6 Ways to be Mindful

Be your own best present this year!

As we reach the end of 2021 and the year starts to slow down, we also reflect on how the past year went and the big things that unfolded on top of how uncertain life is at the moment with the ongoing pandemic.  Another variant has been discovered and the northern hemisphere’s COVID cases are surging along with winter– all of which leads to more lockdowns and cancelled travel plans, more dashed hopes and dreams.  When low self-esteem issues add to your general sense of uncertainty, you may just feel Christmas cheer is out of place now and you may want to focus more on all the things you feel you need to do better.

If this resonates with how you are feeling and experiencing life, this blog is for you.  With some gentle encouragement, I’m sharing how you can start to turn the situation around and maybe even enjoy yourself this holiday. 

What does this time of year mean to you? 

We’re slowly moving into the last bit of the year, the time of preparing for the Christmas season, winter, a time of reflection and of silently hoping, expecting, longing or wishing for …… (you fill in the blank on what you would love for your life).

Covid is overextending its stay and we’re all having to adapt to new measures, extra measures, in some countries even lockdown.  Again. In the meantime we got used to working from home, wearing face masks, being vaccinated or not, putting holidays on hold, missing loved ones we haven’t seen for a long time.

We learned to re-plan, re-focus, re-adjust. Some of us lost our jobs, others changed their jobs, found a new vocation, relaunched their lives or discovered new shifts in their thinking and emotional lives.

As the festive season draws closer, I’ve come up with six awareness practices that can help you get through what could turn out to be another Covid disaster or lockdown for some countries thanks to the new Covid variant. 

Let’s explore:

1) Enjoy some nostalgia

As we slowly go into preparing for this holiday season it brings back memories of previous Christmas times, loved ones, gifts, and rituals we love at this time of the year. We get excited about the things we plan to do, want to do and with whom – to make it all special – again. We may want to do it differently this year, but mostly we want to experience emotions of love, Christmas cheer, joy and warmth.

Soon we will be making all kinds of lists – to organise our holiday season, things to do to make it special, things we need to get to contribute to our loved one’s happiness and expectations. And besides all of these things –  ……. (you fill in the blank). What are you wishing for?

2) Take stock of how life went this year

Even if we are too busy right now and haven’t given Christmas any thought yet – we are reminded about it the minute we leave home. Christmas decorations are going up everywhere, Christmas markets will soon open (hopefully) along with their ice rinks and glühwein, and Christmas carols will be playing.

We’re going to get busy, but we tell ourselves this ‘busy-ness’ is a joyful kind – most of the time. How do you want to feel, besides being busy? Most of us want to enjoy it, have fun with our loved ones, be positive despite the things in our own lives we find daunting, exhausting or hurting.

What would you love to see from life in the coming year?

3) Choose to feel jolly

Christmas cheer is described as the season to feel jolly, to experience warmth and nostalgia. While there still is a difference between feeling jolly and happiness, there is a natural tendency to link ‘feeling jolly’ with ‘happiness’. Positive psychology’s Sonja Lyubomirski describes happiness as ‘…. the experience of joy, contentment or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.’ (Sonja Lyubomirski, author of ‘The How of Happiness’, 2007).

While happiness can change and is not always definite or constant in one’s life, we do feel pleasure and contentment at times – and we may just as well show it. We can also feel satisfied with ourselves and work towards experiencing more positives in our lives.  

But low self-esteem can impact this.

4) Practice being kind and loving with yourself

When we experience low self-esteem and have a negative opinion of ourselves, it often stops us from consciously experiencing feelings of happiness or even joy. It’s not a deliberate decision. It just seems everything goes that way.

If you feel happy, you tend to be more positive and outspoken about experiences and your choices. It contributes to feeling more self-confident. You make different choices. 

The same happens when we filter most things in our lives through a negative lens. It’s only afterwards we realise how much joy we missed out on. Different choices we could have made.

5) Take Christmas with you into the new year and beyond

The cheer and joy of Christmas do not have to be restricted to this holiday season only. We can choose to experience it more in our daily lives and decisions.

Is it possible to enjoy this time? In many cases, we can choose to ‘go’ there. We can choose to enjoy the arrival of the Christmas cheer, the goodwill of those around us, the excited chatter of everyone’s plans, the beauty of the decorations in our houses and on the streets, and being excited about our plans – however big or small.

6) Nurture a better sense of yourself

Trying to develop healthy self-esteem starts the process of having a healthier view of ourselves. We can begin to feel confident to express ourselves and our needs while having realistic expectations. But we can also start to allow ourselves to enjoy– whether it’s a short moment of laughter or the times with loved ones. Sometimes even just being on our own, but surrounded by positive choices – whether those are books, news, nature or any information we decide to spend our mind time on.

How would it feel to just ‘go there’ in your mind and allow yourself to explore a happier state? To just be taken up by the cheer and goodwill, the joy and excitement of this season? To choose to replace the negative filter with a more positive one? Often, with low self-esteem, you’re overly critical of yourself, your behaviour, and your thoughts. These tend to show up in your relationships. 

Or you try to be too perfect in everything you do, making it difficult to relax and just enjoy the moment and have some fun.

Worrying what others think of you and how you come across, leaves you anxious and limits any spontaneity and joy at the moment.

Be your own best present this year with Christmas ‘presence’ 

How would it feel to forget these issues for a moment, be less preoccupied with all your ‘shortcomings’ and just enjoy the Christmas cheer and happiness? How would it feel to be more relaxed and have fun connecting to others and laugh more? When your low self-esteem is playing up not allowing you to enjoy the Christmas cheer, this quote of Amy Poehler comes to mind for me: 

“No one looks stupid

When they’re having fun.”

— Amy Poehler

Wrapping it all up:

Looking at life slightly differently through some of the filters I discussed here, can often just turn into a ‘bad’ situation. Becoming aware of what we do have instead of what we don’t can also change what feels ‘less’ or ‘bad’ very quickly around for us. Do the same for yourself with self-talk that’s positive and nourishing. Instead of drawing up a long list of resolutions for 2022 and then feeling bad afterwards for not sticking to most of them, just focus on one habit or thought you can do each day that reminds you of one positive impact you have either in your work or personal life.

In the meantime, get involved in the jolliness around you, allow yourself to ‘go there’ and enjoy the moments. Not only can you feel more relaxed, but it can help you to wind down and face your new year with a fresh perspective.

Then go home and start your one-thing daily practice which reminds you about your positive impact in this thing called life.

Karen Bateson

29 November 2021