If you tend to associate the word Christmas with stress, rushing around and getting into debt, then you must read this post. Even if you love Christmas, we can all still get a little overwhelmed and forget to stop and appreciate how magical this time of year can be. Melanie Barnes, slow living blogger and author of recently published book Seeking Slow (which I love!), is sharing her thoughts on how to have a slow Christmas, how to really soak up those special moments and re-engage with what this time of year is really all about.
Slow living and spending time with loved ones is important at any time of the year but especially so at Christmas. December can be full of joy, as long as we slow down long enough to soak up all the seasonal festivities that happen at this time of year. By noticing what is special about winter and by accepting that this busy time of year can also create challenges, we can begin to find ways to encourage us and our family to slow down and enjoy all that this season has to offer.
The Christmas holidays provide us all with essential extra time where we can just focus on our family and loved ones and forget about the trials and tribulations of our normal routines and work stress. With children having at least two weeks off school, and with many receiving extra (and compulsory) holiday from work it’s the perfect opportunity to go slowly and hunker down.
Whatever our current lifestyle and situation we all need time to slow down and recuperate. Winter can be the perfect time for quiet reflection and is naturally a peaceful time of year if we allow it to be. It is a time to hibernate, where our bodies instinctively crave rest. We often think of having time to sit in front of the fire, or catch up on sleep, or read a book as a luxury, but really ‘down time’ like this is fundamental for our health and happiness. It’s important to be mindful not to fill these lulls with lots of activities and general busyness.
At some point in the year we need to grant our bodies and our energy the time to deeply replenish. This calmer time for ourselves is necessary and going slowly over the festive break allows us to rest for longer than just a few days. The longer we rest, the deeper we can sink into that relaxation state, and the more benefit we will feel. As well as providing time for our bodies to deeply rest, a break from the stresses of our general day-to-day also provides respite for our minds.
Festive traditions and the meaning behind why we celebrate Christmas is of course always evolving. In particular, the commercial aspect of Christmas has definitely been amplified in recent years by our consumer culture. I enjoy giving gifts but we can be thoughtful about the choices we make at Christmas time, and encourage our children to do the same. It is important that we help our children understand the purpose and meaning behind Christmas and that we explain that it’s not just about the presents. If we can show them that there is more to a gift than just the object you receive, but that the thought that goes into the gift, the wrapping, and decorating of the gift, all contribute to making that gift special. If we can teach them about kindness, and giving to charity and others that are less fortunate than ourselves, we can help them feel gratitude for all that they have.
December can be a really busy time of year for many, with folk trying to finish off work and projects before the holidays begin. Often, it’s a socially busy time of the year too; with Christmas parties, carol concerts and nativity plays. It’s easy to see why many of us get swept away with all the extra things there are to do at Christmas; such as, buying gifts, writing cards, planning festive dinners! The list can be endless and it seems to be commonplace to put pressure on ourselves to get all the extra things done. However, we must remember that these are indeed ‘extra’ things and that they are not essential. By following the general desire to make Christmas perfect we actually distract ourselves from the truly important things about the festive season. If we can be intentional about what things are important to us and our family at this time of year, we can prioritise those activities and can let go of all the other stuff that doesn’t bring us joy.
Understanding these challenges shows us how necessary it is to slow down and savour what’s in front of us during the festive season and there are many things to try that can help us live slowly throughout December. In particular, there is a lot of opportunity for making and crafting at Christmas time. It might sound counter intuitive to give yourself more things to do by adding Christmas crafts to your list, but actually getting lost by playing creatively and making something with your hands is a wonderful way to slow down. Our hands and minds get lost in the making process and because of this it is a great way to ground us in the present moment. Plus, it provides the perfect opportunity to do something festive with children.
Establishing and creating family traditions with our daughter has become an essential part of slowing down at Christmas in our home. Each year we repeat certain festive tasks that have become precious to us, and now my daughter is seven she is reaching an age where she can remember and look forward to our little family rituals, as I do each year. Getting out into nature for a walk and gathering nature finds to bring indoors is one of our favourite things to do in winter. Even in the colder weather, it is so beneficial for our well-being to get outdoors for some fresh air. By noticing our surroundings and paying attention to the details of the season, our minds can begin to slow down and find some quiet. By gathering a little nature find along the way to display at home, I find I always have a visual reminder that connects me to the calm and peaceful feeling I experience when walking in nature.
One of the most important things we can do is make sure that we celebrate the simple joys that the season brings; things like sitting in front of a fire, wrapping a gift, lighting candles, decorating the tree. All these activities are moments to be cherished. They are things that are unique to winter and by relishing in them we are soaking up as much joy as possible. If we speed through December and all its festivities we miss out on so many wonderful things. Not only are these simple joys really important for us but they are especially important to share with our children and the younger generation. They allow us to demonstrate what’s really important about Christmas and that joy can be found in small quiet moments, not just in acquisitions and material possessions.
Here are five things you can try to help you live slowly during the festive season:
• Start your own family traditions. Whether it’s making a homemade advent calendar each year or donating to charity, think of things you can do together as a family that help you appreciate what is in front of you. By establishing your own seasonal rituals you will automatically create little pockets where you are focusing on what’s important to you and your family.
• Take a walk in nature: Walking instantly provides you with some mental space and calm. By paying attention to seasonal details by using all your senses you become grounded in the present moment.
• Celebrate simple joys: If we can cherish the little acts of joy that the season has to offer we can experience more contentment and gratitude.
• Try Christmas crafting: Let your hands and minds get lost in a wonderful Christmas craft. Always a fun activity to do with children, it can really help you feel in a festive mood. Whether it’s making cranberry and popcorn garlands, baking orange slices, or making gingerbread biscuits, there are lots of simple crafts to try.
• Bring the outside in: Bringing nature into our home in the form of greenery, wreaths, pinecones etc, is a wonderful way to help us enjoy all of winters wonderful offerings. Plus, these pieces of nature will act as a visual reminder that connects you to the season even when you are not outside.
If this has made you want to continue living a slower life into 2020, then do check out Melanie’s book, we recently reviewed it here if you’d like to know more about it, or check out her blog Geoffrey and Grace.