Having a merry mindful Christmas
Christmas is the best.
Especially when you're a kid.
Can you remember how it felt?
The excitement of opening your advent calendar.
Writing a letter to Santa.
Waking up to a stocking at the end of your bed.
So. Much. FUN!
However here at Mellownest we also hear a lot from parents who are totally worn out by the festive season. With crabby, over-excited kids, a house to decorate, family to feed and a six-page present list it’s no wonder the average mum is plain worn out.
So we wanted to let you in on a few simple secrets for having your best Christmas yet.
But first things first.
Forget the flashy adverts, busy shopping centres and non-stop Christmas pop music.
What does Christmas mean for you?
Some time with the kids?
A chance to snuggle up and practice your hygge?
Because I bet when you think about your childhood Christmas you didn’t remember every single present.
But you did remember the fun you had and the love you felt.
Trust me – your 5-year-old would rather you played a silly game than had a handmade floral centrepiece.
The really hard part of keeping your Christmas simple?
Our own expectations. We want the kids to have a great time and somehow that’s gotten mixed in with perfection, overspending and an elephant-sized dose of pressure.
How can you change things?
We're big fans of simplifying and slowing down here at Mellownest. Why? Because of the huge impact it can have on your mental health and happiness. In fact we wrote a whole post about it!
Worried about what would actually happen if you cut down on some of your engagements or didn’t invite everyone round for boxing day drinks?
Studies have shown that we tend to substantially over-estimate how much time other people spend thinking about us. The truth is; people are often mostly just thinking about themselves. See what happens if you say you can’t make it this year (hint, it’ll be nothing).
It’s not just about you either.
Non-stop excitement can be a bit much for the smaller members of the family too. As strongly as they deny the need to sleep, sit still or eat something other than chocolate coins we know that everyone will be happier if cups are filled and needs are met.
Children, just like adults benefit from times of excitement and calm. Of noise and quiet.
The exact proportions will be in response to your individual child and their own personal quirks. A naturally quieter child might need more time out than a more boisterous one.
The real key to keeping your Christmas simple is finding the right balance for your family.
Aim for one activity a day
Instead of trying to fit in shopping, a Santa visit and a playdate. Spread activities over time. This means you’ll feel less rushed when you’re at the activity and more likely to feel engaged and happy in what you’re actually doing.
There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that practising gratitude is one of the simplest and most effective methods of enjoying your everyday life more. It’s also a great concept to share with your kids.
The challenge? Humans have brains designed to scan for negative stimuli not the positive. That means we’re more likely to spend time focussing on what we don’t have than what we do.
The good news?
Brains can be retrained with time and effort. Bringing your attention a few times a day to something you're grateful for can start to shift your perspective on the world around you.
Keep it simple. I’m sure your life, like mine isn’t perfect but if you have healthy kids, food to eat and running hot water you’re already in a better position than most of the world’s population.
Get the kids involved
Ask your children to help you choose a toy to donate to a charity or perhaps make some donations to the local food bank. These simple acts can help your children understand how much they have to be thankful for and it feels good to help others so it’s really win-win.
Embrace your inner minimalist
When it comes to Christmas gifts, less really is more. Have you ever sat down at the end Christmas day and mentally created a pile of gifts to go straight to charity?
I know I have.
Sometimes gift giving becomes gift giving for the sake of it. Before the madness really begins why not make some suggestions to your nearest and dearest about changing the policy.
One of the best ideas is ask for experiences rather than gifts. This is great for you and the kids. Instead of piles of plastic rubbish you could have museum passes, cinema tickets, bowling vouchers.
For adults receiving spa vouchers or even just a homemade ticket promising to take them out for a fantastic meal can be a great idea. Wouldn’t you rather have a couple of hours of great coffee and chat with a friend than another toiletries set?
Similar to gratitude, practising mindfulness is a workout for your happiness. The more you practise the easier it gets and the more impact you’ll feel.
Mindfulness in its simplest form means the ability to stay in the present moment. Most of the time we are either spiralling ahead into what we need to do next or ruminating over something that’s already happened.
Neither of which are necessarily particularly productive. As we multi-task, our kids get whiney, grumpy and clingy and we feel like we don't achieve anything.
What if we could take charge of our attention?
Focussing on the tasks we need to get done but then being fully present in the moment we’re in.
When you’re with the kids (or not) start to bring your attention more fully to the world around you. Notice the light, the sound of your tea being stirred or the feel of your shoulders relaxing as you take a deep breath.
You can practise bring present in almost any activity.
Imagine baking with your children. Take a few seconds to appreciate the lovely aroma of your work. Listen to the cadences of their happy chatter and giggles. Touch their soft and sticky little hands as they work alongside you. Allow yourself to be fully in that moment undistracted by the other calls on your attention.
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