During this holiday time families usually spend more time together with some vacation time and visiting with extended families. These times are usually filled with sweets and gifts but they can also be filled with unrealistic expectations and stressful situations. Mindful activities can reduce the feeling of being “stressed out”. Mindful activities can create a more creative, relaxed, centered, and fun atmosphere during this holiday time. Jon Kabat-Zinn in his book Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life (1994, Hyperion), defines mindfulness like this:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally. This kind of attention nurtures greater awareness, clarity, and acceptance of present moment reality. It wakes us to the fact that our lives unfold only in moments. If we are not present for those moments, we may not only miss what is valuable in our lives but also fail to realize the richness and depth of our possibilities for growth and transportation (p. 4).”
Here are five mindful activities to include during the holidays.
- Mindful Eating: There is always more food around the holidays. Family meals create an opportunity for connection, fun and laughter. During a family dinner try taking one bite of food on a utensil. Use your senses to explore that one bite of food. You can look at the food, smell the food, touch the food and even listen to the food. Next put that one bite of food into your mouth and experience the sensations of having that food in your mouth before swallowing or chewing. The third part of Mindful Eating is slowly chewing the bite of food and notice if the texture or taste changes. And finally swallow the bite of food. This whole activity could take up to 5 minutes. Imagine how long a meal could take if we all did this for all the food that we eat! Another fun Mindful Eating activity could be to put a blindfold on and taste several different small dishes of food and guess what you are eating.
- Family Yoga: Find out if there is a yoga class at your local yoga studio that is for families. If this is not
possible than look for a video to purchase or buy a kids yoga card deck and explore these cards together. Partner poses are especially fun for families to try out at home. The Yoga Pretzels card Deck by Tara Guber and Leah Kalish has some great partner pose ideas. Lisa Flynn’s book Yoga for Children also has a great Family Bonding Sequence (p. 294).
- Mindful Coloring: As a family get out the coloring books. Use fun drawing instruments like crayons, magic markets, colored
pencils, and finger crayons to all color at the kitchen table. Coloring can be very soothing and creative. There are even coloring books for adults in the bookstores this year with more intricate designs. I like coloring books of mandalas like Peace Mandala by Monique Mandali
- Be Mindful in Nature: The holidays provide a great time to go for a family walk in nature. Maybe this is a
walk on the beach, in the woods or on snowshoes. While outside you could go on a scavenger hunt for things like pinecones, bark, moss, and leaves. You could create a mandala, a circular design, on the ground with items that you find in nature. You could gather together and watch the sunset. You could turn on your listening ears and ask everyone on the walk what they are hearing in nature. Research shows that being outside relieves anxiety and especially helps children with attention challenges.
- Mood Music: Depending on the mood that your family is having, you could play some tunes. Put on some pop music for a family dance party. Kidz Bop music is always a hit with elementary children. Or maybe play some jazz for Sunday morning brunch for some quieter mood music. Holiday music can also be fun to get into a festive mood. On Pandora or the radio you can listen to a holiday station.
Meg Durkin, MS, E-RYT, RCYT, is the founder of Yoga Magic 4 Kids, a licensed Yoga 4 Classroom trainer, ChildLight Yoga trainer, and a certified health coach. Meg works with educators, parents and children believing it is important for children to start life habits of nutrition, stress reduction, movement and mindfulness at a young age. She has been teaching yoga since 2008 and is certified in ChildLight Yoga, Radiant Child Yoga, Yoga for the Special Child, a Licensed Yoga 4 Classrooms Instructor, a 200 hour adult Registered Yoga Teacher through Yoga of Energy Flow, and has received certificates in Brain Gym 170, Yoga Ed, and Every Kid's Yoga. In nutrition, Meg is a certified health coach through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. She holds a BA from Middlebury College and a MS in library and information science from Simmons College. Visit her website at www.yogamagic4kids.com for more information.
Meg has upcoming ChildLight Basic Yoga Trainings in West Hartford, CT, Dover, NH, Cambridge, MA, Bethlehem, NH, and Dayton, NH. She is also teaching ChildLight Baby & Toddler Yoga Training in Dayton, OH.