With the festive season just around the corner, I can practically smell the gingerbread cookies baking in the oven and hear the pop of the champagne as it is opened in celebration of the holiday season. Perhaps having a Mindful rather than a Merry Christmas might need to be the very thing at the top of your list. The concept behind mindfulness, which comes from Buddhist philosophies, is to attend to the present moment. To focus on the here and now, rather than on either the past or the future. To perceive things as they really are, stripped of the labels, habits, and thought processes that they might typically trigger. We spend our energies trying to make ourselves feel better, fleeing from pain and unpleasantness, seeking safety and security. Searching our minds and our worlds for happiness, meaning and purpose. Meanwhile, the real moments of our lives flow by untouched and untasted.
Make a positive start by practicing mindfulness when you drink. When we drink mindfully we slow things down, and paradoxically, by bringing awareness to what we are drinking we are often more satisfied with the experience, enjoying it more, and potentially drinking less. When you start to take a sip, bring awareness to this action. Notice any urge you have to drink the liquid straight down and any thoughts or expectations you have about how the experience will unfold. As you drink, don’t swallow immediately, but take a moment to savour. Notice the temperature, texture and taste. And as you swallow, try to follow that mouthful down through the throat and into your stomach. By bringing in a mindful awareness we start to make choices not based on habitualised patterns of behaviour, but on our needs and desires. For example, consider the habitual, socialized nature of drinking during the festive season. The majority of the time, we are not making decisions about our drinking based on our level of need e.g. how thirsty we are, but on automatic responses to social and environmental cues which trigger our behaviour. If that’s to ‘have one for the road’ then great! The difference is that you consciously made that choice. You checked in with yourself, you considered the consequences and alternatives and made a conscious choice. You switched off autopilot and engaged with your experience in the present moment.
Being mindful when you eat is about devoting all of your senses to the experience of eating. Typically around the holidays, food is abundantly available. The office fruit bowl becomes the chocolate tub and once the party season is in full swing, there is no end to the food choices we are making on an almost minute-by-minute basis. Yet how many of us can say that we honestly devote all of our attention and focus to the act of eating? We devote a large portion of our time to cooking and baking but all too often wolf down the goods before they have even cooled properly!
So before you habitually accept what is on offer, check in with yourself and ask ‘How hungry am I’? Ask yourself why you are going to choose to eat. Is it in response to physical hunger, or are you eating for emotional purposes, perhaps because you are feeling overwhelmed, happy or bored even? And if you choose to eat whilst you are out at party, then great, enjoy! But make sure it’s a conscious choice and you take the time to really savour and enjoy the food you are eating and not just mindlessly consume everything that you are offered! Breathe in the aromas, notice the textures, truly taste your meal. Slow things down and take the time to experience each and every bite from start to finish. Also take a moment to observe your thoughts. It is important to bring an element of self-kindness to the table, along with the senses. And remember that a thought is just a thought, not a fact. You can choose to believe it and act on it, or you can choose to just let it be.
Have yourself a Mindful Merry Christmas this year.