Many of us spend the holiday season searching for that perfect present, combing the aisles during our Target run to find something great that will really make our loved one’s eyes light up. It might be that hard-to-find toy or another item at the top of a wish list, but there is a gift that you can’t buy that your family needs just as much — you.
Your presence can be one of the best presents you give this season.
In my role as a mindfulness instructor, I work with others to teach them how to pay attention on purpose to what is going on around them and to do this with kindness and without judgment. Being present is one of the main principles of mindfulness, and it is something that we don’t do enough. We often go through our days just working to check things off our to-do lists, whether that’s at work, or running errands or getting to where we need to be when we need to be there.
Our “busyness” only increases as the holidays approach, and taking time to be present can be a great tool in helping us focus on what’s important this time of year. The most important way that we can be present this holiday season is by being an active listener. This means we are paying attention to what others are saying to us and really listening to their words. We aren’t trying to figure out what we want to say next or trying to solve their problems before they’re even done talking.
We are putting our phones down, making eye contact and truly hearing what someone wants to say to us. This allows us to be present with our partners, our kids, family, friends and coworkers. Imagine if someone took the time to stop and really listen to what you had to say with full attention and without distractions. What an awesome gift it is to be that person for someone else. Being present means that we don’t need to strive for perfection.
We all get stressed during the holidays and trying to create a perfect party or celebration is only going to create even more stress for you. Remember that there is no such thing as a perfect holiday. Be present with loved ones by enjoying each moment for what it is, whether it’s watching a child’s excitement after opening a gift or laughing with the family when the dog jumps up and steals food right off the table.
Someone might bring up politics. You might run out of dip for the chips. These moments may not be perfect, but they are your moments. Savor the laughter and notice the emotions that you and your family feel. When we stop and create this space for ourselves to observe and reflect, it not only allows us to take in more of the holidays, but it also helps us to slow down and reduce our stress.
This helps us to feel more at ease during the holidays, and we are better able to connect with others, making this time of year more positive for them, too. Remember that you are the best gift of all. Nothing compares to your time or the attention you give to your loved ones. Presents. Presence. This holiday season I hope you are fully able to enjoy both.
-Trisha Erpelding is education coordinator and lead mindful instructor at Mental Health America in Sheboygan County.