7 Ideas to Simplify and Connect This Holiday Season

By Holly Keich

We’re entering into the months of shorter days, longer nights and full calendars. But, before the season takes hold we can pull back and take a look at how we’d like the season to unfold. Rather than grabbing on for dear life as the holidays trample over us with their long to-do lists all decorated with pretty bows and wrapping, take a breath and see what your soul desires of the coming months.  Here are 7 ideas to make it a more meaningful time for you and your family.

1. Set a Family Intention

Have a family meeting and determine what’s most important this holiday season.  What activities make your heart sing and your family join together?  What would put joy and meaning back into your holiday celebrations and allow you to focus on unconditional love and connection?  Is it time together or heading out to celebrate with others?  Are there certain traditions you love and fill you with gratitude?  Each person gets to share what they love most and the family gets to look at what they want to keep to celebrate the spirit of the holiday.

2.  Quiet the calendar

time-2189801_1280Downscale. Keep the focus on the family and the meaningful traditions that replenish you.  Think simplicity, which might mean having to say no. If it’s not on the family intention list, feel the freedom to say “we’re booked.” When setting up your calendar fill it in with special time for the ones you love most.  Make sure there’s down time schedule in – blank spaces on the calendar that don’t get run over with activities.  And if you get invited to one more thing, practice developing your “no” muscle as a personal gift to yourself.

3.  Question Consumerism

Even before each holiday passes, the next holiday is being marketed for us to buy, buy, buy. Living in a consumeristic world, it can be hard to block out the noise. But before making a purchase, head back to your family intentions list and see if it can coexist with your new values. Celebration doesn’t have to mean buying meaningless things that people don’t need.  Minimize where you can.  The process is more important than the outcome. Think low investment, high impact items.  A great idea is to give others a one less gift certificate which can make the holiday more about spending time together than the gifts that we give just for the sake of giving.

4.  Revisit your holiday traditions

Perhaps your passing down traditions that you’ve come to hate or feel overwhelmed bring to fruition. Now is your chance to see if they are still working for your family.  What do you want to keep, what can be tossed, what can you create that’s new? Your family intention should help you identify traditions that bring the most joy.

5.  Connect with the Outdoors

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In winter months, as the colder weather sets in, we tend towards the indoors, but it can be a crucial time to connect with nature. Moving outdoors allows us to feel freer, more open, restoring our mental energy and alleviating stress.  It’s also been shown to boost our immune system – a great benefit during cold and flu season which can turn the holidays from celebration to sedation. Greeting the outdoors can help us to feel grounded during the holidays, nudging us to be okay with a slower pace.

6.  Season of Giving

Giving to others is characteristic of the season. Whether that means generosity with your time or money,  compassion is woven into our very being and is especially noticeable during this time of year. You might hear stories of Walmart layaways being paid off at a local store or other grandiose gestures, but simple, small kindnesses offered with love can have a big impact too. Enjoy the secret pleasure of small Random Acts of Kindness during the holidays (and all year round). Join with the kids to help at a local toy or book drive or other non-profit organization or simply sharing cookies with your neighbors. And don’t forget that Random Acts of Kindness can include yourself which leads us to #7.

7.  Take Care of Yourself

Top of the To Do List :  Breathe!
Smile, laugh and relax.
Remember your life’s priorities during the holidays.
And whenever things feel out of kilter, stop, slow down and return to #1.
Revisit each idea again to see how you can simplify and connect this holiday season!


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Holly Keich is the owner of Om Baby Pregnancy & Parenting Center in Camp Hill.  She is a Licensed Social Worker, Yoga Instructor, Certified Infant Massage Instructor, Parent, Wife and adamant student in the school of life.

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Remaining Kind Amidst Chaos

by Holly Keich

There are times when life spins furiously around you, leaving you breathless, confused and disoriented. This is one of those times. Converging around me are a variety of storms, some self-created dramas and some mere perceptions of a false reality perpetuated by a vengeance for directing my thoughts towards what calamities the future may hold. Some storms are grounded in feelings of loss for friends and family no longer with us this holiday season. Mostly though they are all created by a world beyond my control.

And so, here I find myself either being swept away in the chaos, or alternately, instinctively knowing there is another option – the option to remain centered, calm and peaceful in the eye of the hurricane that swirls around me. It’s a familiar option. Having practiced yoga for nearly a decade now, I understand the power of calming the mind, remaining still until the thoughts settle. Some days it’s harder than others.
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In this instance, I feel a stronger power guiding me to settle. As I sit typing, I realize that the sun is still shining, the sky remains blue and there are many gifts surrounding me. Each evening I am able to lay with my children, reading them a story, talking about their day and making heartfelt connections that will turn into fond memories. I have a warm, albeit cluttered home, that provides me shelter from the brisk cold winds of winter. And my refrigerator is overflowing with food, even if some of it is rotting in the “crisper”.

These realizations bring the awareness that life is neither good nor bad, it just is. My thoughts are what offer the judgment of contentment or chaos, just as my actions can offer kindness or contention.   When I listen closely in the stillness of the eye of the hurricane, I hear not only the howl of the winds around me, but also the cries for more kindness and the pleas for contentment. The world and I are not separate in this moment, but are one entity crying from within for peace.

This veil of separation allows us to distance ourselves, protect and defend what is ours and rally against the “other.” But at the heart of it all we are all one, we have more similarities than differences, we are all seeking appreciation, kindness and love. In our moments of disorientation, we believe love must come from outside of ourselves to fill our empty hearts. It is in these moments that we forget we are one with the “other”, that we combined are love in its’ truest form.

It is not an outside force that allows us to love ourselves more. There is no more than we need to do than to look inside to find peace. Because it’s not a break through or a break down that’s needed. It is about loving yourself here and now in the darkness and chaos of the storm of life that matters most.

So how do we find kindness for ourselves in the midst of the storm? Gently, my friend. Know that you are valuable and deserve kindness. When we feel valuable, we feel strong enough to ask for what we need, even from ourselves. The more we ask for what we need, the more likely we are to get it.

Take the time to sit down to think of a list of basic, simple acts that bring joy to your heart. Did you know that Random Acts of Kindness apply to yourself too? When we are able to apply self-love and self-care regularly, our cup will eventually overflow and those joyful feelings will ripple out to others calming the storms that impact our lives. Below I’ve shared some ideas to get us started. I’d love to hear your ideas too and how implementing them has changed your perceptions of the world.

  1. Take a hot bath with some Epsom salts and essential oils. Why not throw in some candles and relaxing music too?
  2. Go for a walk to your favorite park or even just a walk around the block. You could even join Hike it Baby and meet a few new friends at their next outing.
  3. Special Treats. What’s something that makes you smile? Keep a drawer full of treats like chocolates, candles, cards, tea or coffee that you can explore when you need a little self-love. Or savor a small indulgence by making an impulse purchase of flowers or other treat for yourself.
  4. Schedule a massage, reiki or check out Dissolve Float Spa for a new relaxing sensation.
  5. Write yourself a love note to be opened later. This could be tucked into your special treats drawer too. You can make it short & sweet with a quote or mantra or a long love letter that goes into great detail about all your wonderful qualities.
  6. Paint a Picture even if you can’t paint. Don’t worry about the final project. Enjoy the experience. Expressive Art Inspirations has some ideas to get you started.
  7. Dress to Impress only You.
  8. Say Goodbye to your inner critic and Say I Love You!
  9. Sleep In.
  10. Laugh, no really…Laugh like you haven’t in years.

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Holly Keich is the owner of Om Baby Pregnancy & Parenting Center in Camp Hill.  She is a Licensed Social Worker, Yoga Instructor, Certified Infant Massage Instructor, Parent, Wife and adamant learner in the school of life.