University in Montreal, dopamine levels were found to be 9% higher when volunteers were listening to music. All the more reason to enjoy listening to your favourite tunes! If you have to take long car journeys then music can be invaluable in helping to pass the time.
9. Dancing seems a natural way to follow on from talking about singing and listening to music. It’s an excellent way to build some physical exercise into your day, particularly if you don’t feel like gathering your brood and taking them outdoors in inclement weather. It’s a fun way to expend some energy whatever the weather! There are some captivating video games which add a modern twist to this age old enjoyable pastime.
10. Exercise in any form is a bonus. If the weather isn’t favourable for walks in the park or forest then consider swimming, trampolining, ice-skating and/or indoor play areas to burn off some of your kids’ pent up energy.
11. Togetherness. For a lot of us it is one of the few times in the year that we get to spend quality time with our family. Enjoy traditional games together – e.g. board games, charades, and consequences as well as video/computer games that can be played together. Together really is the key word here.
12. And finally…remember… try to take some quiet time for yourself every day. See it as a preventative measure for unpleasantness! Christmas time can be fraught. Enforced proximity to family members you have happily avoided all year, overindulgence in rich food and the change of routine can all add to the pressure cooker of emotions during the festive season and lead to frayed nerves! You know your child/children and how much they can tolerate changes in their usual routine. If things don’t go to plan and an argument happens, treat yourself with compassion. We are not robots and can snap if stressed. No one wants to shout at their children, or anyone else for that matter, but it sometimes happens. If you feel you’ve treated your children harshly apologise to them. It sets a good example of how to apologise and lets children know that adults are not superhuman beings devoid of emotion. Kindness all around is key, and you should extend that kindness to yourself, too.
If you feel you would like to learn more about how to teach your child/children or those with whom you work how to be more mindful and to meditate then I run regular workshops for adults on this. You will not only learn about the benefits of mindfulness meditation and how to deliver unscripted mindfulness meditations to children, but you will also gain membership to the wealth of experience of the online Facebook community and access to additional online resources from the Teach Children meditation website. The day’s workshop is really only the start of your learning. The cost of the workshop is £199. If this is of interest. please have a look at our adult training pages
Finally I would like to wish you and your family a peaceful, joyful, mindful Christmas and a very happy New Year!