Extra demands on our time conspire to make Christmas a stressful time for 50% of us but a few small changes to our festive traditions can make this time of year genuinely peaceful and joyful. Our MD, mindfulness guru Amanda Winwood has the following tips:

 

 

Step 1: Breathe in calm

It’s all very well to talk about being mindful and calm, but when you’re up until midnight making an octopus costume for the school Nativity play or having to make sure you order the turkey crown so it gets delivered on time, the months leading up to Christmas can become increasingly fraught. One of the best ways to instantly change your mood is by using fragrance. Studies at the  University of North Carolina Wilmington pointed to the fact that scents trigger the part of our brains connected to our emotions, so an effective way to move from stressed to calm is to breathe in fragrances which you associate with calm, relaxed environments. Taking a few moments to breathe in a scent can transform your mood, which in turn reduces the level of stress hormones you produce. 

 

What you need: The Mindful Moments Collection by Made for Life Organics is a pocket sized set of organic oils. The Connect and Nurture oil is infused with lavender and Roman chamomile, shown to have a slightly sedative effect when inhaled and geranium

 

Step 2: Start saying no

We’ve all read the hype about saying ‘Yes’ to life’ but the simple fact is that time is a finite resource and this is never more true than at Christmas. When you say yes to spending your time doing one thing, we are often saying no, often without realising it, to things which are far more important, the time we were meant to spend making Christmas cookies with the kids, for example, or taking time to write a handwritten message to an old Aunt because we’re too busy to do Christmas cards this year. If you are in that position where you are neglecting things dear to your heart and you know it, it could be time to politely say no to the Christmas party you should ‘show your face at’ and just make a bit more room in your life for what matters.

 

What you need: A simple list each Sunday of all the things that you really do want to do in the coming week, and a list of the things you  need to let go of in order to do them.

 

 

Step 3: Make an appointment with your Christmas tree

As a follow up from step four, start blocking out a small amount of time this Christmas for all those traditions and things that you really love doing at Christmas and make them, like work appointments in your diary. If it’s a family tradition to buy the tree and trim it on the second weekend of December, block out the afternoon in your diary and make yourself unavailable. 

 

What you need: An online or printed diary like these from The Ethical Shop — even if you don’t have many meetings, start treating your personal priorities as things to block out time for, even if it is just for the Christmas period. Make important appointments to spend time with your husband, kids and friends first this year and make sure everything else fits around it.

 

Step 4: Do someone else a favour

One of the most simple truths to emerge from positive psychology research into happiness in recent years is that one of the most effective ways to boost your sense of wellbeing and contentment is to learn the very simple lesson of Dicken’s Christmas Carol and start devoting some of your limited time on this planet to helping others. Many studies have shown that it actually improves our sense of happiness more than any present we will receive on Christmas Day. This is the best time of year to find volunteer opportunities. 

 

 

What you’ll need: Pick one thing to do for others be it a day helping at a local homeless charity, reading to people at a local nursing home or donating things that you have no need for. One lovely thing which many people are doing this year is the reverse advent calendar. From December 1, put one item of food each day that you don’t need into a box and on Christmas Eve, take the box into a local food bank. You can find a charity  here: www.charitychoice.co.uk or find one to dedicate yourself to year round which would benefit from your particular skill set. I founded my own charity the Made for Life Foundation which offers emotional support and complementary massage therapy to those with cancer after discovering a need for this through our work treating cancer patients with our organic spa rituals.

 

 Organic Candle rose and vanilla

 

Step 5: Use your Christmas decor to make your home a haven

We cannot give of ourselves, however, if we don’t learn to nurture our own wellbeing. Often very simple changes around your home can help to achieve this on a daily basis. Christmas is a good time to do this, as it’s the time of year when we naturally look to decor to transform the mood and feeling of the house. Take a look around each room and simple remove all the things level with your eye-line which you see as soon as you come in which give you a sense of clutter or untidiness.  Put candles around each room, in safe places, so you can sometimes turn down the lights or add the warmth and comfort of flickering light on a grim December afternoon. Scented candles again, will help to infuse your home with a sense of calm. Have a routine each day so that when you, or any family members return to your home, the house is looking inviting. It doesn’t have to stay that way, just try to make it a welcoming place to return to when you and your loved ones return from the outside world.

 

What you’ll need: Organic candles such as the Mindful Christmas Collection candles by Made For Life Organics, or the Mindful Christmas baubles filled with scented oils that you can breathe in to induce calm, energy or clarity. Solar powered Christmas lights that switch on automatically according to outside light levels are great to put around your door and garden.