How to use mindfulness to stay sane this Christmas

It will be upon us quicker than you think, so to help prepare you right from the get-go, mindfulness and meditation teacher Paddy Brosnan offers his advice on how we can all embrace and genuinely enjoy a stress-free Christmas

Dublin-born mindfulness teacher Paddy Brosnan challenges us to do Christmas differently this year
Dublin-born mindfulness teacher Paddy Brosnan challenges us to do Christmas differently this year Dublin-born mindfulness teacher Paddy Brosnan challenges us to do Christmas differently this year

AH, CHRISTMAS time, the most wonderful time of the year. So why do we insist in making it all about just one day – December 25?

For most of us the 24 days before are filled rushing, stressing, buying and worrying. I want to challenge you to do it all just a bit differently this year. Let’s introduce a little bit of mindfulness into the Christmas season and see if we can make the whole season wonderful, and not just that one day.

Mindfulness is simply being fully engaged in what you are doing now, and not stressing about what has already happened or worrying about what might happen. It’s about bringing that quality of wonder and ease to each experience as it’s happening, and not looking at what’s coming up ahead, in the expectation that what’s coming will be better than what is happening now. Christmas time is the ideal time to calm the mind and enjoy all the unusual little things that happen at this time of year.

Here are some suggestions that might help take the stress out and put the magic back in Christmas:

:: Start singing:

Starting on December 1, wake everybody in the house up each morning by playing Christmas songs. Nothing will bring a smile to your face faster than watching your family shake their hips and wiggle their bottoms to Jingle Bells as they brush their teeth. This way you’re consciously choosing to start each day with a smile and some fun.

:: Get walking:

At least once a week in the run-up to Christmas, get your coat on and get out for a walk. You can do this alone or with your family; either way it’s a great way to calm everything down.

I love the early evening light at this time of year. As the sun is setting the light plays and dances with the few yellow and red leaves still left on the trees, making them more beautiful than the most expensive bauble you could buy in any shop. I love the shadows that the low angle of the light creates and how quickly they change as the sun swiftly descends every evening.

The light at this time of year really is magical, so take some time to notice it and enjoy it. When you start your walk, remind yourself that for the next few minutes you have nowhere to go and nothing to do, just walk. Notice what’s around you, the sights, sounds, smell, people – take it all in.

:: Wrapping and writing:

There are things we do at Christmas time that we don’t normally do at any other time of the year and these are great for adding some mindfulness to our day. I’m thinking of things like writing cards, wrapping presents, baking cakes and putting up the Christmas tree. We can bring mindful awareness to all of these.

When you start to wrap your presents, really take in the colour of the paper. Be aware of the sound of the scissors as they cut through the paper. Feel the texture of the paper – is it smooth or rough, soft or stiff?

Take a long moment to focus on who the present is for. Allow an image of their face to form in your mind’s eye, and remember what they mean to you. Call to mind the moments you’ve shared with this person and what they have brought to your life.

When writing your cards, take a moment to look at the card, focus on the person to whom you’re writing the card and what you would like to say to them. Focusing on the people you’re wrapping gifts and writing cards for will turn these simple tasks in truly heart-warming and magical experiences. After all, Christmas is about the people in our lives and this is a wonderful way to ensure that we remember what’s really important.

:: Think of the tree:

The Christmas tree is another opportunity to bring some calming mindful magic to our lives. Whether it’s a real or artificial tree doesn’t matter. Once it’s up and in place, stand back and take a look, reach out a hand and feel the texture, take in the smell. Don’t rush decorating your tree. Look at each bauble or string, noticing all the details, and take a moment to consider exactly where you should place it on the tree. When you’re finished, stand back and enjoy the beautiful sight you’ve just created.

:: Be there or be square:

Christmas time is especially magical for children. If you have little people in your life, allow them to wrap you in the joy and wonder they have for Christmas, by giving them your time and attention. What kids really want is your presence. Make sure that in all the hustle and bustle you set aside time for hot chocolates by a fire, walks that end with rosy cheeks or story-times filled with elves and snowmen.

Every evening, remind them how many days are left to Christmas Day and listen to them as they tell you what’s exciting them and what they enjoy about Christmas. Your presence, time and attention are worth more than all the presents you or Santa could ever give them and it’s what will make their Christmas and yours a really wonderful time.

:: Remember, it's not about stuff:

My advice is to do what you can and don’t worry or stress about what you can’t. In the run-up to Christmas focus on making it a happy time for you and those you love. It’s about you and them, not stuff. I want to wish you and all those you care for a truly wonderful Christmas time, filled with little moments of mindful magic. Happy Christmas.

:: Paddy Brosnan's book This Works: How To Use Mindfulness To Calm The Hell Down And Just Be Happy is published by Hay House and is out now. For further information and resources visit