Simple Gifts of Mindfulness to Open Your Heart to the Season

25 ways to slow things down, spend less money, and make holiday magic

Posted Dec 16, 2017

James Jordan/Flickr
Source: James Jordan/Flickr

Like a lot of people, I get the December frazzles. But over the years, I’ve happened upon some general principles of mindfulness that (when I remember them) reduce the pressure, save money, and open up possibilities for the magic of the season:

  1. Breathe. That’s always my first rule. When I notice I’m feeling stressed, anxious, annoyed, irritable, or impatient, I take a deep, long breath, and then another.
  2. Smile. You know the research findings—smile, and your brain chemistry changes. It works.
  3. Remember the ‘little’ in ‘Have yourself a merry little Christmas.’ Keep the emphasis on the kindness and love that is the essential spirit of the season. Do only what is necessary by way of food, parties, and gifts.
  4. Model an attitude of gratitude. Find the gratitude inside yourself, and encourage that in your child. Help your child focus more on all the good things they already have, and less on all the things they want.
  5. Take a little trip together. Make time during the holiday season to take a local trip with your child, whether it’s to see the Christmas displays in the downtown store windows, visit a park with Christmas lights, or somewhere else you’d both like to go.
  6. Share with others. Children can find enormous pleasure in finding ways to make the world a brighter place for people who are struggling.
  7. Dance. Take a few minutes every day through the holidays for a happy dance. You might feel silly and self-conscious to begin with, but your daily happy dance will soon feel as great for you as it does for your child.
  8. Express your enthusiasms. Think about what fills you with enthusiasm, whether it’s cooking, watching movies, or writing a book. Share that with your child. Talk with them about your enthusiasms and theirs.
  9. Find your forgiveness. There’s no parent or child who doesn’t mess up sometimes. This holiday season, clear out any misdeeds or disappointments that have been building up, both yours and your child’s. Ask for and grant forgiveness as needed.
  10. Stay healthy. At this time of excess, remember to pay extra attention to your own health and to your child’s. Try to make time for enough sleep, nutritious food, and outdoor play.
  11. Be joyful. Look for the joy in your life and in the world around you. Express that out loud. Help your child feel the warmth that fills a person up when she smiles from the heart.
  12. Laugh. At least as good for you as Vitamin C, enjoy a daily dose of laughter. At the end of the day, ask your child if they’ve laughed enough yet, and work together to make sure you’ve both met your quota.
  13. Enjoy quiet times. Especially important at this busy time of year, your child and you both need quiet do-nothing times for contemplation, reflection, and recharging your batteries. Talk about how you can give each other this gift.
  14. Be resourceful. Look for ways to be both economical and environmentally friendly. With decorations, food, and gifts, think together with your child about ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
  15. Slow it down! Doing things more slowly will calm you down and help you breathe. And somewhat counter-intuitively, it will also help you realize you have all the time you need to do what needs to be done.
  16. Wonder. Celebrate your child’s sense of wonder, and cultivate your own. Take time to savor the sound that snow makes on a crisp winter day, the taste of chocolate melting in your mouth, the lengthening sunshine that follows the darkening gloom of the winter solstice.
  17. Cherish your child’s excitement. And try to find your own spirit of seasonal excitement too.
  18. Remember yesterday. Take time to affirm your family’s traditions. Talk about the people no longer present, the sweet and funny things your child did when she was younger, and your own childhood holiday memories.
  19. Gifts are for children. After trying different systems to reduce spending on gifts (like drawing names, assigning a spending limit, or giving only homemade gifts), the one that works best for me and my family is to give gifts only to the children.
  20. Try for homemade, but don’t be adamant about it. Yes, it’s great to make all your own gifts, but that can be a stressful burden on your time and creativity. Be thoughtful, but put a priority on being easy on yourself.
  21. Give gifts of your time. Give your child vouchers they can cash in for taking a walk with you, doing some baking or cooking together, going to an art gallery or zoo or museum or movie or bookstore together. Be fully present to them during that time; don’t snatch it away by spending it on your phone.
  22. Encourage your child’s gifts. Give your child something to help make their hopes and dreams real. This might be a computer for the wannabe writer, ballet lessons for the child who loves to dance, paints and brushes for the child interested in art, a chemistry set for the aspiring scientist.
  23. Make an Appreciation Poster. Using a combination of words and pictures, make a poster that shows how you appreciate your child: their contributions to the family, their enthusiasms, their questions, their own special ways of thinking and being.
  24. Give books. My favorite childhood gift was the well-chosen book I could curl up with. (That still works for me.)
  25. Nature. Consider giving your child the gift of nature, perhaps in the form of a weekly outdoor experience you enjoy together. Discuss possibilities like a walk in a nearby woods, a hike on a trail, or building a birdhouse together.

For more ideas for simple gifts that slow things down:

“How to Stress-Proof Your Parenting for a Happy Holiday Season,” by Ariadne Brill

Music by Raffi

Mindful Gift Giving,” by Marilyn Price-Mitchell

To receive a daily parenting post from Sarah Chana Radcliffe

5 Ways to Add Joy to the Holiday Season,” by Rebecca Eanes

26 Simple Gifts to Last Forever,” by Dona Matthews

Children, Gifts, and Holidays,” by Dona Matthews