Sweet + Simple

Finding Gratitude Through Mindfulness This Holiday Season

I invite you to close your eyes for a moment and recall your favorite memories of the holidays from your childhood.

Childhood has a wonderful way of reminding us that, as Laura Ingalls Wilder once said, “It is the sweet, simple things in life which are the real ones after all.”

I learned this important lesson firsthand from my own children when they were very young. At the end of each day as I tucked them into bed, I would ask them what the best part of their day had been. Over time, I started to notice distinct patterns of simplicity woven into their responses. No matter the fanfare that had transpired during the day, the moments that stood out the most were very simple in nature: seeing a rainbow out the car window, holding hands on our daily walk to their school, making a new friend at recess.

On the steep and sometimes winding path from our carefree days of childhood to adulthood, we often lose sight of what truly matters, especially during the holidays. So let’s all take the time this holiday season to slow down and harken back to the simple joys from our childhoods. To help you do so, here are a few mindful ways to return back to those sweet and simple things.

Celebration With Intention

Like any great road trip, it helps if we have a destination in mind and a map of how to get there. Before the hustle and bustle of the holidays set in, I encourage you to find a quiet place and bring along a paper and pencil. It’s time to sketch out your map.

Use all of your senses as you imagine what you want your holiday season to look, feel, sound and smell like. Quiet nights, twinkling lights, apple cider and a crackling fire usually top my list. You may want to write down a word or two — perhaps even a phrase — that can serve as a lighthouse to look back to when you need a gentle reminder of your intention.

Years ago, our family wrote down that we wanted to “make memories and keep traditions.” This stated and shared intention has served as a joyful reminder as we continue on our journey together as a family — especially during the busy holiday season.

Give Back

I will never forget one dark winter evening, my husband was away at his shift at the fire department and I was home with my three young children. There was a swift knock at the door and — to our great surprise — gifts had been left on our front porch! Over the next 11 nights, this scene was repeated and my children began to look forward to their nightly surprise.

I never did find out who our generous benefactor was, but that feeling of joy has stayed with our family and has inspired us to pay it forward.

Each holiday season, we look forward to finding new ways to connect with our community and serve those around us. Giving back can be as simple as a handwritten note, a homemade gift or a listening ear. Teaching our children that quality time is the best currency you can spend is a lesson that will last a lifetime.

Reflect With Joy

The holidays can be such a beautiful time to intentionally slow the pace and create space to reflect on the happenings of the past year.

As with any worthy pursuit, carving out time for the practice of gratitude takes some energy, but I promise will be well worth your time and effort. Keeping a gratitude journal throughout the entire year is a wonderful way to record the daily joys of life, and it’s a fun and easy way to reflect on your year as it draws to a close.

One of our family traditions is to create a gratitude tree for Thanksgiving. The entire extended family is encouraged to write down something they are grateful for on a leaf and place it on the tree. Each year, as we gather together and the gratitude statements are read aloud, the feeling of joy in the room is palpable.

This holiday season, as we celebrate with intention, give back to our community and reflect with joy, may we all cultivate moments to last a lifetime — and, of course, remember to take the time to slow down and savor the sweet and simple things.

Wishing you and yours a happy holiday season!

I can vividly recall the joy of placing black olives on all 10 fingers every Thanksgiving; the magic of
making snow angels in the newly-fallen snow; sleeping underneath the tree each Christmas Eve.

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