11 Ways To Be Mindful At The Holiday Table And During Family Gatherings

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How is the holiday season for you – enjoyable or stressful?

Or perhaps a bit of both.

We want the season to be a sacred time to connect and celebrate with family and friends.

But for many of us, it is also a time when we feel anxious and even sad.

The pressure to have the perfect holiday can be overwhelming.

How can you minimize these feelings to enjoy the season and be more present with loved ones?

Mindfulness is the key.

Being mindful can help you savor moments of celebration more, as well as reduce stress.

The practice helps you become more present and aware, bringing calm and joy to your special celebration.

And who couldn’t use a bit more of that?

Why Are the Holidays So Stressful and Distracting?

Unfortunately, one of the most anticipated times of the year can also be the most daunting. Holidays can be flat-out exhausting.

But why does this happen? There are a few reasons why the holidays can be so stressful and distracting:

  • We have high expectations: We often put a lot of pressure on ourselves to have the “perfect” holiday. We want everything to be memorable, from the food we cook to the gifts we give. And when things don’t go according to plan, we can feel disappointed and stressed.
  • We’re trying to do too much: The holidays are a busy time of year. We often run around trying to get everything done, from shopping for gifts to attending holiday parties. It can leave us feeling exhausted with no energy left to enjoy the season.
  • We’re not taking care of ourselves: It’s easy to let our needs fall by the wayside during the holidays. We might skimp on sleep, eat unhealthy foods, and drink too much alcohol. These can lead to burnout and even illness.
  • We are sad about loss. The holidays remind us of past times of joy and celebration with loved ones who have passed or aren’t with us for other reasons. We may feel lonely or depressed.

These effects aren’t always conscious, so it seems like a surprise when we find ourselves stressed or blue during the holidays.

But if we’re mindful of our feelings, we can take steps to reduce stress and enjoy the season more.

How Mindfulness Can Help You During the Holidays

Mindfulness isn’t a chore or an obligation. It has real, tangible benefits that can help you during the holiday season and beyond.

Here are some ways mindfulness can bring happiness into your holidays:

  • It can help you manage stress: Mindfulness can help you to be more aware of your thoughts and emotions, which can help you to manage and release your stress more effectively.
  • It can improve your relationships: Mindfulness can help strengthen bonds with friends and family and repair past wounds. It can also help you be more present and aware in your interactions with others, leading to more meaningful conversations.
  • It can boost your immune system: Believe it or not, mindfulness can have actual physical benefits. It can help boost your immune system, which can come in handy during the winter when colds and flu are more common.

These benefits are hugely important during one of the most stressful times of the year.

So consider integrating mindfulness into your life as soon as possible.

11 Ways To Be Mindful At The Holiday Table And During Family Gatherings

The good news is that there are ways to improve the holiday experience, and they only require a little mindfulness.

Below are some tips on how to be more mindful during holiday gatherings:

1. Visualize the Event Beforehand

Dread can be a big stressor during the holidays. We may worry about having an awkward conversation with a family member or drama between loved ones.

One way you can take control of this is by picturing the best-case scenario for the event. For example, if you’re worried about running into an old friend at a holiday party, visualize yourself having a pleasant conversation with them. 

table full of foods be mindful at the holiday table

What will you say? How do you feel? This exercise will prime you for success and help you to focus on the positive.

2. Put Away Your Phone

Phones are irresistible, and they’re designed to be that way. We usually think it’s OK to keep them out if we aren’t in an important business meeting or on a date, but this holiday season, try to be more present and put your phone away.

You’ll be surprised how much more engaged you’ll feel in conversations and how much more you’ll enjoy your surroundings when you’re not distracted by your phone. If you must check it, step outside or head to the washroom.

3. Eat Mindfully

We usually eat without constraint or awareness during the holidays and have a painfully full tummy and a few extra pounds by the end of the season.

When you’re at the holiday table, take a moment to look at your food. Notice the colors, textures, and smells. Be mindful of each bite and savor the flavors. Start with small helpings and eat slowly.

Before eating, take a moment to say something positive about the meal or express gratitude for the people who prepared it. Gratitude helps you to be more mindful of the experience and appreciate it more.

4. Pay Everyone a Compliment

Families can be critical, so it will be refreshing for them if you take the lead and complement everyone. It could be as simple as saying, “I love your dress, Aunt Susan. You look so pretty.”

giving gifts during the holidays be mindful at the holiday table

It will not only make the recipient feel good but also help shift the conversation’s tone and set a more positive vibe for the whole gathering. You may even get a few compliments in return.

5. Listen More Than You Talk

We often get so wrapped up in our own lives that we forget to listen to others. This holiday season, make an effort to be a better listener.

Try to hear the other person’s words and resist the urge to jump in with your own story or opinion. For bonus points, ask follow-up questions to show your engagement. Your loved ones will feel seen and heard, a true holiday gift.

6. Pay Attention to Your Body Language

Your body language says a lot about how you feel, so be aware of it during holiday gatherings. If you’re crossing your arms or hunching over, it may give the impression that you’re closed off or unhappy.

Instead, try to sit up straight and keep your arms open, making you appear more approachable and inviting. Make eye contact when someone is talking to you, and smile often.


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7. Consider Giving Homemade Gifts

It may not be possible for everyone, but homemade gifts are always appreciated if you have the time and ability. They don’t have to be anything fancy, just something from the heart.

Your loved ones will appreciate the thoughtfulness and effort that went into it, and it’ll be a great way to show how much you care.

8. Offer to Help Out

One of the best ways to show you care is by noticing how you can help. It can be anything from taking on a dish for the potluck to helping with the cleanup afterward.

If you see someone struggling, jump in and lend a hand. It’ll make the whole experience more enjoyable for everyone involved. 

9. Do a Body Scan and Enjoy a Deep Breath

Our focus is pulled in many directions when we’re with our family. A great way to experience mindfulness during these occasions is to check in with your body.

woman being happy alone with Christmas decors be mindful at the holiday table

Do a quick body scan from head to toe and notice any areas of tension or pain.

Then, take a deep breath through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth, imagining release in the area of tension. Repeat this a few times and see how you feel.

10. Gravitate Towards Positive People

There’s always that one person at family gatherings who brings everyone down with their negativity. This year, make a conscious effort to avoid them.

Instead, gravitate towards the people who make you feel good and have positive things to say. You’ll be much happier if you surround yourself with upbeat energy.

11. End on a Good Note

When it’s time to go, take a moment to express your gratitude for the experience. Thank your hosts for their hospitality, and let them know how much you enjoyed yourself. 

If you’re the host, look past the mess and dirty dishes for now and savor the end of a beautiful occasion. Our relationships and experiences are the most valuable – not how things appear to others.

Final Thoughts

These 11 practices all have one thing in common – they help you to be more present and mindful during holiday gatherings.

While they seem like small things, they can make a big difference in how you experience the event. So take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy the company of your loved ones. 

Unsolicited advices and negative comments are usually present during family gatherings. Find out how you can be mindful at the holiday table in this post.
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