It’s the most wonderful time of year, filled with cheerful music, pretty lights, fun parties and lots of time spent with family + friends. Unfortunately, it can also be the busiest, most stressful time of the year, too. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, more than half of all women in the U.S. experience heightened stress during the holidays. And as we all know, stress can wreak havoc on your overall health + well-being, leading to frayed nerves, the tendency to make bad diet + exercise choices, and the inability to get enough (or good) sleep.
So to help you stay at your happiest + healthiest during this holiday season, we’ve put together a quick list of simple tips for remaining mindful, merry + well during this very busy time. Because when you’re at your best, you’re able to give more of yourself to your loved ones—and that’s the best gift of all.
1. Practice mindful movement: While running from the mall to the post office to the grocery store and back may sound like plenty of exercise, it's important to schedule time dedicated solely to mindful movement. Whether it’s yoga, pilates, a jog through the park or your favorite spin class, try to exercise at least a few times a week to help fight off any holiday stress that creeps up and help your body prepare for all those yummy treats + feasts.
2. Find time for yourself: The holidays are meant for spending with the ones you love the most, but it’s also important to reserve a little “me time” amidst all the parties, travel and last-minute shopping. This time—whether it’s 15 minutes here and there, or an entire hour to yourself once a week—not only helps you relax your mind + get a chance to just breathe, but it also helps you mentally recharge your energy stores for all those social engagements you attend throughout the month. And while you’re at it…
3. Meditate, meditate, meditate: Though we recommend having a regular meditation practice all year long, it’s even more important to meditate throughout the holiday season. Try meditating for 15 minutes each morning before getting out of bed to set yourself up for a more mindful, stress-free day. And if you find yourself starting to get stressed at any point throughout the day, stop what you’re doing for a 1-minute mini meditation, where you repeat an uplifting affirmation to lower your stress levels + increase your positivity.
4. Reconnect with nature: Yes, the holidays can be chilly in many parts of the country, and it may be tempting to stay cuddled up inside by the fire. But getting outside and reconnecting with nature can be just what you need to recapture a sense of calm. Take a family walk around the neighborhood to check out the decorations, hike in the mountains when picking up your Christmas tree, or simply stroll through the outdoor farmers and craft markets when the weekend rolls around.
5. Remember to slow down: It’s called the busy season for a reason, but taking time to enjoy each activity—rather than rushing from one to the next—is crucial for savoring this special time instead of letting it slip by. One way to do this successfully: Don’t over-schedule yourself. As tempting as it may be to say yes to every activity and invitation, choose your commitments wisely so you can truly enjoy the activities you do get to participate in.
6. See everyday tasks as an opportunity to create: When you’ve got a million things on your to-do list, it can be easy to see each task as just another thing to get done ASAP. Instead, use everyday tasks like wrapping presents or decorating cookies as an opportunity to express your creativity. We’re firm believers in creating or making something as a beautiful way to express yourself, give back to the universe + practice mindfulness. When you look at “to-dos” as a chance to create, it makes them a lot less of a hassle and a whole lot more joyful.
7. Be fully present: Multitasking is common in our day and age (especially during the hectic holiday season), but this year, make sure you’re fully present in everything you do. Unplug from work when you’re at home or on your days off. Really watch that holiday movie with your kids and listen to the lyrics of the carols you're singing. Actively listen to the stories people tell you at the holiday dinner table and friendly get-togethers. Remaining present in each moment will not only make a huge difference in how much happiness the holidays bring you, but it will also have a positive impact on those around you.
8. Choose your wishes wisely: When you have 100 holiday cards to send out to all your friends + family, it can be easy to use the same few sentences to express your well wishes. But if at all possible, spend a little more time with each card, thinking really intentionally about the words you write and making sure they truly express your love + gratitude for each recipient. They’ll know the difference when you do, and it could very well be one of the best gifts they receive all season. And speaking of gifts…
9. Gift intentionally: We get it: Gift giving is hard, and finding the perfect gift for every person on your list seems downright impossible. And it probably is. But you can choose to give gifts that really matter, whether it’s something that holds sentimental value, makes a difference in the world, or helps spread mindfulness + wellness to those you love. That’s why we’ve created a holiday gift guide filled with pieces for family, friends + other loved ones that help provide strength, bring balance, attract abundance + build compassion. And remember: It’s not about how much you gift, but the love with which you give it.
10. Indulge in moderation: Don’t worry, we’re not going to tell you to avoid desserts, alcohol, carbs + all of the other tasty treats that come along with the holiday season. But what we will say is, when possible, choose to indulge in moderation and work good-for-you items into your holiday diet at every chance. Not only will healthy eating keep your stress levels low and improve your sleep quality, but it can also help boost your immune system to help you avoid those dreaded winter colds.
11. Be generous: At a time of the year when you receive a lot from others—whether it’s their presents or their presence—it’s so important to make sure you’re giving something back. And not just gifts. Show kindness to loved ones and strangers alike by donating your time to charitable causes that you’re passionate about, or simply offering a helping hand or kind word to someone in need. It’s these gifts of generosity that truly make a difference in the holiday season and beyond.
12. Practice patience, kindness + compassion, especially with yourself: Just as important as it is to spread love + kindness to those around you this month, it’s also important to remember that no one—not even you—is perfect, and we all need a little room to make mistakes. Whether it’s forgetting to pick up a Secret Santa gift for your office party or burning the green bean casserole or eating a few too many cookies at the holiday cookie exchange, don’t judge yourself. Instead, practice patience + self-love and know that even if you didn’t pull off the “perfect” holiday, at least you put together a happy one for you + your loved ones.
13. Let go of traditions that no longer serve you: This one can be difficult, because they’re called “traditions” for a reason and can be hard to let go of. But if there’s a holiday activity that no longer brings you or your family happiness—or, worse, brings you unnecessary stress or anxiety—give yourself permission to let go of it and focus instead on creating new memories that fill you with a sense of joy + holiday cheer.
14. Plan ahead: As exhausted as you might be by the time Jan. 1 rolls around, having a few fun activities to look forward to after the New Year are helpful for avoiding a post-holiday slump. In fact, studies show that having something to plan for and work toward can help boost happiness levels.
15. Stay grateful: Thanksgiving may be over, but that’s no reason to put an attitude of gratitude behind you. Although the season may be hectic and, at times, feel stressful, it’s important to remember what really matters during this special time of year: being grateful for your blessings, giving love to others + spreading kindness to the world around you.
What are your favorite tips for staying mindful, happy + healthy during the holiday season? Share them in the comments section below, or tag us @malaandmantra on Facebook or Instagram for a chance to have your tip shared throughout the month.
Wishing you a mindful + merry holiday season!