Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:
“Not he is great who can alter matter, but he who can alter my state of mind.”
I’d have to agree with Emerson. Many of us think that we have control over our reactions, but the reality is we are walking around reacting much of the time. Our brain is taking in information through the various sources (eyes, ears, mouth, legs/arms, nose), translating the information, and making snap decisions of what is good or bad, right or wrong, necessary or unnecessary, urgent or non-urgent, important or unimportant.
We only learn about some of these decisions after we’ve acted on them.
Corporations know this, and they put subtle cues in the advertising that say “If you don’t have (fill in the blank), then you’ll be unhappy.”
Right after Thanksgiving, I walked into Target, and lo and behold all of the Christmas decorations were already up. Immediately I sensed an opening in me, a state of cheerfulness and a desire to shop.
There is a Pavlovian conditioning in most of us around this time that borders around spending, spending, spending.
Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, our economy can always use people spending money on it. We can also view it as a time to be generous and really give to others.
However, the real question is who is choosing your state of mind? Is it you or is it the media?
Take this as an opportunity to actively choose your state of mind, and enjoy a mindful holiday season.
Here are a few steps to make sure you are the one in control of your mind:
- Set an intention – Take a moment to really consider how you want to be throughout the holidays. If you’re going to be with family and friends, how would you like to be with them (e.g., present, listening, playful)? The holidays may be a difficult or grieving time for you this year, if so, how can you be gentle with yourself?
- Be present – In order to pay attention to this intention, it’s important to integrate some practice that brings you to the present moment. This might be a mindfulness practice such as coming to the breath, or maybe closing your eyes and listening to sounds, or maybe taking a moment to look at all the sights around you.
- Make meaning – The holidays are meant to be a time of meaning. For Christmas, if it is meaningful, consider what the birth of Jesus means to you, or if that isn’t meaningful, you might consider the meaning of being in the rare experience of spending time with people you don’t see often. Or if you celebrate Kwanzaa, you might reflect upon the meaning of your African heritage and culture. No matter your spiritual background, this can be a time to just stop, reflect and make meaning from your life.
- Don’t forget to play! – The holidays are also a time that can bring people together to have fun and play. Pick up the camera more, reconnect with old friends, read a pleasurable book, or take a 2-hour date with yourself or others and do something out of your routine that feeds you. If you find yourself in a bad mood, use these 3 steps to help break it.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories, and questions below. Your interaction here provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.