It's December. Whether you celebrate the solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or if it's just an opportunity for a couple of statutory days off, the next couple of weeks can range from joyful to fraught. Dark, damp and cold; high-degrees of exposure to the people closest - and often most triggering - to us ... or for some, being too far from loved ones; festive food and drink; high-expectations of abundance. Well-intentioned healthy eating can take a hit; exercise habits can be steamrolled; emotions can run high; wallets can grow thin. December is not my favourite month. But I'm constantly seeking meaning, and strategies to thrive and find peace in this darkest time of the year.
Having been raised in the Christian tradition, I am most familiar with typical Christmas traditions. And I have found much significance through exploring their roots and spirit. Bringing nature indoors: celebrating life in the hibernation. Loving the twinkling lights: a symbol shared by many faith traditions at this time of year - being reminded of hope in the darkness, knowing that the days will soon grow long again. Listening to beautiful music and snuggling close; dressing warmly to go outside and revel in the crispness of the air (there's no bad weather ... only inappropriate clothing choices!). Simplifying the commercialism of the season, and sharing with those less fortunate; focusing on giving more than receiving. Taking our time to consider others. Buying local when we buy. Seeking opportunities to volunteer.
Creating boundaries at this time of year strikes me as so important. It can feel like our time and presence is in such demand that we go back to our routine not having felt like we've had a break at all. Building in time - whether at home or away - to do what is rejuvenating. For me, that often means doing some physical activity, reading a book (for pleasure!), and ensuring I get enough sleep. It may mean going for a walk, spending some time in meditation, attending a place of worship, playing a beloved instrument. When boundaries are kindly established, and expectations are clear, it can make it easier for everyone to relax. It's okay to say no (with love). Spend more time doing those activities and with those people that build you up, and less that drain you away.
The delicacies of the holidays can derail any healthy diet. Some simple ways of keeping the impact to a minimum:
1. Eat mindfully - the more we savour and appreciate the sensations in each bite, the less we'll be inclined to eat!
2. Use small plates (and glasses) - we have a tendency to fill empty space! The smaller the space, the less we'll fill it.
3. Consciously intersperse the treats with healthier selections - veggie sticks between servings of meatballs or puff-pastry hors d'oeuvres; sparkling water between glasses of wine; fresh fruit between nibbles of sweet things.
4. Move your body every day - not so you can give yourself "permission" to indulge later, or to work off last night's meal, but to remind yourself of the gift that your body is. Mindful movement helps inspire gratitude, and can prompt kindness towards ourselves.
I'm interested in hearing some of the traditions and strategies you use to make this a meaningful time of year! Please share.
I wish you peace and joy this holiday season.