The other day, our team at Hyperbiotics sat chatting and reflecting on the past year.
For some of us, it’s been a rocky road and for others it has brought new vibrancy and possibility. For most though, 2016 brought a combination of both wins and losses; a colorful variety of ebb and flow.
Thinking about the ups and downs of the past year can be a little overwhelming all in itself and then WHAM—here comes the holiday madness.
If you’re anything like me, it can be tempting to just take the nearest exit strategy and dive into your New Year’s resolutions in an attempt to avoid the chaos that may be mounting as the year-end approaches.
But it’s actually the perfect time to simplify, reflect on lessons learned, and prioritize what matters most—like savoring the present with our loved ones, staying well, giving back, and keeping things simple.
So, that’s just what we’re going to do!
As a team, we’ve put together a list of 10 of our favorite ways to focus on what matters most this holiday season and we’re happy to share it with you:
1. Breathe. Finding (and retaining) your center can go a long way as you navigate the month of December. Making sure to carve out time for yourself—whether it means going for a walk, retiring or rising early, or simply stealing some restorative solace in the form of a few mindful in-breaths and out-breaths while in the company of loved ones or even while embraced in a hug—will zing you right back into the peacefulness of the present moment, and there’s no better place than that!
2. Cut Down (Significantly) on Screen Time. The holiday season allows special opportunities to spend time together away from work, school, and the rush of life. Rather than mindlessly scrolling through your newsfeed or giving your children yet another episode of their favorite cartoon, emphasizing time offline can help you stay connected and fully soak up this special time together. Our family loves cards and board games and we often battle it out with Yahtzee and backgammon.
Other fun options you could try might be to:
• put on some music and dance
• tell stories and share memories
• go for a hike or ice skating
• bake and decorate cookies
• put on a theatrical production
• spend the afternoon creating your own artwork and then turn your house into an art gallery, with the masterpieces proudly on display
3. Shop Less. Just about everyone I know has more “stuff” than they know what to do with. Most of us have way more than we need—even if we believe ourselves to be minimalists. In an effort to do our part to keep our homes and landfills free of unnecessary seasonal cheer, we’re shopping less. Like way less. Black Friday and Cyber Monday might have you chomping at the bit for the latest and greatest gadget, but if you just bring the focus back to simplicity and the necessities, it’s easy to get creative and prioritize your purchases so that you’re an active, yet conscious, consumer.
4. Create New Traditions. The warmth of annual traditions remains with us for a lifetime; children especially enjoy the security and comfort they bring. Make this year special by creating a new tradition together that reflects your family’s values. Think about simple ways you can better connect with and nurture each other. And if everyone enjoys something you do this year, plan to make it a tradition you’ll cherish for years to come.
5. Deck the Halls, Together. We all have activities we look forward to each year, such as decorating the house, putting up lights, or cooking and baking special dishes (looking at you, pumpkin bread). Invite your family or friends to help you welcome the season so you can enjoy and appreciate them together.
6. Don’t Plan Too Much. It’s easy to feel pressured to attend the many holiday events hosted by friends, overdoing it on decorations and food, or planning activities for visiting family. Remember, down time is a good thing for the soul. No matter how much you stress to prepare for future days ahead, life is unfolding in the present.
Allow yourself those rare moments to do nothing but sit around and chat with those you love. You might unlock important conversations you’ve never had before, or even create a game that becomes a new tradition!
7. Spread the Gratitude. Flip the script on the season of giving and receiving, and make your celebrations about appreciating what you have at this very moment. Reflect on the past year together and review the things that happened you cherish most. Talk about your dreams for the year to come. And most importantly, bathe in the gratitude you have for one another and for being together in the now.
8. Get Thoughtful With Gift-Giving. We’ve all gotten gifts that honestly end up sitting in a drawer and never getting displayed or used. This leads to a lot of extra stuff in our homes and landfills. Instead, try centering in on gifts that are simple but meaningful—perhaps ones that don’t include any “stuff” at all but are more thoughtful experiences or things to be cherished.
Some examples could be:
• Making food or DIY items they can use later, such as homemade soaps, pickles, chocolates, or granola bars. You can tailor the gift based on what you know the person likes, and wrap it in pretty recycled materials.
• Offering your time, such as baby-sitting, pet-sitting, or making a week’s worth of meals for a busy friend or family member.
• Giving freshly planted herbs, which will continue to grow and give all year round.
• Giving gift certificates to a beauty spa, concert, museum, restaurant, or movie—things people don’t do when they’re saving money, especially near the end or beginning of each year.
• Giving meaningful second-hand books or devotionals that remind loved ones they’re important and have a purpose.
9. Support Humanity. Make a gift or two (or three, or four!) count big time this year by giving back to those outside of your circle. You can brainstorm together and come up with one huge gift as a family you can give to another family in need, volunteer together at a local food bank or organization, or get involved with a local Buy Nothing project to offer support to those in your area. Whatever you decide to do, use it as an opportunity for your family to practice compassion for those around you.
10. Keep Yourself Healthy and Well. The holidays are seen as a time for indulgence: richer meals, more decadent desserts, and a rest from the normal exercise routine. These can be great, of course—everyone needs time to rest and to treat themselves. That being said, don’t forget to nurture your microbes and keep nourishing meals and activities top of mind so everyone can enjoy the festive season feeling great.
Incorporate fresh fruits and veggies into your holiday meals and snacks. Remind each other to drink water. Bundle up and go for a family walk around the neighborhood, if your weather permits, after enjoying a big meal. (Use it as a double opportunity to marvel at the holiday lights and decorations together!)
When it comes to a meaningful holiday, less is often more. By honing in on the most important, simple things in life this season, you’ll be able to prioritize what’s closest to your heart and start the new year feeling more connected, fulfilled, and full of love. And that’s what this season is really all about.
Lauren Stewart is a gut health evangelist, self-love advocate, and dog mom. Lauren's mission is to help others feel their best, physically and emotionally, through wellness-centered living focused a healthy microbiome! For more ideas on how you can maximize wellness and benefit from the power of probiotics, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.